This was one of those books that makes you feel so much that you can’t really respond to it. I lost track of the number of times I teared up because of what was happening in the story. Seriously, within the first 100 pages I’m pretty sure I teared up at least three times. Unfortunately, most of you will have to wait to read it until it’s released on October 27, but you should read it, trust me.
It’s always hard to finish a story, but when it’s written well and has great characters it’s that much harder. A small part of me wasn’t sad because I still have The Lost Abbey to explore when it’s finally released as a collection, but the rest of me is exhausted from living Maia’s story in such a short span of time. Having finished The Banished of Muirwood and The Ciphers of Muirwood rapidly and diving right into this, thanks to 47North*, I’ve been fully immersed in Muirwood for a little over a week (and longer if you count my binge of the first trilogy late last month).
I’m not going too much into the details of the story because it would be spoiler city! Instead I’m going to first talk about the one thing that bugged me about this trilogy and then talk about why I’ve enjoyed the Muirwood universe over all.
The only thing I was NOT happy about in this book concerns the cameo from the second book. Maybe I misread the passage in The Ciphers of Muirwood and completely misunderstood Wheeler’s talking about it in the afterword, but where’d they go?! Is this the opening to another story/trilogy in the Muirwood universe? I completely understand that this is Maia’s story and not their’s, but come on! This made me think that it clearly was a deus ex machina and Wheeler used it because he got stuck getting Maia’s story to the next point! Having explained away the appearance in the first book, Wheeler did NOT explain where they went and what became of them except for the “this is not their story” line.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, why did I thoroughly enjoy these novels? That’s the easy part, they are historical fiction with a twist. Wheeler was very open about the fact that the inspiration came from real life events for both trilogies. In this novel’s afterword he gave you exactly where it came from,
“Mary Tudor was the firstborn daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. As I researched her life, I was intrigued and fascinated, and she became Maia.” (411, Afterword)
In choosing to rewrite historical events and people with fictionalized places and people he’s played it very smart. He’s not re-writing events or people that are such huge parts of the cultural milieu, he’s re-writing the stories that we vaguely are aware of and know, but that we don’t know the details.
“When I first began researching medieval history for Wretched of Muirwood, I learned that Glastonbury Abbey (the monestary on which Muirwood is based) was one of the abbeys that suffered from neglect after Henry VIII passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534. This is why only ruins of the abbey are left today. Thankfully, Pasqua’s kitchen is still standing.” (413, Afterword)
He’s taken fantastical stories from history and made them into actual fantasy. And he did it well. The world he built and the characters he created may be based on real life events, but they are uniquely his!
This next part has nothing to do with the book and is more an ongoing discussion of my own issues with politics, religion and literature.
As you may be aware I had a lot of issues with Stephenie Meyer and Orson Scott Card, so much so that I actively chose not to read their novels for a long time. It was unfortunate because the stories were fascinating if not well written (cough*Meyer*cough). I didn’t read these stories because of their personal politics: Card and anti-LGBT sentiments and Meyer and abstinence only education. I respect that they have their own opinions and believe 100% in their right to have them even though they are contrary to mine.
I only point this out because Wheeler is also Mormon. There was nothing in particular that made me think 100% that he was, but I had a hunch early on and I don’t know where it came from. I only decided to write about it when I read this
“I hope this series helps people reconsider some of the ‘myths’ they have grown up with and that public morality can impact society for generations.” (413, Afterword)
I have no idea what Wheeler’s relationship with the church is and I don’t care. I know that the Mormon church’s beliefs and teachings on public morality are not something I generally agree with, but again not my problem. Wheeler, as far as I am aware has never made any inflammatory comments or taken any stances against something that I feel strongly about and I don’t have any qualms about reading his books.
It’s weird saying this especially with how clueless I am on many author’s personal lives when I go into their books. I guess with the Mormon church being such a big opponent to LGBT equality in the US it’s one that stands out so much for me. I don’t want to go too far in one direction for political correctness, but I did just want to mention this. It’s both contrary and intuitive to the Medium’s teaching: “It starts with a thought.” Hopefully, Wheeler’s personal beliefs are never as inflammatory as Card or Meyer’s and he practices what the Medium preaches, but honestly I’m just glad to have experienced the world of Muirwood.
*47North provided a copy of this novel in return for my honest opinion. I received no compensation.
Recommendation: Read it. I’m not sure I will seek additional works by Wheeler, but I am very glad I spent the time I did in Muirwood. I will definitely keep an eye out for more in that universe.
Opening Line: “I hail from the land of black sky and midnight day. Where there is darkness, there is courage. Where there is ambition, there is power. Where there is will, there is dominion. I thank the Medium for an unconquerable soul. —Corriveaux Tenir, Victus of Dahomey”
Closing Line: “Maia shoved away the lute and sprang from the couch so she could rush to the door, hurrying to see her hunter once again.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quote from The Void of Muirwood
“Of course, she still carried the weight of her horrible grief. It was so vast and so omnipresent she had even given it a name. She called it the Great Sadness, and it was as vast as a lake, constantly rippling at her side as she walked.If she thought on it too much, it would overwhelm her with bitterness and tears. She could not will the Great Sadness away, so instead she became acquainted with it. She thought on it, seeking to learn something of and from it. It taught her, silently, of the pain others had felt upon losing loved ones and spouses. Quotes from the tomes she had studied ran through her mind over and over again.” (343)