Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I binge finished the Harbinger series last week and have just not had time to sit down and write about it. I want to wrap up my thoughts on these books before starting my Malazan talks! Reviews for the prior books in the series are linked at the end.

Let’s jump into it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Prism Cloud
  • Series: Harbinger #4
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, March 2019
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡

*The book currently has a 4.42 rating on GoodReads, so the majority of his fans are onboard with the series*

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Friendship is strained to its breaking point in Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s fourth Harbinger novel.

When the emperor is assassinated, Sera Fitzempress is the noble most eligible to inherit the empire. Her upcoming marriage to the prince would cement her position. And as a champion for peace, Sera is the only promise of hope for staving off war between the worlds of Kingfountain and Muirwood. But standing between her and her enemies is just one devastating secret.

Sera’s best friend, Cettie, a girl born of a lower class, has made a shattering discovery: her entire existence has been a lie. Now Cettie must give up the only life she’s known and fought for and leave behind the man she loves to stop Sera’s wedding. For this discovery could bring the whole of Kingfountain to ruin.

As Cettie struggles to determine her true loyalties and loves, her allies fall to wicked plots, and she becomes increasingly alone on her journey to a destiny she never wanted—one that could ignite an unstoppable war.

Oh geez, where to start with this one. Cettie almost ruined the book for me. Prism Cloud was the best of them as far as plot, action, and intrigue, even the other characters shined, but Cettie was absolutely terrible.

Sera once again was the superstar of this novel.  She broke out of her prison in Pavenham Sky transformed into a much more patient and focused woman and was able to make amazing things happen in both Empires. Trevon and Durrant were superstars too both in their own ways.

There was a touch of romance, absolutely lovely (and then heartbreaking) to see Sera and Trevon actually falling for each other after so many differences. One of my favorite aspects was how they discovered that Muirwood’s Medium and Kingfountain’s Fountain Magic were so similar

Another thing I respect Wheeler for is not being afraid to kill off one, two, or six of our favorite characters. The beginning and end of the book both featured terrible murders and just, wow.  The Adam and Fitzroy scene at the end was unbelievably sad.

The other main plot line besides the ill-fated Kingfountain wedding was that Corinne finally outmaneuvered Cettie, who had a crisis of faith and totally succumbed to it. All the scheming and intrigue was finally revealed and yes, it went deep, but Cettie turned into a snivelling moron. It was so uncharacteristic and bad that reading her chapters was painful. I could not believe her arc went downhill so quickly – it was like Wheeler wanted to rehash Maia’s storyline (see next book) but honestly I would have rather seen Cettie fighting for Sera. Cettie knows what found family is and was willing to throw it all away so quickly, knowing that her deceiver was the worst of everyone!? It was just SO bad, it didn’t ring true at all.

And of course – she got kidnapped.  I’ll talk about it more during Broken Veil but it really kills me that Wheeler’s MoA for this series is to alternately diminish each character while the other shines, like, how many times can you use kidnapping as a plot device in one series?

The rest of the plot and action held the faults at bay for the most part but I think Wheeler could have done better overall

My favorite part was 100% at Kingfountain, and everything involving Sera.  Watching her maneuver against Montpensier and finally unravelling the entire political plot was by far the high point of the story.  As was Sera and Adam’s escape after the terrible events that occurred.  I also will talk about Adam more in the next book’s review but his bravery was stunning.

While the other characters and the action would have made this the best read of the series, Cettie dragged the book down. I’m coming in at a strong 3.5 with this one but by no means dislike the book or series at all.

Once again if anyone likes audio, Kate Rudd is amazing.  She is clear and coherent and does great voices.

The Harbinger Series:

Categories
Fantasy

Iron Garland by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

It looks like Wyrd & Wonder month is turning into a binge of the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler.  They are quick reads thankfully because I am dying to jump into Deadhouse Gates because yes, Malazan is life now LOL.

