Categories
Fantasy

Warrior’s Ransom (ARC) by Jeff Wheeler

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the early read of Warrior’s Ransom! I am a huge fan of the Kingfountain books, and this sequel to Knight’s Ransom (click here for that review) is another big winner for me. All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Warrior’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, 5/18/21
  • Length: 363 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡 yes for fans of the genre, or those interested in fantasy/medieval/clean fiction!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A loyal knight is on a quest to save a dynasty from itself in the thrilling sequel to Knight’s Ransom by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler.

After a pilgrimage to the East Kingdoms seeking a blessing from the Fountain, source of the land’s magic, Sir Ransom Barton returns home in search of two dreams: Claire de Murrow, the heiress he loves, and a patron for his warrior skills. Unexpectedly, Ransom finds himself in the favor of Devon, the notorious Elder King. Brought into the ruler’s mesnie and given two wards of his own, Ransom is devoted to his privileged new position. He’s also privy to the running of the realm and to all its courtly intrigues—notably, the machinations of the king’s three remaining sons, all engaged in a manipulative battle to become heir to the throne.

As Ransom is thrust into the middle of poisonous family conspiracies and betrayals, allegiances are shattered, and Ransom fears he may end up serving his worst enemy—or worse, face exile for demonstrating loyalty.

Drawing on his developing powers, Ransom takes up arms against the dark forces coming in a war that will test the limits of his courage and determine the fate of the dangerous and fractious Argentine dynasty.

I read this book back before it was released, and honestly think it put me into a weeklong book and writing hangover.

You can read my linked above review for book one in the series, and know that I already love the characters and world so much.

The action in this one was pretty breakneck. I thought we were going to spend half the book on Ransom’s pilgrimage, and was pleasantly surprised to find him right back in Kingfountain trying to play peacemaker between the king and his sons again.

Intrigue, honor, knights and warhorses, and of course war…

What I especially liked about this sequel was how it examined everyone as a morally gray character. Ransom and the poisoner are two sides of the same coin, both with the potential for great evil. Ransom recognizes this and does his best to serve his king with honor, vs succumbing to the black morass of his war deeds and experiences.

Devon Argentine (the elder king) is absolutely an amazing character as well, he might be sadistic and dangling the kingdom in front of his sons, but I really think that he just wanted to ease one of them into a peaceful secession. Watching his arc in this book was more than a little bit heartbreaking. Message noted: thank your king / father /provider once in a while

I also love love love how honorable Ransom is towards women: in the age of publish all the promiscuity, Ransom was totally ready to marry that lady that kissed him in front of his men! But Clare, oh Clare… It’s time for some Clare in the spotlight.

Estian is back… Benedict is back… we gain a few new characters that are all really nice additions too, and the poisoner is absolutely terrifying in this one.

If you’ve read this far, you will learn what this book taught me… So Wheeler makes things really, really convenient for Ransom, almost to the point that it deducts from the story. He really doesn’t though: no one can deny that Ransom is a hero, brave as anything, and deserving of all his rewards. I think things happen conveniently because Wheeler wanted to set up a certain storyline going forward, and that’s where he put his intrigue and energy. I know a lot of authors do this, and I tend to deduct for it, but here I can pretty plainly tell what the real objectives of the story are.

If I think the author is just being lazy and having things fall into place, I can’t deal with it. I think this is the first book that is carried enough by it’s intrigues and action, that I can forgive the things handed Ransom in order to further the story along.

Lastly: I really liked how Wheeler is starting to explore some of the ancient legends of Kingfountain. I think after so many books he can afford to give us a little deep lore at this point, and I hope this continues in book two!

Dialogue, self reflection, great characters, and a plot of war between King and sons that will have your head spinning… Don’t forget Ransom’s terrifically ugly horse… I fully recommend the series to pretty much anyone!

Categories
Fantasy Historical Fiction

ARC Review: Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for my digital arc of Knight’s Ransom!!

Wheeler has finally done it!  It seems like he took every little bit of constructive criticism from the first Kingfountain trilogies, chewed it over while he wrote something different, then came back and wrote an absolutely amazing first novel in this new series!

I just freaking love the world of Kingfountain and it’s lore and magic, and was so psyched to read this as an ARC (before obviously preordering it) heheh.  I have read them all, including the books following Ankorette, but don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order to start here, although you’ll miss some Easter Eggs.

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Knight’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, 1/26/21
  • Length: 431pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of knights, clean reads, epic worlds with a tad of magic

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom.

When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.

Ransom interrupts an abduction plot targeting the Queen of Ceredigion and earns a position in service to her son, the firstborn of the new Argentine dynasty. But conflict and treachery threaten the family, and Ransom must also come to understand and hone his burgeoning powers—abilities that involve more than his mastery with a blade and that make him as much a target as his lord.

