The Banished of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler. ★★
Honestly, The Banished of Muirwood is sort of a mess. It is a YA second world fantasy about a banished princess on a mysterious quest who is being hunted by an organization of mages. Or at least I am pretty certain they are an organization of mages, but I don’t really know. Like I said, this book was sort of a mess.
Maia is banished at a young age when her father wants to put aside her mother to marry a women who will give him male heirs (yes, it reminds me of Henry VIII and his wives also). He also banishes a group named the Dochte Mandar, who are the aforementioned likely magic users’ organization. Because of this, people start going slightly crazy. Possibly it’s because the Dochte Mandar aren’t around to protect people from evil spirits? Did the book say that? I think it might have, or at least implied it. Maia is supposed to be going to an abbey to find a solution there. She gets there and finds out that she’s actually got to go to another country. The Dochte Mandar are chasing her by this point.
Unfortunately, the book alternates between present day Maia being chased by the Dochte Mandar and various flashbacks of Maia’s past which didn’t really add much. The little that was relevant could have been combined into the main narrative or condensed at the beginning.
A large part of what made this confusing was the crucial role that the history of the world and the political situation played. It was very difficult to try and figure out what the author was saying, especially about the history portion, and I still don’t have a clear picture of it. As it turns out, the important historical information is another book that he has already written. So why can’t the information be clearer in this novel? There were also world building things that kept tripping me up. For instance, what’s the difference between the Docte Madar and the mastons? Originally I thought they were the same thing, but then I figured out they were two different things?
Also, Maia learned to read and use magic despite these things being forbidden for women. The reason they are forbidden for women is supposedly because of these women named the hetaera who were evil magic users who could kill men with a kiss. I could talk about possible problematic gender stereotypes here, but the book’s too convoluted and ill explained for me to even start and try to analyze it.
There’s also a possible romantic subplot that I’m not happy with. I say possible because I think the “love interest” is manipulative and predatory and more villain material than love interest. Maia doesn’t see it this way and instead focuses on how handsome he is and how conflicted her feelings are for him. I still think it’s possible that she’ll wake up and see reality in one of the sequel books, but I am not going to bother to read and find out.
All that being said, the book did have good points. When it wasn’t bogged down in flashbacks, the pacing and tension were really quite good. At the beginning I was annoyed by Maia and how “she did not cry like other girls” and the idea that this made her superior in some way. However, by the end it’s reversed and it looks like Maia will have to learn to accept her own emotions.
When it comes down to it, The Banished of Muirwood is not a book I would recommend. I probably would have quit reading it except that I had to review it for Netgalley and it doesn’t feel right to review a book without reading it to the end.
I received a free ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.