Iron Garland is the first book I have blogged this month that is eligible for the Wyrd & Wonder bingo board, so…. I am using it for the prompt “Don’t leave the path”.  While it’s not in a woodland connotation, the first reason is that the world of Lockhaven and high society is so strict in societal norms for women that a single misstep in a dance, a single breach of propriety, crossing the wrong person, any small thing can derail a woman’s prospects. Stay on that path! The second “path” is that of the Mastons. There is a very different set of beliefs and guidelines for Mastons (think like religious norms with divine guidance) that also set a strict path for these people.  While the Knowing won’t abandon people for making mistakes and learning from them, it gets harder and harder to get back on the right path after straying due to the way society and debt is structured, plus the influence of the Myriad ones.

Now that I’ve talked about the prompt, let’s briefly talk about the book! Spoiler free of course. My reviews for the series so far are linked at the bottom!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Iron Garland
  • Series: Harbinger #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – November 2018
  • Length: 353 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 absolutely keep the series going

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

For three years, Sera Fitzempress has been a pawn in a gilded prison—the floating manor of Pavenham Sky. Disgraced and exiled from society, she has been isolated from the downtrodden she’s determined to liberate. But although Sera may seem subservient on the outside, the stubborn princess has only become emboldened.

Now in charge of her family’s estate, Cettie Pratt has grown into an independent young woman, although she continues to be tested by the high society of the clouds. Advancing in the magic of the Mysteries, Cettie is also a useful tool of defense during turbulent times. However, as more of Cettie’s mysterious past comes to light, her greatest challenge may be a reckless stranger with a dark secret.

The fog of war is drawing in, and with it comes a startling new enemy who may unravel secrets that both women would prefer stay hidden. But their secrets may be the only way to stop the coming darkness…

Ok I know I didn’t love Mirror Gate so much but Wheeler brings all the stops out in Iron Garland.

Wheeler assumes now that we are familiar enough with both the Harbinger and Kingfountain worlds to drop all pretenses and world building fluff and tell the story.

Sera absolutely shines in this one.  It is the growth and power I have been waiting for from her! Three years have passed since she was figuratively imprisoned at Pavenham Sky, and as much as we hate to admit it, Lady Corinne gave her the tools she needed to succeed at court.  I was thrilled to see Sera at Kingfountain and I think Prince Trevon will be interesting going forward as well.

One exciting thing is that Wheeler tells us something about an old Kingfountain legend – the Maid of Donremy – that I won’t share for spoiler alerts but it brings the entire war of hard feelings into perspective and raises a lot of thoughts too.

Cettie is powerful as well in this novel and I am both happy and sad for her.  I think we all knew by now that Cettie was to be the Harbinger, that’s not a spoiler, and it was joyful to see her stand up to her adopted siblings and come into her own as Keeper of Fog Willows.  Towards the end though, was she losing her mind? It is entirely out of character for Cettie to ignore a prized possession going missing and someone clearly meddling with her business items.  There is absolutely no way she wouldn’t have confronted anyone about this or pursued it until she had answers, I just don’t believe it.

Action wise – the book opens with a ghastly murder, contains the end of a war, a hunt for a Fear Liath, and some absolutely stunning duplicity towards the end.  The cliffhanger is as equally alarming as the beginning and the book hardly slows down in between. This is what I expect from Wheeler, nothing less at this point!

Lastly I should mention the new residents of Gimmerton Sough, the manor next to Fog Willows – I can’t say too much but the foreshadowing throughout the early part of the novel is obvious and real. You don’t know exactly what the foreshadowing is pointing to but you know to be very, very alert for issues and when they start popping up, oh my 😭 I am so worried for my Fitzroy siblings that I’m going to start Prism Cloud today

Can you think of any books where characters must stay on a literal or figurative path??


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Mirror Gate by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I saved my Mirror Gate review to fall on the Wyrd & Wonder prompt 5-Star Fantasy! It wouldn’t be a fantasy reading month if I didn’t finish and feature at least one book by Wheeler. See my review links for prior books in the series at the end!

While I didn’t give Mirror Gate 5 stars (sorry but I already read Muirwood) – I can constantly rely on Jeff Wheeler for clean, wholesome fantasy that keeps me absorbed from cover to cover. More often than not his books breeze 5 stars for me. 

