fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff WheelerThe Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

In The Scourge of Muirwood, the third and final installment of Jeff Wheeler’s LEGENDS OF MUIRWOOD saga, Lia has discovered her true identity but is unable to tell anyone because the Medium has bound the information. Only a few people know and Colvin, the man Lia loves, is not one of them. While Lia broods about their relationship, she must be the Medium’s tool to save the world and hope that everything turns out in the end. Several interspersed chapters are flashbacks which tell the story of the prince of Pry-Ree and his knowledge that his daughter would be the world’s savior.

Readers who loved The Wretched of Muirwood and The Blight of Muirwood (and there are a lot of them leaving reviews at Amazon) will probably enjoy The Scourge of Muirwood, too. It’s a darker story and it brings the series to a strange ending, though Wheeler leaves it open for future stories in this setting.

I’ve enjoyed Lia’s story for the most part, but I’ve complained about the looseness of the plot and this becomes even more of an issue in this last novel. Things we thought were important get dropped or only play a small role in the plot. Other parts are difficult to swallow. For example, I never believed that Lia couldn’t find some way of letting Colvin know she wasn’t a wretched, or at least she could tell him that something important would be revealed that would let them be together. Also, (spoiler here, highlight if you want to read it) the Medium tells Colvin that he must marry Ellowyn Demont but Colvin doesn’t know that Lia is the real Ellowyn Demont. If it’s so imperative for Colvin to marry Ellowyn, why doesn’t the Medium tell Colvin that Lia is Ellowyn? [END SPOILER]. There are several plot points like this — they don’t make sense and are only there to increase tension.

Yet there are other times when Wheeler deliberately and unrealistically reduces tension. People who die come back to life and at the end everything is resolved quickly and easily and though there is a lot of suffering by most people in the land, our favorite characters get surprise happy endings. With all the rest of the depressing events happening, these happy endings seemed contrived just to make the reader happy. It’s a confusing mix.

The many allusions to Biblical stories continue — Adam and Eve, the serpent, Daniel in the lion’s den, the flood, Jonah and the whale, Shadrach and friends in the furnace, the temptation of Christ, Jesus calming the storm, death and resurrection in heaven, etc. While I don’t mind Biblical allusions, plot devices taken from other sources make the story less inventive and that’s a problem. Another problem is that the villains are over-the-top evil in The Scourge of Muirwood. I kept expecting them to say “BUWAHAHAHA!” (And, though Kate Rudd does an excellent job with the narration otherwise, her villain voices don’t help with this feeling.)

This seems like a long list of complaints, but the truth is that I finished The Scourge of Muirwood, which means I was interested enough in Lia’s story to keep reading. I would have dropped it long before book 3, or even in the middle of book 3, if I didn’t think it was worth my time. Though there are some plot problems, Jeff Wheeler’s series is a worthy YA fantasy epic that deserves the attention (though not the 5-star ratings) it’s receiving. I’ll be happy to try whatever Jeff Wheeler writes next.

Later update: A couple of days after I wrote this, Brilliance Audio sent me the first book of Jeff Wheeler’s next series. It’s called Fireblood. I’m putting it in my TBR stack, but not at the top.

The Legends of Muirwood — (2013) Publisher: In the ancient and mystical land of Muirwood, Lia has known only a life of servitude. Labeled a “wretched,” an outcast unwanted and unworthy of respect, Lia is forbidden to realize her dream to read or write. All but doomed, her days are spent toiling away as a kitchen slave under the charge of the Aldermaston, the Abbey’s watchful overseer. But when an injured squire named Colvin is abandoned at the kitchen’s doorstep, an opportunity arises. The nefarious Sheriff Almaguer soon starts a manhunt for Colvin, and Lia conspires to hide Colvin and change her fate. In the midst of a land torn by a treacherous war between a ruthless king and a rebel army, Lia finds herself on an ominous journey that will push her to wonder if her own hidden magic is enough to set things right. At once captivating, mysterious, and magic-infused, The Wretched of Muirwood takes the classic fantasy adventure and paints it with a story instantly epic, and yet, all its own.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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