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Covenant of Muirwood #2

The Ciphers of Muirwood

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From the moment she was banished by her father, the king, Princess Maia journeyed to seek sanctuary at Muirwood Abbey, the epicenter of magic and good in the land. Now safe for the first time since her cruel abandonment, Maia must foster uneasy friendships with other girls training to be Ciphers: women who learn to read and engrave tomes of ancient power, despite the laws forbidding them to do so.

As Maia tries to judge whom to trust, she makes a shocking discovery: her destiny is to open the Apse Veil and release trapped spirits from her world. Then she learns that her father is coming to Muirwood Abbey to celebrate the Whitsunday festival—and Maia’s estranged husband, whom she was forced to abandon, will join him. Torn between deadly political machinations and unstoppable spiritual forces, Maia must channel unknown powers within herself to save her friends, the abbey, and the entire kingdom of Muirwood.

402 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 15, 2015

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About the author

Jeff Wheeler

99 books4,563 followers
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to write full-time. He is a husband, father of five, and a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff lives in the Rocky Mountains.

Jeff's blog and suggested reading order can be found on his website: http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 298 reviews
Profile Image for Kerry.
554 reviews62 followers
May 17, 2017
A wonderful second book in this series of Maia's adventures and the world where Muirwood Abbey exists. In this book Maia has a much more stable environment within Muirwood Abbey, surrounded by friends and family. Her trials and tribulations are not over though sadly. She must find strength, fortitude and learn quickly to sit the Maston Test. She has a great task ahead of her and the secret machinations of the King's court and warring factions of the world around her are very real distractions and dangers.
She has her magic, education, family life, love life and the fate of the kingdom to deal with. Along with a looming visit from her father the King and his court, many of whom wish her harm.
It's action packed, gripping and hard to put down. A great read!
Profile Image for Koeur.
1,078 reviews21 followers
September 9, 2015

Publisher: 47 North

Publishing Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9781503947115

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.2/5

Publisher Description: From the moment she was banished by her father, the king, Princess Maia journeyed to seek sanctuary at Muirwood Abbey, the epicenter of magic and good in the land. Now safe for the first time since her cruel abandonment, Maia must foster uneasy friendships with other girls training to be Ciphers: women who learn to read and engrave tomes of ancient power, despite the laws forbidding them to do so.

Review: Maia is “speshul”. Amend that. Maia is “super speshully goodness wrapped in sweet sugar”. So Princess Maia escapes her daddy King’s clutches and resides in Muirwood, waiting for her initiation as a Maston.

The whole novel resides in Muirwood as palace intrigue, slut shaming and burgeoning love transpire around Maia. Maia is at once doe-eyed, wiser than Buddha, prettier than a Labrador puppy and smarter than Einstein. Oh, and she has magical connections to the “Medium”. Hate her yet? She is married to a King (but never consummated) which makes her a Queen and all of the Realm is depending on her to open magical gates and depose her evil daddy. So why does Maia suck besides the obvious? See her King Daddy killed her mom, Queenie the First, while banging a lady in waiting and tried to have his Speshul daughter killed multiple times. He deposed and subsequently killed the Earl of whatever and all his sons and is now banging a new lady in waiting. He kills his last lady in waiting to make room for the new lady in waiting because as her then, new wife, she started banging some musicians. And yet, at every opportunity, Maia implores those that really care about her, to not harm her daddy. She refuses to go against him in any way. Huh? That’s like letting a rabid skunk play with your kids in the backyard.

The writing is good as is the overall story line. The characters are well developed but Maia just plane sucks. There were some annoying phrases throughout the novel like “soft, softer, softly” over-used 70 times but minor compared to Maia’s perfection. This would have gotten 4 stars except for Maia’s cloying sickly sweetness.
Profile Image for Suz.
2,263 reviews67 followers
May 7, 2019
2.5 stars

Wheeler is good at putting his characters through the mill and this book is no exception.

I feel like I'm wading through sectarian drivel, though. The Harbinger series (which is Wheeler's newest addition to his universe) didn't feel like this to me, but going back to the beginning of his writings these books are fraught with Christian dogma only barely disguised as "The Medium." It's gotten to where every time I hear someone say "Trust the Medium" I think "why not just say WWJD?"

I don't think I will ever find an ideology or magic system that requires you to "let go and let god" and "trust that all will be well as long as you serve and don't question" reasonable, rational, or even noble. I have always found the tendency to eschew personal responsibility to be rather repulsive, I don't care how much the shit has been shined.

I'm going to finish this damned catalog because I started out doing it and because if it weren't for this insipid drivel it would be an excellent series. I am going to continue to take deep breaths and swallow back my bile when the "trust the Medium" chant is going. But really, if you aren't into Christian fantasy then you may want to skip most of this stuff. I'm certainly finding it difficult to swallow.

Hail, Satan. Hail yourself.

