Review of The Blight of Muirwood

May 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Scourge of MuirwoodThe Blight of Muirwood (Muirwood #3)
By Jeff Wheeler; Read by Kate Rudd
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 15 January 2013
11 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / fantasy / orphan / servant /

Publisher summary:

A devastating plague continues to rage through the land of Muirwood, and all hope is laid at the feet of the young woman Lia. Called as a magical protector, Lia volunteers to embark on one last quest to rescue the knight-maston Colvin – her great love – and his pupil, the alleged heir to the fallen kingdom of Pry-Ree. Undaunted by injuries, Lia sets off across land and sea warning the kingdom of the great plague that is upon them. The arduous journey leads her to the doors of Dochte Abbey, where her friends are supposedly held. However, a fallen enemy lies in wait for Lia, as well as an unbearable new truth. The revelation will pit Lia’s deepest desires against the fate of her enchanted world.

I finished this in the course of the weekend. This was partly due to various chores and activities I had to finish that allowed me the opportunity to get extra listening in, and partly due to my desire to finish the story.  While I found it enjoyable, it’s ending was mostly predictable, and I didn’t think it was as strong as the previous novel.

One of the aspects of all the books in this trilogy that I didn’t hit upon in my previous reviews is the heavy use of Christian allegory. A key concept to the series is that your ability to channel “the Medium” is largely related to your belief in it. This relates to the notion of giving your will over to that of the Medium and faith that it will protect and bless you if you do so. Many of the abilities of the medium may only be used to the benefit of others and not oneself. There is also a large theme of life after death, and resurrection of the dead. While these themes are present throughout the whole trilogy, they weren’t as much at the forefront as they were in this book. The plot of this novel largely revolves around testing the main character Lea’s faith in the Medium.

I’m reluctant to throw out the term “Deus ex Machina” because I feel that all the events fall within the explained abilities of the Medium. Someone who is strong with it would be able to perform those actions, however I could see someone making a good case for it.

Overall, I think Mr. Wheeler does a good job of wrapping things up with a neat bow. There is certainly room for future stories in the world of Muirwood; the author’s note indicated he has a novella called Maia taking place many years after this trilogy available on his website.

Ms. Rudd is once again the narrator for the third and final book of the trilogy. As with the previous two, she a good, but not great reader with little variety in her character voices. She does attempt to do some accents for a few of the characters, but many of them sounded the same to me.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

April 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Blight of MuirwoodThe Blight of Muirwood (Muirwood #2)
By Jeff Wheeler; Read by Kate Rudd
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 15 January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4692-5038-0
12 discs; 14 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / fantasy / orphan / servant /

Publisher summary:

Rising from her humble beginnings as a lost orphan, Lia is summoned to be Muirwood Abbey’s protector and special guardian for Ellowyn Demont, the lost heir of the fallen kingdom of Pry-Ree. After the death of the ruthless king at the battle of Winterrowd, the great Aldermaston and Abbey leader calls on Lia to use her mystical talents to save Muirwood from two new threats — a vengeful queen accusing the Abbey of her husband’s death and a deadly plague threatening to destroy the land. Amidst the turmoil, a battle ensues, and soon Lia learns the world’s magic has begun to falter. As a blanket of dread envelops the Abbey, hopes are tested, and Lia will be forced to come to terms with a secret that will change her life forever.

Mr. Wheeler ramps things up second book of his Muirwood trilogy, and I found myself enjoying this one more than the first. Mr. Wheeler continues his trend of explaining things as you go along, and doesn’t spend large amount stopping for world building. I find that a nice change of pace from the Epic Fantasy multi-book series I tend to read.

The story picks up right where The Wretched of Muirwood left off, then skips ahead about a year. During that time Lia has been trained to be the new hunter of Muirwood Abbey.  Most of the characters from the first novel return in the second, and Mr. Wheeler gives us more depth and insight into their characters. Some great new characters are added to the cast, including Martin, who is training her as he once did John Hunter.

