Book Review: The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The cover of this book was what originally attracted me to the Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler. I was a little wary of this book due to the sample, but I decided that my initial interest in the main character was enough to get me through the quirks in the writing style.

It wasn't. The dialogue really hampered my ability to enjoy this book. It's a growing pet peeve of mine, and one I used to be guilty of until I learned that using high court formal English in dialogue doesn't actually enhance a story — it doesn't make it feel more like a fantasy. It doesn't evoke real characters.

It just tells me that these people aren't real. It hampers my ability to enjoy a story.

Jeff Wheeler uses a lot of purple language. It's everywhere. It takes away from the story, and it took away from my general enjoyment of the story. For this, it was a complete and total failure. However, there were some redeeming elements to this tale. When the language and writing style doesn't get in the way of the story, this is a really quick read — something the average reader can work through in a day. That said, it is a quick read; the depth just isn't there.  There are a lot of characterization elements that are missing. In order to keep the story short, the time to build between events is sacrificed, and the author uses some old exposition and telling tricks to keep the story moving at a brisk pace.

Worse, there are times where the plot is extremely convenient; there are events where I stopped and stared at my kindle because it was just so obvious that the event in the story was included just so characters were forced to move.

In general, I give this story a 3; I was entertained, to a point. I didn't throw my kindle. I did finish it. I have no real desire to go for the second book. Book one fell short in too many ways for me to get really into this book.

The Plot

The plot is a double-edged sword in this story. In some ways, the plot is what holds the story aloft. However, there were times where I stopped and wondered why I was reading this book. There are unique and interesting moments in the book. But, as a general rule, it is extremely predictable. There aren't nearly enough twists and turns to satisfy someone like me — someone who wants to be surprised by the turns of events. It was this characteristic that made this book such a fast read. I didn't have to go back and hunt for the twists and the turns in the path. This is something I enjoy doing in a good book, where every word, and every little attention matters — and if I'm not paying attention, then I have to hunt for the missing piece of the puzzle.

This sort of thing makes my mind active, stimulates me, and lets me really, really enjoy a book.

This is a cookie-cutter fantasy plot. There isn't anything truly special about it.

Not bad, but not great. But I think the worst part of this book is that it ends on such a low-key note that I wasn't at all compelled to reach for book two.

The Characters

This is something that bothered me; what characters say is a big part of who they are. What they're saying is a notable indicator of the mood they're in, and glimpses into who they are now, and who they were in the past. The language of their dialogue was so stiff that the characters were negatively impacted on account of it.

Worse, the characters fit stereotypes and cliches too easily. This is a zero to hero story, where the zero and hero is a heroine, and she's supposed to be of the worst caste type the world has to offer. Does this hamper her?

Not at all.

The main character just doesn't belong to that caste type in terms of her behavior. The character development I was hoping for — the hallmark of a good zero to hero type story — just wasn't there. It's hard to appreciate the main character when the worst caste type isn't that bad.

Especially considering how the other characters react to her at the end of the book. Being wretched isn't a big deal, and this hurt the book.

The hero is also so stereotypical it was almost enough to make me consider giving up on this book. I don't feel the cast of this story was strong enough for what's needed. Still, there were some interesting characters in the book. Interesting enough to hold up the dialogue and the weak points in the plot? I'm not so sure about that.

The Setting

I think the thing that kept me reading this book was the setting. While there is a fair share of standard fantasy fodder, there is some interesting parallels with the real world, added in a subtle way as to make themselves known, but not so obvious as to take away from the story. The setting and worldbuilding of this book was, in some ways, more interesting than the plot or character.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough of it.

Conclusion

If I could make one recommendation for this book, I would beg the author to let this book take flight. Its wings were clipped from the start. Instead of allowing the book to have room to grow, it was rushed through. If the book had been given the room needed to shine, it'd probably be twice as long, a lot more intricate, and as a result, a lot more interesting.

That, and the dialogue. Please, fantasy writers. Using formal language doesn't give your fantasy novel a fantasy feeling to it. It does make your characters sound like pretentious asses though. While I can't speak for everyone, I think the real life has enough of those folks as it is.

Save the formal language for when someone would realistically use it. For all other dialogue? Relax a little. Real people don't talk like that. Not without a really good reason.

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2 comments
Heather Dudley says June 11, 2013

Yeah, there is no way to use truly authentic language in a modern book and not have it hamper the writing. You have to make some sacrifices for modern audiences to understand. Anyone who’s ever tried to read the Silmarillion, for example, will tell you that. It’s a problem in older, classic books, too.

It’s fine line to toe; I read an older piece of mine and found it disturbingly modern, in a way that was just wrong! You don’t want them sounding like modern mall rats, but you don’t want them to sound like Sir Stuffington the third, either.

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Cover Review: The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler | On Writing says June 11, 2013

[…] Purchase Status: Bought and reviewed. […]

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