I should keep track of when I eat my words on this blog. I thought for sure it would be some time before I revisited Muirwood, but lo and behold here I am not even a month later delving right back in.
Having access to early releases is both a boon and the bane of book bloggers. Occasionally you get access to works you’re desperate to read (i.e. any Margaret Atwood, keep an eye out) and you get access to books you’re not sure you’re going to read, but when given the opportunity you jump and this was one of those occasions.
I’m grateful to the publisher, 47North, for providing access to Jeff Wheeler’s new Muirwood trilogy: The Covenant of Muirwood, even if it did mess up my reading schedule. They provided these in return for an honest opinion and I’ve received no compensation. I’m sad I missed the window on The Lost Abbey (#1), but I think I’d rather read that in one go rather than as a serial comic.
This book picks up a little over a century after the end of the Legends of Muirwood trilogy (The Wretched of Muirwood, The Blight of Muirwood and The Scourge of Muirwood). I was very excited to see the quotes between chapters were attributed to the main character of that trilogy, Lia, and that this wasn’t a completely new story! The Covenant of Muirwood trilogy follows Maia, Lia’s great-great-great granddaughter and her adventures in the Medium.
At first I wasn’t as impressed with this story as I was with the first trilogy, but it grew on me. The writing is just as good as the first trilogy, but I think Wheeler is stretching his muscles and making a good go of it. At first I thought his use of flashbacks was a bit overdone, but when the reason behind it became evident it made the book improve drastically in my mind. And even though I figured out what was happening before the characters did, it was still an interesting plot device and slow reveal.
I enjoyed that the main players in The Banished of Muirwood were all descended from the characters of the original trilogy, but had distinct characteristics and personalities. Maia seems like she will eventually be just as much of a bad-ass as Lia was and I cannot wait for that to happen! One of the things Wheeler has done well and that I truly enjoy about the fantasy genre is the occasional flipping/merging/graying of gender roles. A male character says this to Maia,
“‘…when I was a hostage to the Paeizians, I had a lot of time to think. Often I thought of you. I secretly hoped that your father would … well, that he would intervene. That he would help pay the ransom for me. It was a foolish hope, I know. I am ashamed to admit it. I hoped you would rescue me.’ His mouth contorted into a sad smile. ‘I was disappointed. Heartbroken, actually. My father finally paid the ransom and my brother and I were freed. Maia, there is nothing more important to me.” (373)
Even though Maia isn’t as over-the-top bad-ass as Lia was from the beginning, she is not an “average” woman in her world. Women have been forced into subservience and have lost the right of reading and writing. But in this instance, the male character hoped that she would come and rescue him. We know from the start that women in this universe can be pretty bad-ass, but this character is pretty bad-ass on his own, so it was like WHOA.
As always, I appreciated Wheeler’s afterword because it shared that this story was around BEFORE the first trilogy. And it talked about one of the major plot/character points which I think was really intelligent, but can’t talk about because it would spoil it.
Recommendation: I would check it out. Even if you haven’t read the first trilogy, this is a great story. I can’t wait to see where the next two books, The Ciphers of Muirwood and The Void of Muirwood, go and were Maia takes us!
Opening Line: “Before your great grandfather and I boarded the Holk and left the forsaken shores … Before the Scourge destroyed every living soul save one … Before the waters of anew land lapped against the hull, or our skiff crunched into the sand … Before the first boot plunged into the mud … Before all of these things happened, great granddaughter, I made a Covenant.”
Closing Line: “He picked up her husband’s goblet, saluted her with it, and drained it in a single swallow.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Banished of Muirwood
“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of your opponent’s fate. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. – Lia Demont, Aldermaston of Muirwood Abbey” (145)
“There has never been a time in which mastons have not been persecuted. There is a never-ending war, you see, between the mastons and the hetaera. The hetaera, whose order has prevailed and survived for many thousands of years, received a mortal wound in my generation, of which the monster must finally die. Yet so strong is her constitution, great granddaughter, she may endure for centuries before she expires. – Lia Demont, Aldermaston of Muirwood Abbey” (287)
“A friend does not abandon a friend during troubled times. That is when the friendship is needed most.” (309)
“‘Ah,’ Walraven said, his voice croaking with age. ‘Thank you, my friend,’ he said, addressing Corriveaux. ‘I told you she was destined to be queen. Queen of the Unborn. Is she not magnificent?’ He bowed slowly to Maia, his wrinkled face full of crags. ‘Your humble servant.'” (399)
“She instructed that anyone would always be permitted to read and engrave at Muirwood Abbey. Even the wretcheds. To keep this hidden from the Dochte Mandar, the girls’ lessons are given in the cloisters at night, after all the male students are abed. During the day, they are taught languages and other skills. But their instruction in the Medium and the tomes is done in secret.” (428)