The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley

Series: Sol’s Harvest #1 Rating: 3.5/5
Date of Publishing: September 7th 2017 Genre: fantasy, flintlock fantasy
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 392 Author’s website: http://www.mdpresley.com

Quote of the Book

“In that moment Marta understood misery in its entirety. Most believed misery had a purpose, its existence to make joy seem all the sweeter in contrast, but they were all fools. There was no real comfort, no joy or ease in life. Moments of joy just existed to make the pain of every day more pronounced since one could not understand the true depths of suffering without the dizzying heights of joy.”

Blurb

A fantasy reimagining of the American Civil War, The Woven Ring pits muskets against magic, massive war machines against mind readers, and glass sabers against soldiers in psychic exoskeletons. 

In exile since the civil war that tore the nation of Newfield apart, former spy and turncoat Marta Childress wants nothing more than to quietly live out her remaining days in the West. But then her manipulative brother arrives with one final mission: Transport the daughter of a hated inventor deep into the East. Forced to decide between safely delivering the girl and assassinating the inventor, Marta is torn between ensuring the fragile peace and sparking a second civil war. 

Aided by an untrustworthy Dobra and his mysterious mute companion, Marta soon discovers that dark forces, human and perhaps the devil herself, seek to end her quest into the East.

Personal notes

I’ve got a copy from the author, M.D. Presley in exchange of an honest review. Thanks for the opportunity!

Song of the Book

Okay, so, I struggled with this one, and I don’t think I found the right choice. But I love this song, and the lyrics more or like fits to the story, so…

Review

Let’s make one thing clear right at the beginning: I have no idea how this review will turn out. I have pretty mixed feelings about The Woven Ring and while I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t love it either. As some trusted blogger friends of mine seem to be really into this series, I guess it must have something to it and I’m willing to follow the adventures of these characters to see if I can fall in love as well.

In The Woven Ring we follow Marta’s story both in the present and the past. Through her eyes we get a look into the horrors of the Great War as she follows the instructions of her family. The Cildra clan is a wealthy, prestigious family, which has ears, eyes and other useful body parts at both sides. But while the war leaves Marta scarred for life both physically and mentally – fighting for survival and dealing with the mark of being a traitor could weigh heavy on anyone -, her brother Carmichael rises up into the highest circles of politics. And now he has a task for Marta with the promise of redeeming herself in their father’s eyes. So she sets out to deliver the daughter of the man he despises the most. All the while her need to please her father and brother wars each other inside her.

Let’s get my criticism out of the way first, but rest assured, I have some praise too. My biggest problem with this book lies with the characters. I couldn’t really like any of them. Well, okay, except maybe Caddie, but then who has anything against an innocent child is just a monster. At the beginning I thought I’m going to like Marta, who was a fierce child, one who didn’t mind fighting back when she felt threatened. But as the story progressed, I started to like her less. Understandably, her years fighting in the war – which was depicted really well, especially the parts about the pit – left their marks on her. What irked me was the way she treated everyone around her in the present. Now, I don’t say she should have trusted in Luca and Isabella from the start, but she looked down on them and treated them like they were her soldiers and didn’t even bother to actually talk to them, instead of running rounds in her head. Honestly, to me she seemed a bit shallow.

“Because hate is easy, love is hard, and indifference the most difficult.”

-Carmichael Childress

Luca and Isabella can turn out as interesting characters as the story progresses further in later books, but so far we didn’t get to know them much. Or Graff, the Render for that matter, and we’ve spent more time with Luca and Isabella than him. Carmichael intrigues me, and I’m really hoping we’ll get him as POV character sometime, because the guy is clearly a psychopath, or something close to it anyway.

I also struggled a bit with the writing. While I liked the fact that we see the events unfold both in the past and the present until the two timelines were waving seamlessly together like Marta’s treasured ring, I felt confused quite a lot. Let me explain. It took me a long time to understand what’s the difference between Weavers and Renders for example. Or to place some names or phrases like emet, nodus, festation. And that’s because we don’t get eased into the world-building, but rather thrown in it. Which can work if it’s done well, but every time I came across a new thing or person like Orthoel Hendrix I wondered: am I supposed to know who he is / what it is? And why is this matters anyway? Of course later we get everything explained and things will make sense, but at times it was damn frustrating. But then, now that most of the world-building is done, I guess it’ll be easier to navigate in the later installments of the Sol’s Harvest series.

And since we are talking about world-building. Someone mentioned it was dense. Well, yeah, maybe, but that’s to be expected in every first book of a new series, and I didn’t have a problem with it aside the aforementioned things. Though, since one of the main plot is traveling through Newfield, it is required to have a pretty detailed world at hand so we could experience it as we travel along. Which at one hand is great, but on the other, I just prefer to stay at one place or two and discover it to the last nail. But this all comes down to preferences, and M.D. Presley did a pretty fine job of giving his world an outline which can be filled with a lot more things as the series progresses.

If I didn’t know beforehand that the inspiration behind Newfield and its history came from America and the Civil War it would still have been obvious. As far as I can tell this was pretty well done – I mean, I’m not well versed in these topics, even though I have History degree (we Europeans are more focused on our own history, you see). The argument about festations and manifestations reminded me a bit the way North and South argued about the slaves. Or the way Renders and Weavers argued about Sol’s Breath reminded me the way Catholics and the believers of the Reformed Church argued about religion. Both thinking their own way was the only option and everyone else be damned. Maybe it may seem the religious system in The Woven Ring builds on Christianity, I think it draws more from Judaism. Though there is one main god, Sol, there are hints about more godlike creatures, or there is something about the Dobra tribe’s back story which brings to mind the Old Testament.

“You’re right, the moral is stupid, but no more than any other story. There is no Waer any more than there is Sol. The story’s just a way simpletons explain away the past and try to make sense of the Blessed. Everything that happens in life, it’s all by happenstance. There’s no order to it, no plan, no Sol guiding it.”

Luca

There were quite a few ideas I liked in The Woven Ring. The Breaths for example – every human being is born with three Breaths, but there are Blessed who has four, gifting them with special abilities depending on where that four Breath resides. Marta is a Shaper who is able to use her Breath as a weapon of some kind depending on her need at the time. And then there are Listeners and Whisperers. The former can see into a person’s mind and catch their thoughts unless they are protected, while Whisperers can plant ideas into other’s minds. Since we have Marta as POV character, we mostly learn about how shaping abilities work and how hard it is to learn and manipulate using it. I’m interested to learn more about the magic behind these abilities later on. Besides humans, plants and animals have Breaths as well in a smaller number. After one’s death, Breaths are freed and they join to their fellows along leylines. Now, these leylines are pretty fascinating. They are not only pretty natural occurrences, but thanks to the “advanced” technology they can be used for transportation – I loved the idea of the trains – sending messages – I want to learn more about the Dobra as they seem to have the most interesting culture, a bit like a wandering carnival, or gypsies and they are damn mysterious – or giving birth to creatures like the emets. Monsters created by Breaths and having the most eclectic forms they can have. They can be evil or good but they are mostly left alone. Not that that stops them to have a prominent role in the grand scheme of things.

All things said, there is a lot to like about The Woven Ring. It’s an imaginative flintlock fantasy with the potential of growing into a fantastic series. Maybe it’s a bit rough around the edges, but no one can say The Woven Ring doesn’t set a pretty solid foundation for the future for when Sol finally comes to harvest.

Read Jen’s review of the 3rd book of the series, The Glass Dagger!

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