**One last note before talking about the book – holy cow did anyone see the release day numbers for Druid?? It slammed #1 in both epic and historical fantasy for both book and Kindle form!! Wheeler’s fans were READY for it!**

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mirror Gate
  • Series: Harbinger #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, August 2018
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to this world colliding series

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler continues his wondrous Harbinger series in which two young women unite as two worlds approach the brink of war…

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world.

Mirror Gate jumps about 4 years into the future after Storm Glass left off. Cettie and Sera are about to take the test at Muirwood Abbey, but dark machinations are working against them.  There was more action and excitement in this book than the first one!

With the Emperor now dead, Sera’s father will scheme up literally anything to get her out of his way to the throne. Unfortunately the odds are against her as war also brews with Kingfountain(!) and she just doesn’t have the experience needed to step into office yet

“I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you, Mr. Skrelling,” she said. “I think it for the best if you depart and compose your feelings”

– Cettie

I love Cettie. She brought back a lot of old Muirwood memories including the cruciger orb, kestrals, the myriad ones, and even a kishion. While it was nice to revisit this lore, my gut told me to dock a star for rehashing old ideas instead of bringing in new ones, regardless of how it all ties together.

I liked seeing Cettie & Sera and think the page time recapping Muirwood lore would have been better spent showing their growing relationship or time at the Abbey, vs catapulting them 4 years ahead to BFF status.

There’s a new character named Juliana who was just amazing! She is utterly fierce and added a lot to the plot, action, and banter

“Hang the Aldermaston!” Juliana barked. Doctor Redd covered his eyes, shaking his head worriedly.

One thing I especially liked was how Wheeler brought back an idea that @niseam_stories also wrote extensively on – that bizarre, harmful, misleading thoughts may either come from outside influence or our mind trying to play ticks. We should be wary and critical of those thoughts. 

The mind could only think of one thing at a time, and she had every right to control what those thoughts would be

Wheeler is big on thoughts influencing actions.

One thing I didn’t like was in one of the Aldermaston’s lectures, Wheeler got lost in the theology and dropped a few phrases like ‘second life’ that needed explanation. Also while the colliding world theme was cool, it was kind of hard to see Kingfountain as a conquering nation of zealots, with submarines? How long after Trynne’s storyline did this occur?

Overall: betrayal, political machinations galore, more betrayal, more intrigue, and all of the above is exactly what I love about these books. I picked it apart but really immensely enjoy this world. 

The end left the characters in interesting places and I am extremely excited to read the next book in the series. War is beginning, Sera is trapped, and Cettie is learning how deep found family truly runs.

Kate Rudd is an amazing narrator too, I hope she keeps narrating all of Wheeler’s books!

The Harbinger Series

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

Hi book friends! I have had an absolutely phenomenal reading time in April, including finally starting the Harbinger series.

Look at that cover, do you even need any other incentive to pick up the series?

I flew through Storm Glass in about a day with a mix of reading and listening.  I like Wheeler’s books because they are entertaining and interesting while not being overly complicated, making for quick reads.

Read if:  regency England with a steampunk twist imposed on a fantasy setting of floating  estates sounds good!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Storm Glass
  • Series: Harbinger #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2018
  • Length: 367 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for clean fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

Both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn their worlds

So I finally got around to starting the Harbinger series, and I’m not disappointed at all. I always make a point of reading the author’s note of a book first, so I knew a little bit about what to expect including that Wheeler wanted to write a historical fiction but ended up imposing that setting into another fantastically built fantasy world.

Imagine the strictest social hierarchy, privilege versus poor, strict governesses, early discovery, factories, even zeppelins.  I think it was interesting that Wheeler started bringing technology and steampunk vibes into a book and one of the main themes is how the characters take new science and incorporate it into their world view. Is it Mystery (magic) or mystery (something yet to be discovered)?  I also liked how these themes are tied directly to the magic in the world.

I love the world building, the rich estates and gardens, waterfalls, and how they contrast with the dirt poor factory districts below teeming with sickness and poverty.

