The Ciphers of Muirwood

Shortly after I posted my review for The Banished of Muirwood, I received an email from the publicist letting me know that the second book was up on NetGalley! That’s never happened before, so I immediately went and grabbed it! Absolutely, yes I want to read that second book, slam bam thank you ma’am!

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Jeff Wheeler’s first Covenant of Muirwood book just came out on August 18, so he is not wasting any time releasing these. From the sound of his Author Note, his third one is already in the works (and Goodreads says expected publication 2015), so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is already written. He’s even talking about a third trilogy! I really have got to get my hands on the first, and pronto!

I mentioned in my last write-up that the king seemed a bit like Henry VIII. This theme only gets more pronounced in The Cipher of Muirwood–in fact, it’s downright obvious that Henry was a major inspiration for Wheeler’s fantasy. He has banished his very devout daughter, Maia, and her mother (who is even named Catrin) so that he can marry a new heretic woman–very much an Anne Boleyn character, only with previous children of her own. There’s a slimey chancellor Crabwell who is a deadringer for Cromwell. And even a modest lady-in-waiting named Jayn Sexton that the king can’t seem to keep away from.

While I found those parallels amusing, they aren’t really the focus of the story at all. Just something fun for an Anglophile to pick apart. The real basis of the trilogy is the deep threads of a magical sect of religion that has been passed down to Maia through the maternal side of her family. The journey she takes in Banished brings her to Muirwood Abbey, where she must take her Maston test and fulfill her destiny. And she must do it quickly, before Whitsunday and the arrival of her father and a potential war.

My doubts about the slow start of the first book were completely dashed in this second one. I am almost jumping up and down with anticipation of the third, and if I didn’t already have a full pile of books on hold at the library right now, I’d probably see if they had the first trilogy. I may just have to buy it on my Kindle the next chance I get. Guys, if you love fantasy, you need to be reading Jeff Wheeler. Just do it.

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 15 2015.

 

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The Sisters of Versailles

FINALLY! I broke my streak with war and nightmares. I really was not sure it was every going to end!

I have read dozens of books about Henry VIII and his scandalous court. Seemingly everyone has heard of his lustful boredom and endless pursuits. However, two centuries later, another king followed in his very sexed up shoes.

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King Louis XV of France–Louis the Beloved–ruled from 1710 to 1774. He was married to a Polish princess, but after seven years of marriage, he was becoming bored, and his advisers decided they needed to find a replacement close and quiet. According to Sally Christie in her new book The Sisters of Versailles, they found the perfect solution in Louise Nesle, serving as one of the Queen’s consorts.

However, because this is a scandal story, of course it doesn’t just stop there. There were five Nesle sisters. I’ll leave you to read what happens.

Christie’s historical fiction drips with so much sticky sweet scandal that you would think you were biting into a caramel apple (just keep it away from Diane, or she might snatch it from you). Every chapter holds a new drama–either a fight that is “not very sororal” according to the Nesle governess Zeilie, or littered with sexual innuendo so dirty even I couldn’t have come up with some of it. And that’s saying something. (I did make sure to take note of them…don’t you worry! clickFILEclick)

The Goodreads blurb states that these women have never before been written about in English, which devastates me, because I very much want to read more! Not that Sally Christie hasn’t done a fantastic job, because she has…but this is one of those sections of history I could get addicted to. It’s like a historical soap opera or reality show. Keeping Up with the Nesles. Now THAT is something I would watch! Oh man. Who do I talk to at HBO to do this?

Seriously though guys, if you like Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, or Hilary Mantel…really any of the great scandal writers from Henry VIII’s court…you’re going to love this one. Same idea, different king. History really does repeat itself, doesn’t it?

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased reviewReleases on September 1.

 

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The Banished of Muirwood

I don’t know if you have noticed but I have been reading some pretty HEAVY stuff lately. Four of the reviews I’ve done this month have had the word “dark” in them. Two of the others have been about war. Whoa, Haley. I think it’s time to back read something lighthearted, and soon.

You guys ok, out there? Sorry for all the doom and gloom! It wasn’t on purpose, I promise!

I’d love to tell you this review is better…but, it’s another book of war. *grimaces* Sorry….but it is a magical war, so that has to count for something. Stick with me.

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Jeff Wheeler apparently woke up from a dream one night with a girl in his head. He luckily had paper in his nightstand and ferociously began scribbling about her evil father and the man hired to protect her. Since then, he’s written stories about his world of Muirwood, but is finally releasing Maia’s story.

Maia is born princess to a king who doesn’t quite know how to handle his own power. He’s almost a Henry VIII kind of guy, and banishes her mother so he can take on another queen and thus another kingdom. In doing so, he must banish Maia and disown her, even as he claims he loves her. Along her path, Maia finds herself with a great deal of magic, and even greater trouble.