This is such a hard review to write because I just want to gush, I mean I had over a page of notes and highlights 😂

Ransom and Claire remind me so much of Owen and Evie, except they’re more age appropriate and Claire is an absolute firecracker.  They are better childhood characters as well, because Wheeler finally admits that he can’t write age appropriate kids so they grow up pretty quickly, with the book occuring mainly in Ransom’s 20s.

So Polidoro Urbini is back, telling the history of the first Argentine kings.  He finds Claire de Murrow’s journal and it becomes the framework of the story, then fleshed out by current events.

When Devon Argentine takes the throne of Ceredigion, the child hostages of the prior ruler get to go home.  For Ransom, that means trying to become a Knight in his uncle’s household.  Training and warhorses and tournaments, poor choices and hard life lessons including naivety and betrayal mark Ransom’s path to Knighthood.

Could he possibly be Fountain Blessed?  I found it shocking that he hadn’t heard enough legends to put two and two together, but his fighting prowess is unbelievable and it makes him a target.

Without spending hours gushing about individual battles, defeats, more hard lessons, and Ransom’s resilience … He eventually ends up in the service of Argentine’s heir, which is a mixed blessing and curse.

There is an absolutely absorbing plot to overthrow Devon the Elder, and more poor life choices which eventually leads Ransom to, I assume, in book 2 take the pilgrimage to find out if he is indeed blessed by the lady of the fountain.

There is a fountain blessed assassin out and about as well, and it’s crazy because we have no idea who she is or who she is working for.  The line of poisoners is a pretty heavy storyline in the Kingfountain books so she’ll have a bigger part in the coming books.

Pulling from Merlin and Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, Kingfountain takes some of it’s magic and lore from those ancient tales.   Of course there is one magic Wizr board in the story, plus all the legends and lore of Kingfountain (and now Legault, thanks to Claire), that make Wheeler’s world feel so real and immersive.

The characters make it feel real too, take the Argentines: yes they are the royal family but they love and bicker and break like anyone else.  Ransoms Uncle and all the wiser, older lords and commanders, I can’t even list all the great characters.  It feels even realer too that Ransom has such a high standard of Knight’s honor, so the courtship with Claire becomes a side story that he doesn’t think is achievable.

But it’s so sweet how he tiptoes.  Who knows if Wheeler will ever put them together or not, he is 50/50 with OTP pairings and Kingfountain never seems to work that way.

Layers upon layers of betrayals and intrigue and lore make Kingfountain what it is.  I have to mention the Queen’s exile to her tower too, since it becomes such an important landmark in the later books and I loved seeing some of the origins.

Yes please sign me up for more riding alongside Ransom, now one of the richest men in the country after multiple knight’s tournament wins.   I can’t wait to jump into his pilgrimage next and then see where the world takes us ❤

Let me say one more time too – WHEELER WRITES CLEAN FANTASY!! Language and sexual situations (both rare in his books) are kept G-rated, with some sad deaths and  knightly battles but I would happily hand any one of his books to a reader of any age group

Out 1/26 from 47North, thank you again for my early read!

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Immortal Words by Jeff Wheeler

Quickfacts:

  • Title: The Immortal Words
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom, #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – September 22nd 2020
  • Length: 347 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fantasy and clean readers ❤

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!  I was so excited to be able to read The Grave Kingdom Series as ARCs and I am just mind blown by the end of the trilogy

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

As kingdoms fall, brave young warrior Bingmei fights to fulfill a prophecy and save what’s left of the world from the coming darkness. Should she fail, Echion, the diabolical Dragon of Night, and his queen will hold sway over the next thousand years. With Echion comes his unstoppable army of dragons—powerful, vengeful, and under his control.

Accompanied by her loyal friend Quion, Bingmei journeys toward her last hope. It lies among the savage beasts just beyond the ancient Death Wall—an uninhabited realm from which no one has ever returned alive. Bingmei’s mission is to find the phoenix shrine and learn the Immortal Words that will allow her to harness eternal magic. With Echion and his legions in pursuit, Bingmei must choose her words wisely to break Echion’s spell and accept her fate.

Bingmei knows what she must do. She must join the ranks of the dead as well. For a fearless and selfless warrior, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But Bingmei is about to discover that even in death, the greatest sacrifices are yet to come.

First off – if you want to read my review for book #2, that can be seen at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/07/01/arc-review-the-buried-world-by-jeff-wheeler/

So yeah… I knew this was going to be an epic conclusion but I was not expecting half of the things that happened in this book.  To keep things spoiler free, let me just say that this is another fantastic series conclusion by Wheeler and he didn’t at all take it in the direction I thought he would.

I can’t honestly say that The Grave Kingdom series was my favorite by Wheeler, but it’s truly a work of art. I can always count on Wheeler for wholesome fantasy reads, strong women with incredible character arcs, and all sorts of lore, myths, and found families. Even in an Asian based fantasy he twines in an underlying Christian message. It was nice that he wasn’t preachy in these books, and I felt like the Phoenix and the Dragon could have carried a few different allegories.  I would love to ask him if he was thinking about any specific reference regarding the interactions of the Phoenix.