How can you beat a system designed to keep the poor poor, the rich in debt, and everyone except the tip-top of the Elite in check? Hmm

Cettie and Sera are both great protagonists and I can’t wait to follow them through the series. Each is a strong-willed young woman and for once I think that Wheeler actually made children (think around 12, preteen,) seem age appropriate.

Cettie came from the Fells, one of the poor factory districts, and is adopted into a rich floating family estate by a kind military leader. Sera is a princess (!!!A descendent of Maia and Collier about 200 years down the line!!!) who will eventually battle her father for the Empire.

There are whole bunch of Side characters that are worth mentioning too, including Cettie’s new adopted siblings and an estate keeper who is easily as evil as Umbrage!

The plot is quick moving, there is not much down time at all.  There are some hints that end up being obvious and I’m sure some obvious points will turn into surprises later on in the series.

This is also a series that ties into the Muirwood books, in that it takes place in the same world and Muirwood Abbey plus an Aldermaston have a cameo at the end.  I am excited to see more of this setting in the next book.  There is also a Kingfountain tie-in and a mention of a Bhiku, I believe from the Dryad-Born series. I think it’s wild to try to envision all these stories taking place in the same world.

One comment I want to make is to reply to a few people saying they feel that reading this series is like reading the Book of Mormon: …. Ack, I get it but I don’t feel it, yet at least.  Historically the human race makes sense of the world and each individual reality through stories, faith, folk tales, fantasy, but the point is: stories.  Even if part or much of the books is an allegory, the vibe I get is that the characters are deeply attuned to learning and some, like Cettie, are more in concert with the Mysteries (faith, magic, sentience, etc) than others.  I know Wheeler can get preachy (what do you expect from a pastor?) but as I said, I’m not feeling it here, simply a story making sense of the world’s history as he sees it, and I personally love the science and faith intertwining into the characters world view.

Long story short: magic, danger, excitement, propriety and society, learning, debt and tithes, more magic, found family to the max,  and willful young women ready to take on the hierarchy!

Categories
Fantasy

The Killing Fog (Book Review) by Jeff Wheeler

I read The Grave Kingdom series back in 2020 as ARCs, and found that oddly enough the first review never made it into my blog!  Now that I am trying to organize back content I definitely had to rectify that situation.  I am back writing this based on my Instagram thoughts and notes from my reading journal!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Killing Fog
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, March 2020
  • Length: 413 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Kingfountain series conjures an epic, adventurous world of ancient myth and magic as a young woman’s battle with infinite evil begins.

Survivor of a combat school, the orphaned Bingmei belongs to a band of mercenaries employed by a local ruler. Now the nobleman, and collector of rare artifacts, has entrusted Bingmei and the skilled team with a treacherous assignment: brave the wilderness’s dangers to retrieve the treasures of a lost palace buried in a glacier valley. But upsetting its tombs has a price.

Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom, ruler of darkness, Dragon of Night, has long been entombed. Now Bingmei has unwittingly awakened him and is answerable to a legendary prophecy. Destroying the dark lord before he reclaims the kingdoms of the living is her inherited mission. Killing Bingmei before she fulfills it is Echion’s.

Thrust unprepared into the role of savior, urged on by a renegade prince, and possessing a magic that is her destiny, Bingmei knows what she must do. But what must she risk to honor her ancestors? Bingmei’s fateful choice is one that neither her friends nor her enemies can foretell, as Echion’s dark war for control unfolds.

The Plot: This is an Asian based fantasy where a young girl is training to become a warrior after watching her family be slain by an invading band. The book starts on a sad note and introduces an interesting tale of magical weapons, ancient curcses, martial arts, political maneuvering, lost kingdoms, and devious dragons.

I believe this is Wheeler’s longest book and also the most slow burning of all of them.  There is a lot of magic and world building to introduce (and a LOT of characters and martial arts) although I found the last 25% to be quite rewarding.