While this is definitely fantasy, Wheeler built his world of Muirwood upon a base of real ancient history references. Or, at the very least, references to places from real authors. There is a character, “the kishion,” which when I Googled, pointed to Kadesh in Galilee. Another reference, “aurichalcum” is a metal Plato references when he talks about Atlantis (obviously that one is more about the author than the place). There’s a few more things that build upon ancient Greek culture or works. I mention this because while the premise for the story came from a dream, and there were certainly made up places, names, and language in the book–it was obvious to me while reading that Wheeler had done quite a bit of research before sitting down to write. I would be so interested to see his notes. It fascinates me how authors create and build their ideas and from where they pull inspiration.

I will say, that at first I was unsure about the writing. Maia was banished, running, in obvious danger. Then she just shows up at a random inn and the hunter she needs is at that exact place (very Strider from LOTR), and she just gives him her full name, title, problem, all of it. And he agrees to help her with no suspicion or confirmation whatsoever. Well, ok then! There were a lot of holes in the first 10% of the book. It made me a little weary.

However, shortly after I made that note in my journal, the book picked up and I started getting answers pretty quickly. Maia is still pretty naive, really throughout the whole book. But, I think that’s more of a character flaw than a writing issue, once I got into the meat of the story. Give it a chance past the first 20%, it’s a slow starter, but it does become a valid fantasy after that. I’ve added the rest of his Muirwood history to my TBR–I am wondering if those would help the beginning holes at all. Sounds like he’s also working on a second book to Maia’s story, woot!

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. To be released on August 18.

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The Prince and the Pauper

Sometimes I wonder if kids today still get the same stories that we grew up on. Remember Velveteen Rabbit? That was always my favorite. Or The Little Engine that Could, Babar the Elephant, The Giving Tree? Are those still around? Do kids even know what Aesop’s Fables are anymore, or is it just that Mama Llama book every day?

That is maybe the only thing I miss about not having kids of my own–sharing my stories. I have nieces and nephews, but it’s not quite the same when you aren’t there to read to them every night.

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The Prince and the Pauper is one of those stories I remember hearing at some point. Or maybe it was just seeing the Mickey Mouse version. But I know that story by heart, and as I was reading Mark Twain’s book, I kept wondering if my littles would ever hear this one.

Another thought I had while reading it–I never realized before that this was a legend of Henry VIII’s son. As much as I love his court, I didn’t make the connection. This was apparently Mark Twain’s first attempt at historical fiction, and it’s such a silly little tale, but I quite enjoyed reading the full version. I will say that it is much more…vivid…than the Disney version! Not such a kid’s story, this one.

If you are as in love with Henry’s court as I am, this is worth the read. Mark Twain is so much more than Huck Finn. Who knew?

Bring Up the Bodies

Henry VIII. No matter your opinion of the man, no one can deny that he and his court are immensely fascinating and dramatic. If only there were reality TV in the 1500s–could you imagine the Real Housewives of The Tower? THAT would be worth watching. (Hey spoofers…someone please do this. Please!)

I fell in love with Henry’s court when I first watched The Tudors on Netflix several years ago, and while there were several dramatic liberties taken, it let me down a rabbit hole of information hoarding. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about the period.

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Somewhere in there, Hilary Mantel published Wolf Hall, her first book from the perspective of the formidable Thomas Cromwell. I was completely enthralled. Cromwell is like all of the Lannister’s in one brain. Jaime’s weary eye, Tywin’s crazy intelligence, Cersei’s power hungry ambition, and Tyron’s book sharpened wit. Not to mention Littlefinger and Varys’ connections and abilities to find out really just about anything about anybody.

In Wolf Hall, you see Anne Boleyn’s utter domination over Henry and his court…and Katherine’s subsequent demise. And now in Bring on the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s second Thomas Cromwell book, you get the same sneaky ambition as we watch Anne Boleyn’s scheming come to a bitter end.

Mantel’s second book is just as well written as the first. Cromwell has always been an intriguing character to me. Not quite villainous, but definitely Slytherin in nature. He is out for his own skin, furthering his own cause, even using his son to do so. He is normally a background character in every other rendition of this court’s history, but Mantel brings him to life. I love the stream of consciousness narration that she gives him–not quite third person, but it’s all in his head, talking to himself.

If you like Game of Thrones, you will like this book. As I’ve mentioned, I draw a lot of parallells in the court and Cromwell to Martin’s characters (although I have read that he wrote it about the War of the Roses, which was before this period). Also, if you like Philippa Gregory, then you probably already know this storyline, as told by the women. You’ll really like this book, if you’re interested in a different perspective. Just be sure to read Wolf Hall first. There are some nicknames in Bring on the Bodies that will make more sense if you do.

I really hope Mantel continues this series! I look forward to reading them!

 

Fulfills PopSugar #46:  A book written by an author with your same initials