Monday, January 30, 2017

Recently Read: Viper Wine

Author: Hermonie Eyre
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 410
Rating: 2/5

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Venetia Stanley was known for beauty and the art and poetry it inspired great men to write. She has since married and the greatest tragedy known to human kind has befallen her: she has aged. She attempts to convince her alchemist husband to make her an anti-aging serum, which is all the rage in the court of Charles the I, but he refuses. Venetia is forced to find the tonic on her own in order to restore her beauty.

I had super high hopes for this book. I loved the cover and the premise, but I was disappointed with this one. This was such a slow read. It took me ages to read and I ended up just skimming the last one hundred pages because I just wanted it to be over with. There wasn't much of a plot in this novel, which can sometimes work out just fine as I love character driven novels, but in this case, it just didn't work.

Eyre attempts to weave together magic, science, and superstition into this novel by allowing glimpses of the future into the past. Sir Digby (Venetia's husband) can see glimpses of the future of science and serves as a somewhat 'enlightened' figure. I found that this element of the novel just disrupted the historic setting Eyre had built and really didn't add anything to the story. I think Eyre approached this novel with a unique storytelling voice and some very original ideas, but they just didn't match up with my reading style. 

However, this novel did make some interesting and relevant comments on how society views aging women and what women are willing to do to hide their aging. Women have always gone to drastic (and less drastic) lengths to change their appearance. In this novel, women paint their faces with lead paint as makeup and try a variety of superstitious and off-the-wall beauty remedies to hide their aging. It is easy to draw parallels between the market for Viper Wine (a beauty serum made from viper's venom and pregnant mare urine, among other unsavory ingredients) and today's market for diet pills, beauty creams, and surgical enhancements all aimed at women who are attempting to defy their age. I found this element of the novel to be intriguing, but it was not enough for me to enjoy the slow reading experience that this novel provided. 

I would be willing to check out Eyre's future works though, as I think she some very original ideas and a unique voice. 

If you liked this book, I think you would also enjoy All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders because the writing style and magic/science elements in Viper Wine really reminded me of this novel.  


  1. Oh no! Sorry to hear you didn't love this one, it's been on my radar for a while but the mixed reviews have stopped me from picking it up. I might see if my local library has a copy at some point. =)

    1. I would rent this one over buying for sure! Hopefully you have a different experience with it!
      Thanks for stopping by!