The Worldbuilding: I think the world building is the strongest element.  Each Kingdom has a unique flair, with smells and foods and attitudes unique to the problems and geography of the region.  I enjoyed this and it becomes important in later books as these regions and their rulers are brought back later on.  I think the histories, lore, and general atmosphere of the book were quite cohesive and added a lot to the read.  There is language and symbols used too (with a glossary – thank you)! Looking up the words can slow the pace down a bit but I found it worthwhile and learned soon enough.  My only thing is that if anyone is listening on audio (I am not) this might become hard.

I do love Wheeler’s descriptions of settings and buildings and even climate too, everything about the environment is fused into the action and creates a very strong world build.

For more on the world and aesthetic:

Grave Kingdom

The Magic: I honestly don’t remember how much is given in The Killing Fog about the Grave Kingdom and the Death Wall, but it is as if a wall separates the world from the spiritual realm.  The magical weapons, curses, artifacts, and of course dragons! all add to the action

The Characters: I saved this until last because Wheeler’s biggest weakness as an author is introducing child characters.  Owen and Evie (Kingfountain) Ransom (Argentines)  Lia (Muirwood) – despite having tons of kids, Wheeler just does not do kids well.   They end up with incredible character arcs while the initial presentation simply never hits home – so – my advice is give Bingmei time if she doesn’t ring true at first.

That said – Bingmei is introduced as a young girl who is motivated by revenge after the murder of her grandfather and devastation of her family’s quonsoon.  She is presented as a bit of a blank slate, then grows and learns quickly as she has a bit of a destiny attached to her and is thrown into a role of sacrifice vs savior, with huge decisions that no one ever wants to make.  Her growth and character arc  is one of the high points of the series

The other members of the group (I don’t remember individuals) all had unique personalities, struggles, and abilities too.  I enjoyed the banter and how many fierce women there were, including the leader of the fighting school! There is a male counterpart who becomes Bingmei’s travelling companion (and friend – my favorite, a friend and supporter without a romantic interest)!

I can’t talk much about the romance because it comes with a different character in later books, but, there is one dashingly tragic rebel Prince who was total book boyfriend material.

Random things: another big check for the clean, more wholesome content I come to expect from Wheeler.  Issues – the fight scenes got a little repetitive by the end, I was joking singing “Wheeler goes kung-fu fighting”!  Bingmei also has an innate ability using smells that is cool, but doesn’t seem to fit with anyone else’s magic or abilities so it threw me off.  The length and pace dragged a bit although ultimately paid off, resulting in this being my least favorite Wheeler book to date. It wasn’t bad by any means but I do not recommend starting his books with this series!

For fans of found family, crews, discovery, atmosphere, tragedy, magic, new worlds, legends, strong women and more – definitely check out The Grave Kingdom trilogy!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Fate’s Ransom (Book Review) by Jeff Wheeler

I was lucky enough to be invited to read Fate’s Ranson, the final installment of The First Argentines series as an ARC.  While normally I would drop my TBR and jump on it, I knew what was coming … and I put this one off for a few weeks. 

My apologies to the publisher but even in a better state of existence the end absolutely ruined me!! Ruined! Not ugly crying but more the silent streaming tears of ruination kind!

I will do the review without spoilers, although this is absolutely not a standalone and you need the first three books in order to read the ending.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fate’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #4
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, January 4th 2022
  • Length: 455 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐   I think this is an amazing series for those who like clean fantasy, knights and battles, medieval settings, are looking for an intro to fantasy, a little magic and a world of intrigue

Here is the synopsis (taken from Amazon)

Betrayal, war, and the risks of loyalty collide in the epic conclusion of the First Argentines series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Lady’s Ransom.

Ransom Barton has served three Argentine kings. The new successor to the throne is the ruthless Jon-Landon, a fallible strategist when it comes to war. After losing against the Occitanian armies, the king forces Ransom to bear the blame and removes him from the council. But Jon-Landon isn’t yet through with humbling the honorable knight of Ceredigion.

When a retaliatory battle succeeds, Jon-Landon invites Ransom back into his circle. Though Ransom’s Fountain magic is made stronger by his fealty, he’s once again forced to make a terrible choice. And this time, Ransom’s wife, Claire, and their sons could pay the price for Ransom’s loyalty.

