Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vine: An Urban Legend by Michael Williams

Title: Vine: An Urban Legend
Author: Michael Williams

Genre: Fiction (Louisville, KY / Greek Mythology / Mythpunk / High School Students / Theater /
Publisher/Publication Date: Blackwyrm (3/28/2012)
Source: First Rule Publicity

Rating: Liked very much.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Gods and muses wiggle among mortals in Louisville, KY where a handful of mortals (and maybe a demigod or two) try to stage a production of Euripides.
Reading Challenges: E-book

Do I like the cover?: I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other.

I'm reminded of...: Catherynne M. Valente, Margaret Atwood, the Canongate Myth series

First line: I have come back home, children, riding unscrupulous winds.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like the melding of myth and reality, crazy pretty language, or something experimental now and then.

Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for all things Greek mythology.

Review: I was delighted by this book from the first page. Written vaguely in the style of a Greek play -- or, a choral novel, as Williams explains in his Author's Note -- there are narrative 'episodes' and various commentaries, ranging from the Muses to the homeless itinerants.

Set in Louisville, Kentucky, the story follows a handful of players -- Stephen Thorne, once-disgraced high school teacher who now runs regional theater; his band of scrappy teen thespians, some of whom might just be literally divine; his student fling, now a grown woman and a mother -- as they attempt to stage Euripides' Bacchae. The production has attracted immortal interest, and the gods gather in Louisville, nudging and pushing everyone along. Like a production on opening night, the story hurtles toward the end -- but whether the end is a success or disaster remains to be seen. Reading, I wasn't sure if this would be a Greek tragedy or comedy, and I held my breath, hopeful.

I was rather taken with the characters, which surprised me -- given the sort of stylized way the story is written, I expected some distance, but Williams creates real warmth in his players, back stories that resonated and moved me, and he evokes a Louisville that is urban, grimy, gritty, and mesmerizing.

Williams' writing style is just wonderful, a word-lovers delight. (I shared a teaser yesterday.) Languorous, lyrical, lilting, lovely -- very nearly the kind of thing to read aloud, just to try on words new and exotic. Yet, despite the poetic style, the book doesn't feel contrived or overly designed: it still reads like a novel, still has dramatic tension and great characters, and the unusual frame just heightens the anticipation and the awareness of supernatural elements. A kind of magical realism for those who like their magic darker and seedier.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to be able to offer THREE copies of Vine: An Urban Legend to lucky readers! For US/Canadian readers, you can enter to win a paperback copy of the book. For US/international readers, you can enter to win one of two e-books. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 12/14.


  1. If this reminds you of Margaret Atwood, I'm so in.

    1. Have you read The Penelopiad? That's what really came to mind while I was reading this one!

  2. Replies
    1. It really was! Weighty but didn't take itself too seriously.

  3. This reminds you of Cat Valente? I've become such a huge fan of her this year after reading Deathless and The Girl Who Fell Beneath and its sequel. And Margaret Atwood? I'm definitely adding this to the must be read list.

    I love novels that can write prettily, and yet not lose sight of the story itself. And Greek Mythology! Whole lot about this sounds right up my alley. This is a great review and you've totally talked me into this. I'm very very curious.

    1. This reminds me of early Valente - I haven't read Deathless so I'm not sure how similar it is but I thought of Valente's poetry and first fictions while reading this one. Its pretty and gripping, artsy and relatable - a very good mix of fantasy and reality.

  4. This has me thinking of the prologue in Vanity Fair, even the Night Circus. Books that blend theatre and real life just have this drive to them that generally means little filler content and the endings are so complex in detail. Yes, this definitely appeals, especially with the mythology in it.

  5. I was still on the fence even with your good review, but the author photo in the tour badge has sold me!

  6. If you haven't read it already, I think you would really like Gods Behaving Badly. It's a bit raunchy at parts, but my husband, who is normally a stoic reader, giggled with glee while he was reading that one. This one seems to similar. glad you loved it!!

  7. Thank you so much for reviewing Michael's book! :)

  8. This sounds great, I am a word lover so I am sure I would enjoy this one!