Wheeler is an exquisite world builder as well, from setting to food to weather and the smells of conscience, I truly enjoyed the world of The Grave Kingdom.  Each region had it’s own character, each city it’s own personality and feel, customs, traditional food, and animal guardians, and I think truly that this is Wheeler’s best developed world yet.

Plus I got my OTP wish.  Oh I was so happy I almost cried a little bit for these characters at the end. The books contain a wonderful cast of characters including a snow leopard and a blind king.  Bingmei went from a little girl to a fledgling leader to a strong, thoughtful, powerful woman who was able to decide that humanity was worth saving.  There was a wonderful open ending that echoes the book’s message of good balancing evil in the cycles of the world. It makes me think maybe there may be another trilogy in the world at some point and I would be totally on board with that.

My only issue was a bit of confusion involving Rowen and the Phoenix, I think Wheeler got lost in the mythology a bit and didn’t quite explain Rowen’s role in the grand scheme of things adequately.  Specifically when, why, and how was he chosen, plus  when did he become the Phoenix?  Couldn’t he have just busted out of the prison long before he did? It was slightly incongruous.   Also the fighting scenes were getting pretty repetitive by the end of book 3.

If you are looking for a truly epic fantasy series set in an Asian based world, with dragons, phoenixes, lore, love, loyalty, and found family, this is the book for you.  I was so happy and proud of the entire quonsuun and thought that the ending just was priceless.

The Immortal Words, the epic conclusion of  The Grave Kingdom series, releases 9/22.

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Buried World by Jeff Wheeler

  • Title: The Buried World
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom, #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – June 23, 2029
  • Length: 335 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fantasy and magic readers

Thank you so so much to 47North via NetGalley for my e-ARC of The Buried World by Jeff Wheeler!! After reading both Muirwood trilogies, both Kingfountain trilogies, and the Mirrowen books, I can firmly say that Wheeler is becoming one of my favorite authors and I was so thrilled to be able to review this.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The young warrior Bingmei pits her courage, combat skills, and very life against a brutal tyrant’s dark magic in the follow-up to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s The Killing Fog.

The orphaned Bingmei didn’t choose to be a hero. She has no wish to cross the Death Wall to save the world. But she has awakened Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom and Dragon of Night, and it is her destiny to defy him. From his imperial city of ancient sorcery and immortal darkness, Echion conspires to fulfill his own destiny: vanquish Bingmei, revive his queen, and rule together for another eon unchallenged.

Traversing a labyrinth of caves and mountains, Bingmei and her band of allies prepare their defense against a fateful war they cannot win. But when they are overcome by Echion’s terrible power, Bingmei is left vulnerable to a ruthless assassin…one with orders to capture, not kill.

Before he destroys her, Echion craves something more than Bingmei’s soul. Only she has the power to resurrect Echion’s ancient queen, Xisi, whose evil is matched only by his own. Once reunited, their dark shadow will fall like a shroud over the realms. To be a savior, Bingmei must first survive what she has unleashed, and to survive she must begin to understand the seeds of power she’s never learned to control.

The Buried World picks up where The Killing Fog left off, and I will keep this spoiler free so don’t worry. If you read The Killing Fog and felt that it was a little long, rest assured that The Buried World is considerably shorter and moves along at a quick pace.

These books are a slow burn for sure though, Wheeler takes time to build this world and it’s mythology, revealing the legends over time and also taking time to build the characters.

Bingmei had a lot of self discovery and acceptance and personal hurdles to overcome in this novel. She had to lead the ensign while making decisions based off her own instincts…which after book 1 were obviously hard to trust. I loved the friendships and relationship building in this, even between the siblings and the members of the ensign. This is 100% one of Wheeler’s most intricate groups of characters. A little brutality, a little redemption, he puts his characters through the ringer and I just love love love the determination and resolve that the remaining group has mustered.

Have I mentioned how much I love Rowen yet? I do. Seriously.

Wheeler also mentions in the afterword that he was inspired by accounts of near death experiences and dreams to write Bingmei’s death sequences. From someone who deals with a lot of death, I really like how he had handled this so far. Wheeler tends to get preachy sometimes but he has done a really good job sticking to the made up mythology of The Grave Kingdom, without bringing a lot of Christianity into this…yet.

I also just want to mention how much I love magical walls – the Death Wall is right up there with the D’yer wall in the Green Rider books, and the Wall in the Old Kingdom books. There is just something magical about walls built on the blood and bones of our ancestors.

All in all – as much as I love this there is something keeping it from being a 5 star read. I think it just burns a tad bit slow for me in some places, then starts racing towards the end. I would call it a 4.5 star and definitely recommend for fantasy fans and people looking for clean reads, clean fantasy, Christian fantasy.