In the ancient and mystical land of Muirwood, Lia has known only a life of servitude. Labeled a “wretched,” an outcast unwanted and unworthy of respect, Lia is forbidden to realize her dream to read or write. All but doomed, her days are spent toiling away as a kitchen slave under the charge of the Aldermaston, the Abbey’s watchful overseer. But when an injured squire named Colvin is abandoned at the kitchen’s doorstep, an opportunity arises.
The nefarious Sheriff Almaguer soon starts a manhunt for Colvin, and Lia conspires to hide Colvin and change her fate. In the midst of a land torn by a treacherous war between a ruthless king and a rebel army, Lia finds herself on an ominous journey that will push her to wonder if her own hidden magic is enough to set things right. At once captivating, mysterious, and magic-infused, The Wretched of Muirwood takes the classic fantasy adventure and paints it with a story instantly epic, and yet, all its own.
I've had my eye on this series for a while now. I'm a sucker for fantasies and this more or less hit a lot of my target points. This isn't a perfect book, Lia is a wee bit too good considering everything stacked against her and by in large Colvin spends much of his time either grouchy or sullen which doesn't show why Lia feels such a need to help him. Also Almaguer is a rather standard villain who's dealt with anticlimactically (tho more on this later).
For that however I found myself immersed in the world of Muirwood. Found myself intrigued by the 'Leering' stones and the Maston's and Aldermaston's. I wanted to see where ultimately Colvin's quest took him and how it affected Lia. Even though much of Lia and Colvin's time together is spent sniping and bickering, the rare few moments of truce painted a world of magic and mystery at odds with itself.
The final scene with Almaguer, who Lia and Colvin have spent the better part of the book afraid of and who everyone has warned them is quite fearsome, kind of just happens. However Wheeler meant for it to be taken I thought it was a rather good stepping stone for Lia. She spent her journey with Colvin doubtful and afraid, building Almaguer up into this towering demon. The man is no less cruel or evil than those imaginings, but he is just that--a man. A fact that Lia has to face and one she has to overcome.
Given everything that happens Lia gets off rather lightly. The repercussions she feared were non-existent, the family she didn't think she had was there all along and the dream she thought was being denied without reason was given solid footing. There are consequences, grave ones in fact, but the end is hopeful rather than bleak.