But as tensions between Ceredigion and Occitania reignite and alliances at court begin to crumble, a desperate Jon-Landon discovers his only ally is the knight he betrayed. With the future of Kingfountain hanging in the balance, Ransom agrees to help. And as secret enemies reveal their endgame, Ransom knows that he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the survival of the Argentine dynasty.

The synopsis really says it all: Jon-Landon is an insufferable twat and his spy master is even worse.  Ransoms pays the heaviest price as petulance and jealousy destroy the kingdom from the inside, while opportunistic kings attack the borders. 

There is a little more magic in this book. The real history of the Wizr board is revealed with how this particular game began.  There are miracles of the fountain to behold.  Alix hints at having more abilities than anyone is aware of, and I really wish we had seen more of her and Estian’s motivations than what we learned at the end.  (I wonder if maybe in reading the two books about Ankorette, we learn these poisoner secrets so that Alix only had to give a nod to it in a later book? I skipped them but am going to go back for sure).

There was so much intrigue, as in every book, although I felt like this was more about Jon-Landon cutting off his own arms than having a good reason to conquer his own allies. Ransom stayed loyal to the Fountain above all else.  There were some parts that almost turned to dark fantasy, as in, children were murdered, graphic poisonings, etc, but even in the darkest times there was a way forward.

There was the typical dose of battles, strategy, reconciliation ,and heroism that I come to expect from these books.  The “Dex Aie” chapter was pretty much everything.  Ransom and Estian finally had their showdown, although I could have gone for an epic duel.

What else… oh yes, the family scenes.  I wish Wheeler would do families in more of his books, I just loved seeing the twins causing mayhem with the princess.  I think he’s got a strong sense of family and it shows in the pages, it surprised me that this isn’t something he has written before.  The twins were somewhat of the comic relief in some otherwise terrible situations. I have theories about how they will grow up and be married and further the realm for sure.

My only question was – so obviously some years had passed in the beginning of the book, but I don’t think everything else aged consistently.  Dappled would have been older too and probably not as strong and resilient as he used to be.  Ransom’s kids didn’t seem to age appropriately either, either that or there weren’t really that many years that had passed. 

Either way, let me close by giving Claire the spotlight – I think she deserved the protectorate position at the end, so much!! She was the most capable queen and saved the day so many times throughout the series.  While the devastation at the end did absolutely ruin me, I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome for Claire.  I don’t know how I feel about the fact that she more or less converted to the belief of the Fountain, although again, the ending, the ending, the ending.  I’m glad she affiliated herself with Constance and got to see the Deep Fathoms for herself. 

All in all – yes definitely recommend these books for those seeking an exciting medieval fantasy series.  I think they are great books for teens too, easy to follow plots and very clean content. I am interested in checking out the history and books that the series and Ransom character are based on.  There was a knight named William Marshal and his service to four kings (the Plantagenet line, predecessors of the Tudors) was a real piece of history.  There’s a fantastic author note about it all.

((Very lastly- these books are available on KU, with free audiobooks as part of that subscription. This is the case with most Jeff Wheeler books. This series is narrated by Kate Rudd and she is absolutely fantastic – very dramatic – but very good. As another way to check out his books I would highly recommend that route)

Categories
Fantasy

Lady’s Ransom (Book Review) by Jeff Wheeler

I was too overwhelmed to read Lady’s Ransom as an advanced copy, but it worked out for the better! These books are so hard to put down that it was nice to switch between book and audio, and the narrator was made for Claire’s voice.

Is Claire one of my favorite Wheeler characters ever at this point? Heck yes.  Is Ransom equally amazing in this one?  Well – he had his moments but honestly I felt like this one finally gave Claire her spotlight, even though I wanted still more from her.

My reviews of the series so far:

Knight’s Ransom

Warrior’s Ransom

 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Lady’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, September 2021
  • Length: 459 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ If you can put the series down at this point, who are you?

Here is the synopsis:

In kingdoms at war, alliances are made to be broken in a thrilling novel of magic and dark conspiracies by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Warrior’s Ransom.

