Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Ciphers of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Basics:
The Ciphers of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
YA, Fantasy
Published September 15, 2015
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Goodreads 

Why I picked up this book:

I enjoyed the first one and wanted to know where the story would go next.

From the moment she was banished by her father, the king, Princess Maia journeyed to seek sanctuary at Muirwood Abbey, the epicenter of magic and good in the land. Now safe for the first time since her cruel abandonment, Maia must foster uneasy friendships with other girls training to be Ciphers: women who learn to read and engrave tomes of ancient power, despite the laws forbidding them to do so.

As Maia tries to judge whom to trust, she makes a shocking discovery: her destiny is to open the Apse Veil and release trapped spirits from her world. Then she learns that her father is coming to Muirwood Abbey to celebrate the Whitsunday festival—and Maia’s estranged husband, whom she was forced to abandon, will join him. Torn between deadly political machinations and unstoppable spiritual forces, Maia must channel unknown powers within herself to save her friends, the abbey, and the entire kingdom of Muirwood.

My Thoughts:

The Ciphers of Muirwood is a sequel to The Banished of Muirwood, which I read and reviewed a month ago. The latter book was decent enough. I didn't like a few of the plot twists because I thought they effectively diminished the main character and her agency, but overall, the world intrigued me. I wanted to know what was coming next for Maia and the people she had met in her journey. 

I found Ciphers to be a really slow build. Almost glacial. There's a sense of impending doom (or at least, potential doom), but I never really felt any urgency in that until near the end of the book.

Not helping the slow pacing is that without the, ah, external influences Maia faced in book one, she's a very mild, centered young woman. Because the religion/magic system of the series requires practitioners to remain calm and even-keeled rather than emotional, this is entirely appropriate for her character. But it doesn't make for very exciting reading. 

This book is steeped in that religious tradition, and yes, there are intrigues and such, but the message overall that the characters are absorbing is to live these humble, calm lives and trust that everything will work out as it should. It grated on me after the first couple chapters, and didn't get any better as the book went on.

The last few chapters of the book pick up the pace quite a bit, and there's a return of some characters that fans of the first book will be relieved to revisit (mostly because they amp up the conflict in the story, and are much more likely to wear their emotions on their sleeves than Maia). There was enough there to draw me back for the third book, despite the issues I had with this second one. I'm kind of hoping Maia turns into a badass in the end, telling everyone around her to smarten up, and setting to rights all of the turmoil going on in the world.

I can dream, right?

Ultimately, the connections between this and the original Muirwood trilogy, which I didn't know existed until I read the Author's Note at the end, are quite intriguing, and evidence that Wheeler's really thought through these stories. I'm curious to see where he takes things in the last book in this trilogy!

Bottom line:

While I had big pacing problems with The Ciphers of Muirwood and I wanted to groan every time religion was discussed, there's still something quite compelling about this book. I may not have loved it, but by the final page, I wanted to know what was coming next. 

If you haven't read The Banished of Muirwood, I recommend you start there before reading Ciphers.

3 stars
For fans of YA fantasy, serenity, the first series set in Muirwood

Don't just take my word for it though! I've gathered up a couple of other blog reviews, so check them out for some other opinions!

As I Lay Reading 

Shaiha's Ramblings

Journey of a Bookseller

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