The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood, Book #1)
by Jeff Wheeler
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Ebook Edition: 416 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
In a stand-alone series
set in the world of Muirwood, eighteen-year-old Maia is the exiled
princess of Comoros and heir to the throne. As a result of her father’s
ceaseless need for authority, she was left disinherited and forced to
live as a servant in her enemy’s home. When the king invites chaos into
the land by expelling the magical order known as the Dochte Mandar, Maia
finds herself on a perilous quest to save her people. To survive, she
must use magic she has learned in secret—despite the fact that women are
forbidden to control it. Hunted by enemies at every turn, Maia realizes
that danger lurks within her, too. Her powers threaten to steal not
only her consciousness but also her sense of right and wrong. Can she
set herself free and save the realm she loves—even if that realm has
The Banished of Muirwood is the first in a trilogy about a young princess banished from her father's court and sent on a quest to secure a tome that could possibly save her people. Despite a slow and confusing start to this book, it quickly picked up the pace and once I figured out some of the things that were going on, I really enjoyed it. While it was a bit predictable and cliched, there were still some surprises and twists that I thought were fun.
First of all, I really enjoyed the world-building as it was more of a traditional fantasy setting. I liked the descriptions of the different countries and the people. Maia comes from a land where women are not allowed to read or "engrave", the term used for writing; she was therefore taught by the Chancellor in secret and taught things about magic and the Medium, the concept of magic in this novel. While the use of illiteracy might seem archaic to some people, it has always been an effective way to keep certain knowledge away from certain people and I thought it was used rather efficaciously in this novel. Her knowledge of magic would have been her death sentence if it had been discovered, but you know that a princess of the realm facing such difficulties due to a defunct father needs to have an edge; what else is she supposed to do to survive and eventually reach the throne? While the whole concept of the magical system was a big confusing at first, because I decided to be patient, eventually, through a succession of flashbacks and diary entries from an ancestor, everything began to make sense. It did take a lot of patience though, to understand the concepts of the mastons, the aldermastons, the Medium, the abbeys, and so on, as well as how the different countries worked. Once I began sorting through it all, I enjoyed the book a lot more.
Even right now I am not sure how much I really like the main character though. Let me explain. While I enjoyed her travels and her difficulties, I did find her to be a bit weak; there were many times when she could have stood up for herself and didn't. After awhile, this did get kind of annoying and I would have liked to shake her if I could. Maia is a princess by birth, but her father spent years trying to divorce her mother, almost destroying himself, and his country, in the process. Shades of Henry VIII anyone? He treated Maia horribly, yet she continued to defend his actions; it mad her seems rather naive and pitiful. There were many flashes when I thought she would grow up and become a stronger person, but time and again she allowed others to rescue her. It wasn't until the end that I saw a stronger Maia, so I do have hope for the future. I do have a special fondness for Jon, Collier, and the Kishion though, for very different reasons. I have no idea who the Kishion is or what his purpose is, but he is definitely the most surprising character in this novel. Who is he really working for, and what is his ulterior motive? So interesting!!
The plot was a bit predictable and full of the usual cliches, but it is really hard to find a fantasy novel that isn't nowadays. Despite all of this, there were a few surprises that did catch me off guard, although the clues were right there in my face. By paying too much attention to the magic and the history described in the novel, I missed some of the obvious clues going on in the present and was caught off guard. Not everyone might have the patience to slog through the opening chapters as they were a bit confusing with the talk of magic and mastons and Medium and different things, but like I said before, if you are patient, it will pay off and it will come together. Because the novel starts in the middle of Maia's quest, you learn the beginning and why she was chosen by her father despite the banishment, through flashbacks. I thought the use of magic was quite interesting once I understood it, and I am curious as to how it will be developed and use in the future.
The Banished of Muirwood was quite different from what I expected, and I liked it very much. I thought the characters were interesting, and I have hope that Maia will develop into a stronger personality in the future. I liked the world-building and the magical system, and how the author incorporates a lot of mythological and historical concepts into his plot. There was a new and quite imaginative world, dark secrets, ancient magic and tomes, forbidden magic, danger, and even a bit of romance, everything you could want in a fantasy novel. While the story was a bit inconsistent, and it did have a tendency to slow down, especially over the historical bits which were sometimes difficult to retain, it was still solid and interesting. I will be continuing Maia's story in The Ciphers of Muirwood.