Ransom Barton and his wife, Claire de Murrow, have arrived in Legault to reclaim the title that was Claire’s birthright. Claire intends to rebuild a war-ravaged palace to its former glory and to teach Ransom about the magical history of their new home. But when Ransom is summoned to return to King Benedict, his loyalty to Claire is tested. Fealty prevails, however questionable the king’s motives.

The ambitious Benedict, who controls his late father’s dominion, must prove his might. The warriors of the East Kingdoms have disrupted the trade routes, weakening every kingdom in their path. Benedict’s plan is to fend off a coming war through strategic alliances. But it’s Ransom’s post to keep the king’s allies―as well as his poisonous enemies―in line, even as Benedict’s defense may be inviting further chaos.

As the king’s power grows and Ransom’s rise in the council is secured, a shadowy conspiracy threatens to destroy everything Ransom has worked to build. Now torn between allegiance to the woman he loves and duty to king and country, which will Ransom choose?

As if Ransom hasn’t been tested enough, now Benedict is waging war on the Eastern Kingdoms.  How can he be loyal to both his wife and home, AND to Kingfountain, both of which need him more than ever?

The plotting and intrigue and tested loyalties go so far above and beyond in this installment that I think I just read the book nonstop.  The pacing very rarely slowed down and I don’t think I was bored once

What I really liked was how Wheeler took a deep dive into the lore of the Fountain vs the older lore of the Aos Sí.  Ransom and Clare had to reconcile their religious tolerance and I do think that the legends are birthed from the same place.  It was nice to have those legends make sense and be related to events in the books too, as to not just have random stories thrown at the reader.

The glimpses into the future were great too because it linked Ransom to Owen and Evie, even though hundreds of years came in between them.

Speaking of children – omg the family life, omg.  Wheeler never writes about family life but I just loved Ransom’s dad pride and how the little ones kept getting up to antics. It was hard seeing the family separated but I imagine life is such for kings and queens.  I think that despite having violent tendencies and being a potentially gray character at times, having kids seems to have tamed Ransom’s temper a bit.

Queens – Claire – what can I even say, I wanted to see the warrior queen leading her army.  It was lovely seeing her claim her birthright and having Ransom there to help rebuild.  It’s hard to talk about her without spoilers but Claire definitely saved the day in this book and had the best character arc.  Her strength and cunning and loyalty all came through and she shined here.  I liked Tenthor too, his antics were something else.

Battles, action, lore, antics, plotting, treason … I have to mention James Wigant too, I never thought I would respect him as a character but he had me hooting and hollering at the end of the book, I was SO GLAD that that entire sequence happened.

Let’s upset this wedding!

-The Duke of the North p. 419

Again it really surprised me that that scene was so touching to me but I loved it.  I also liked the scene with Constance teaching Ransom how to pray in a more traditional sense, I am curious to see if their storyline is truly used up now.

Overall: I do have the advanced copy of book four, and am dreading reading it because of how it ends.  I almost wish the synopsis was a little less descriptive!  Jon-Landon is a brat and a shit and ugh I need a break before reading about him as king.

Lady’s Ransom is the phenomenal third book in The First Argentines series and I do truly recommend the Kingfountain books to anyone interested in knights, lore, intro to fantasy type reading

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 –

Book 1:https://onereadingnurse.com/2022/03/28/the-killing-fog-book-review-by-jeff-wheeler/

Book 2: https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/07/01/arc-review-the-buried-world-by-jeff-wheeler/

I knew this was going to be an epic conclusion but 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 say that The Grave Kingdom series was my favorite by Wheeler but I can always count on him 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. Either he wasn’t as preachy in these books or I didn’t recognize it.  I felt like the Phoenix and the Dragon could have carried a few different allegories, and there was the flood …

Wheeler did an exquisite world building as well from setting to food to weather and the smells of conscience. I truly enjoyed the world of The Grave Kingdom.  If you aren’t aware, his website includes aesthetics and info on each world! 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.

For more info: https://jeff-wheeler.com/worlds/grave-kingdom/

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 an 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 was priceless.

 The Immortal Words is out 9/22!