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!