I don’t know why I bought this book in December of 2013, but I am SO glad that Books on the Nightstand Bingo encouraged me to read it! (It’s the square with an author who shares my name – I’ve already re-read Chaucer and most everyone spells my name Jeff anyway.)
I’d been making my way through Not Gay on my iPad and didn’t want to take it to the beach, so I pulled this up on my Kindle and was absorbed within minutes. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly that pulled me into the book so quickly. Wheeler writes incredibly smoothly (and apparently this is a young adult novel), but he also write characters that pull you into the story. Where I think he really excels is in the world building.
So many authors spend entirely way too much time on world building or they give it to you all in one go and you forget about it within 20 pages. Wheeler, like many of the best fantasy/science fiction writers out there, doesn’t do this. He starts mid-stride and slowly reveals things about the world and histories/stories of the world as you need to know them. This is frustrating at times because it raises so many questions, but generally within a few pages any questions you have receive answers and you move on.
So one of my theories about fantasy novels is that women with weapons on the covers generally produce a great book. Now this cover doesn’t, but The Blight of Muirwood and The Scourge of Muirwood do and I’m glad I gave it a chance. Lia, the protagonist, is every bit as spunky and bad-ass as I hoped she would be. She is incredibly strong in the Medium (their magical/all-knowing source of power), but for reasons yet-to-be-determined cannot study to become a Maston (approved Medium user.) She is incredibly young in this novel but is rapidly finding her way in the world from nothing. I cannot WAIT to see where she goes and how she affects the world over the next two novels.
The second thing I truly enjoyed about the novel was Wheeler’s use of quotes. At the end of the novel he says that all of the transitional quotes between chapters are actual quotes of philosophers, politicians and other famous people, slightly modified to fit within this alternative realm. He further goes on to say that everything that exists in the world of Muirwood is believed to have existed at some point in our own world. As in there are historical writings on each of these things. Mind. Blown.
I also appreciated his reverence to books and learning, when I read this quote and added it together with Lia’s intense desire to learn to read I found a character I was excited to see grow and mature,
“Reading something again and again, year after year, could bring nuances and understandings that a younger learner could not grasp. She discovered that all the years of learning at an abbey as a youth were merely preparation for a lifelong journey of self-discipline and improvement.” (199)
I only have vague ideas of where this trilogy is going, but I hope it gets there fast because I’m excited to know what happens!
Fun fact, I didn’t realize when I bought this or even started reading it, but this novel and the following novels were published through one of Amazon’s TWELVE publishing imprints, and that doesn’t include the self-publishing options.
Recommendation: If you like magic, fantasy, royal intrigue and alternative histories/universes check this one out. I cannot wait to dive back into the Legends of Muirwood series with The Blight of Muirwood and The Scourge of Muirwood and eventually I’m sure I’ll read the next series the Covenant of Muirwood.
Opening Line: “There is a difference between a wretched and an orphan.”
Closing Line: “It is my personal belief that they are not of this world at all, but gifts from the world of Idumea. – Cuthbert Renowden of Billerbeck Abbey“ (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Wretched of Muirwood
“Hunger made the calmest men cranky.” (54)
“We are each of us sending thoughts into the aether. Most are undisciplined and vanish into nothingness. But consider this carefully. Some thoughts are powerful enough to forge new kingdoms.” (140)
“It means that blessedness, and not wealth, is the measure of right thought; misery, not poverty or lack of Family, is the measure of wrong thought. A maston will find that as he alters his thoughts toward things and other people, things and other people will alter toward him. For you will always draw near toward that which you, secretly, most love.” (198)
“You gain what you desire the most. Or should I say, you gain the results of your thoughts. You must desire something, then think on it. Determine to have it.” (202)
“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time only a dream. Just as the oak sleeps in the acorn, and the bird waits in the egg, so dreams are the seedlings of realities. Beware, therefore, what you dream of. For some dreams are given by the Medium to inspire us by what may yet be. Others are planted within us by others, foul seeds that we harvest to our destruction.” (214)
“Doubt is poison. You must fix your thoughts in your mind. Do not doubt. Believe and then act. Fear stops you from acting.” (252)
“It will be no greater miracle that brings us into another world to live forever with our dearest friends than that which has brought us into this one to live a lifetime with them. Or almost a lifetime. Therefore, we weep when they depart. But we will see them again in another world.” (285)