Colvin has returned to the abbey with Edmund, his sister, and Ellowyn Demont, the air to the throne of Pry-Ree. Lia is tasked to help the two mastons protect Ellowyn from various threats of kidnapping and murder throughout the realm. There are also some new threats to the Abbey including Colvin’s rival Earl of Dieyre and the King’s Widow, the Queen Dowager. Signs start to appear of a blight threatening the Abbey, and once again Lia must leave the safety of Muirwood in an effort to protect it.

As this is book 2 of a trilogy, it does suffer from middle book syndrome, and ends at a very annoying place. None of the real threats were resolved, more of a holding pattern than any real resolutions. I was suspecting as much as I was approaching the last disc with too many things left unresolved. Luckily for me I had book 3 ready to go, and jumped immediately into it. That isn’t to say this book is not without it’s revelations, although I can’t say I was very surprised by anything that happened. Still, it made for an enjoyable read. Any book that makes it hard for me to stop is always a good thing.

This book is nearly twice as long as the first book (14 hours vs. 8 hours in audio form). It didn’t really feel that way to me. I kept finding excuses to listen more than I normally would, especially last night as I was approaching the end of the story and didn’t want to wait till morning for the conclusion. Ms. Rudd is once again the narrator (not surprising since the whole trilogy was released at the same time as audio books). Her performance is comparable to that of the previous book. It’s good, but doesn’t add anything to the story. She once again seems to use her own voice for all the female characters and a slightly different voice for all of the male characters.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

April 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff WheelerThe Wretched of Muirwood (Muirwood #1)
By Jeff Wheeler; Read by Kate Rudd
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 15 January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4692-5057-1
8 discs; 9 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / fantasy / orphan / servant /

Publisher summary:

The Wretched of Muirwood, the opening novel in the Muirwood Trilogy, is the tale of the orphan Lia — who is part of a pariah caste known only as the “wretched,” a people unloved, unwanted, and destined to a life of servitude. Forbidden to read or write, and forced to slave away in the Abbey kitchen, Lia is all but resigned to her fate. But when an injured squire named Colvin is abandoned at the Abbey kitchen, opportunity arises, and Lia conspires to hide Colvin and change her life forever… Her plan becomes a perilous one when a nefarious sheriff starts a manhunt for Colvin, and the land is torn by a treacherous war between a ruthless king and a rebel army. Ominous and illuminating, Lia sets out on an epic quest for freedom with hopes to unravel the secrets of her concealed past.

Apart from picking a girl to center the story around, this book follows many of the common fantasy tropes including the “young unknown thrust into adventure to discover they are more than they realize.”

The world Mr. Wheeler has created is one where no matter your station (King or Innkeeper) knowing your family line is VERY important. So much so that they distinguish between normal Orphans and Wretcheds (Orphans whose parentage is unknown). Wretched are often abandoned to the various Abbey’s around the world and sheltered until they turn 18, at which point they must make their way in the world. Wretched’s take their last names from their assigned role. Our protagonist, Lia Cook, a young girl of 13, has been assigned to work in the kitchens. In particular, she is assigned to smaller of two kitchens, which serves the head of the Abbey, referred to as the Aldermaston.

Lea wants nothing more in life than to become a learner and to gain the ability to read and write. As a wretched however, this is denied to her. One night, a knight comes pounding on the door seeking help for his young squire, and Lea’s life is changed, forever. The rest of the story pretty much follows in a fairly cookie-cutter fashion. It’s a short book, so there isn’t a lot of world building. We learn things as Lea does.

This is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Wheeler. His writing style doesn’t jump out at me as exceptional, but it is well done. His characters have reasonable depth for such a short book and varying personalities. The magic system feels original to me, based on various statues referred to as “Leerings” by commoners, or Gargoyles by the learned. They are carved for a specific action based on an element (water, fire, etc) and are meant as a focus to use “The Medium”. The ending is a bit predictable, but as this is rather short story, I still found it enjoyable and have already jumped into the second book.

This is the first book I’ve listened to read by Kate Rudd. Ms. Rudd is a good reader, but nothing spectacular.  She does voices for some of the Male characters, but seemed to read all the female characters in her own voice. She has a clear and pleasant sounding voice, but I didn’t find her performance to add anything extra to the book as I have with other readers.

Overall, this is a decent fantasy story. Quick and easy reading. Nothing especially great, but has me interested enough to jump right into book 2.

Review by Rob Zak.