Auspicious Signs? for Arabian Wine
Feeley (The Oxygen Barons; Spirit of the Place ) delivers an elegant, low-key historical fantasy about a young Venetian merchant's efforts to create a market for coffee in the early 17th century. Venice's fortunes, and those of its once powerful merchant families, have suffered as Dutch and Spanish traders gain control of markets and trade routes, bringing spices, silks and other exotic goods to Europeans hungry for new luxuries. But merchant Matteo Benveneto is determined to reinvigorate Venetian business by introducing Europe to fresh brewed "arabian wine," or caofa, as the Turks call it, "the elixir that brought fixity of purpose and clarity of mind." Eventually, Matteo's efforts draw the attention of Venice's Inquisition and the Council of Ten, providing some dramatic tension. Aficionados of quirky, understated speculative fiction will be rewarded. (Mar. 31)
This would be an odd review for book-buyers -- "low-key" and "understated" don't exactly induce one to run out to the store -- but it is intended for library purchasers, who are interested in accurate descriptions and unconcerned with blurb-like phrases. Save for the suggestion ("historical fantasy"; "speculative fiction") that the book is somehow fantastic, this is a perfectly serviceable review. That it was reviewed in PW at all -- no venue has room to cover everything -- is the real good news.
Amazon.com has had a page for Arabian Wine for some time, and checking it, I discovered that the novel is on Amazon's "Early Adopter Science Fiction & Fantasy" list. ("These are the newest and coolest products our customers of Science Fiction & Fantasy are buying. This list, updated daily, is based entirely on purchase patterns.") And not only did it make the list, but as of this weekend, it was #1.
This is definitely an unnatural situation, and can't last. But I'll take it as auspicious.