Good afternoon and happy October! I am covering the first Muirwood trilogy today by Jeff Wheeler. I read it in pieces over the past month and hope that any fan of young adult/fantasy, or those with a young reader in the house hold will read this review! I apologize for the length but it is a very involved series!
The trilogy opens with The Wretched of Muirwood. All three books were published in January of 2013 through 47North, a division of Amazon. The first important thing to note is that Mr. Wheeler takes most of his writing motivation in this series from religious context and ritual, so one could either relate to the history of, or learn quite a bit from his writing if they cared to investigate his references. The author is very blunt about this and until the third book…we will get there.
In this first book we meet Lia, a young girl with no Family and no parentage (a wretched is even lower than an orphan). She is abandoned at Muirwood Abbey where the wretcheds work as cooks, launderers, gardeners, etc. Lia is a mischievous girl and very likeable from the start. Her adventures begin when a Maston named Colvin is delivered injured to her kitchen, pursued by the evil sheriff of the region and who knows what else.
What we learn is that Lia has some connection to the Medium, which seems to me like powers granted through a supreme being in religious context. Either they open themselves up willingly and entirely to the Medium and are granted power, or some can control it through force. The gist is that the king is opposed by the Mastons and a war is brewing, I got a very Crusades vibe from this story arc. Lia rides off with Colvin to join the battle. Are you hooked yet, because I was!
I don’t need to continue with the plot summary to say that the character development in these books was my favorite part. I loved that learning to read and write was Lia’s goal, and the power that was given to the written word in these books. Lia was a stubborn girl from the start but she had to take a lot of risks and be brave, trusting, and develop a rapport with a difficult Colvin to make her journey succeed.
The downside of the first two books is that they are fairly predictable, the idea of a heroine rising from nothing to (insert plot spoiler here) is not unique, and at times the editing and grammar and typos were terrible. I would have gladly read a much longer book to learn more about the area of Muirwood, the geography, the battle at the end…the book was a little bit cut and paste. There are a lot of unique and interesting elements though, mostly in the characters,
The second book is The Blight of Muirwood, centered on the idea of a plague coming due to the sinful ways of the populace, rejecting the medium. Enter another journey with Lia and Colvin and a host of great characters along the way. There are so many that I can’t start to list them all, but wow does Wheeler write them well. We are starting to get hints of who Lia is, and her struggles just seem to grow. A lot of the story happens through dialogue and description that is fantastic world building, I just would have liked more in some places. The Colvin and Lia friendship – I love it.
Now the third and final book is The Scourge of Muirwood, and I have to write spoilers to adequately express my mixed feelings here. The first two books were more of the same, then the third takes a wild turn into left field and keeps running until it crashes into a brick wall. I love the idea of unborn evil souls inhabiting people’s bodies, and the Queen Dowager is a lovely villain, but I just can NOT get behind the plague being a gentrified STD (passed through a kiss), brought on by women in entirety being the scourge of civilization. The Hetaera are the evil to the Maston’s good, except women can also be Mastons. The overlying story arc went from believable within the world, to entirely not with Lia’s final adventures. Again I would have read a much longer book to learn more about so many things here, including how Colvin located and made use of THAT one specific book.
The other huge overlying issue was that the writing and language turned into that of an excited teenager towards the end of the book, with gross typos, half sentences, and a general lack of editing that killed me. I want to stay lost in your story, not keep coming up for air every other page because the proof reader went to sleep! I also really appreciate the fact that Wheeler loves the national parks, but for a man that substitutes words for “city” or “region” with words like “hundred”, I don’t feel like vividly describing the Redwoods fit in context.
The whole series ended in general impending apocalypse that reminisced of Noah’s ark and a new Adam and Eve story, It wrapped up so neatly for the remaining characters that I felt glad and sad and still disbelieving of the book in general, if not for the typos I would have read it twice just to make sure I absorbed all of it. Then the preview to the second trilogy…….. 🙂
I apologize again for the long review, and would definitely recommend this for young adult. The language stayed clean and the worst they did was kiss, although I wouldn’t be afraid to discuss some of the overlying themes and biblical views towards women with my kid if I had one. I would also mention that the level of proofreading is entirely unacceptable.
Overall I give the series 3/5 stars, I would give it 5 if he had proofread and not given me a week long book hangover with the ending. It was impossible to talk about all the things I want to here, if anyone has read it I would love to hear your thoughts!