Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jeff Wheeler’s Muirwood series

Book cover, 'The Void of Muirwood' by Jeff Wheeler. Image depicts from-the-back view of a woman with long dark hair in a flowing green dress, arms outstretched at her sides, standing between two large rocks with sun faces carved into them. The woman faces a stone building
On my Winter Reads reading log for Jackson County Library Services: Jeff Wheeler’s Muirwood series centers around a medieval abbey on a world similar to ours, where a religious order whose priests are called “Mastons” live in harmony with a spiritual force called the Medium.

The harmonious force of the Medium is pitted against evil beings called the “Myriad Ones.” Women who pledge themselves to the Myriad Ones’ queen are possessed and become “Hetaera.”

The first series, Legends of Muirwood, consists of three books: The Wretched of Muirwood, The Blight of Muirwood and The Scourge of Muirwood. They tell the story of Lia, abandoned at birth at Muirwood and raised at Muirwood as a “wretched” -- so-called because her parentage is unknown.

This status is significant because a person’s strength in the Medium is predicted by the strength of their parents.

Lia grows and gains ability in a world beset by political upheaval, and her status as a “wretched” threatens to separate her from the man she loves, a Maston from a powerful family.

The second series, Covenant of Muirwood, also features three novel-length works: Banished of Muirwood, The Ciphers of Muirwood and The Void of Muirwood. Another work -- The Lost Abbey, first produced as a graphic novel and then released as a novella-length story -- is set just prior to this trilogy.

Covenant of Muirwood focuses on Lia’s descendant Maia, whose father, a king, put aside his Maston vows and forsook his marriage to Maia’s mother. He banished Maia and later sent her to a remote abbey, supposedly to save her people, but she discovers that his purpose seemed to deliberately infect her with possession as a Hetaera.

Something that appealed to me about Wheeler’s Muirwood stories, is that they center around female protagonists. Science fiction and fantasy often focus on male characters, so this emphasis on a female is refreshing.

The storylines are infused with religious overtones, and lore surrounding the Medium has frequent parallels to Judeo-Christian mythology.

On Muirwood’s world, inhabitants believe they inhabit one of many worlds where the Medium holds influence. On one occasion, two characters, talking about their legend concerning the origin of sin, speculate that perhaps on one of those other worlds, a woman took the first bite from the apple, instead of a man as their own story tells. And the blight in the first series’ storyline is portrayed as a world-cleansing, similar to Noah and the Flood.

History provides another influence on Wheeler’s plots and characters. In one author’s note, Wheeler discusses parallels between Mary Tudor and the character of Maia.

The Winter Reads program at Jackson County libraries aims to encourage more adults to read during winter months. Pick up a reading log from your nearest branch library and return it when you’ve read or listened to four books. For each reading log you complete, you’ll be entered in a drawing for prizes that include a $50 certificate to the restaurant of the winner’s choice. For more information, visit the JCLS website,; contact your local branch library or call 541-774-6996.

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