ETA: The heroine is a rock with lips in the name of compassion and leaves me wondering if she doesn't secretly enjoy the abuse.
Profile Image for Elizabeth "Liza".
535 reviews94 followers
October 2, 2015
Reading With ABC http://readingwithabc.com http://readingwithabc.com/review-the-... Ciphers of Muirwood is the second book of the Covenant of Muirwood series (see the review of book #1 here) and I have to say that I love it. Now that I’m more familiar with the world created by Wheeler and the politics and I was able to understand everything much better.

Ciphers start where Vanished ended. Maia and her grandmother escaped the Victus and arrive to Muirwood Abbey. Here Maia is safe from the ‘spirits’ that chase her and will study and prepare to take her Maston test. I liked this gentle side of Maia. For the first time she has a stable environment, a place to stay, plenty of food and is surrounded by people that learn to love her and appreciated. I was very happy for her and especially by her connection with Suzenne.

“Your greatest test may come from your father himself. He has treated you most cruelly. “Tears gathered in the old man’s eyes. “Our greatest pain in this life often comes from those who should love us the most… The heardest thing you will ever be asked to tame is your own heart.”

Collier is back! He was freed from captivity and is resentful and hurt by Maia’s betrayal. Their first encounters are rocky at best, but after a while Collier stars to forgive her and most importantly, to understand her. Maia is too good for own good. She is humble, wise, and careful of everyone’s feelings and way too forgiving! I really liked their relationship and how it turned into something real and sincere.

“Surely all can plainly see that Maia is the fairest woman in this room. And to Maia’s beauty, add grace, wisdom, and refined talents. She was born to be a queen in her own right and not just trained as a courtier. I can see why you have so jealously hidden her from me, my lady.” …

“Lady Deorwynn, forgive me, but you are blind. Your power has waned. Maia and I were secretly married in Dahomey many months ago. I came to Comoros to reclaim my wife. And I am not departing these shores without her.”

The plot, politics, betrayals, changes of sides get very complicated! The “religion” is very present and prevalent during the book, but it didn’t feel preachy at all. I actually understood everything much better. The book ended with a really bad cliffhanger so I was very excited when I found the last book in Netgalley! I devoured the entire series quite fast.

Overall, The Ciphers of Muirwood was a great addition to the series. It expands more on the history, the politics, and the cast of characters is much bigger. Collier and Maia get reunited (which I’ve been waiting for!) even if wasn’t all I was waiting for.This review was originally posted on Reading With ABC
Profile Image for Andy.
53 reviews
November 25, 2018
More disappointment

Princess Maia is everything a princess should be, beautiful, compassionate, humble, smart, loyal, and utterly stupid! After a Herculean effort to fool the kings plans to subvert the abbys, Maia is given the task to determine the kings punishment. He is a murderer (including her mother) adulterer, very very very evil king, and Maia... Let's him go. Guess end of the book is about? King immediately starts to murder and other evil deeds and Maia runs to him to convince him to see reason. OMG. I guess she didn't say pretty please don't be a monster, dad. Maybe that will work.
I rather the wretched series 5 stars - all three books. This could have been 4 or 5 stars, but I can't stomach the ridiculous decisions of the heroine.
Profile Image for Tian Xie.
18 reviews3 followers
October 14, 2016
A lot of the scenarios have a sort of fairy tale development which is cool but is predictable and blandish. Most of my issue with this book was just how incredibly goody two shoes out main character acts esp with relation to her daddy, some traumatic fire emblem fates conquest flashbacks. The medium is starting to sound like some weird cult and it just feels like they're relying on it too much, making it less of a story about the will of the characters and more like just about them following the medium...
244 reviews
February 9, 2016
I highly enjoyed the first book in this series, but must confess to strong disappointment in this installment. It seemed to take a long time to accomplish nothing, the improbability factor was higher, and the dialogue scenes set my teeth on edge (personal gripe--do not convey emotion through nearly constant written intonation of speech, like 'spoke softly,' 'sighed and whispered,' 'said sorrowfully,' etc.).

The protagonist seemed more like a conduit for something to work through her than an active participant in what took place. While I have a strong respect for the miraculous, miracles in and of themselves don't really yield a satisfying conclusion if they are solely responsible for the resolution of the problem.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a free electronic galley copy of this book for review purposes.
Profile Image for Tish.
520 reviews14 followers
October 17, 2015
I'm really enjoying this series. Jeff Wheeler does a great job of balancing the action and intrigue with getting inside the characters. I also liked the blurbs from Richard Syon--a lot of wisdom there. I'm off to start the third one right now!

Note: I received a free e-galley of this from NetGalley and the publisher.
Profile Image for Matt (Book Devour-er).
80 reviews7 followers
January 23, 2018
Another great book by Jeff Wheeler. I really enjoyed the character development in this book. Unfortunately, after i was about halfway through the book i realized i might of read them out of order. I looked it up and i was definitely supposed to read the Legends of Muirwood trilogy first but i guess ill read that in a few months when i forget some the things i already know from reading this one. This book had a good climax but it did sizzle a little for me but thats not to say it wasnt good still. Starting the next one now, hope it finishes with a bang.
Profile Image for Jo.
82 reviews9 followers
December 14, 2019
At first I gave this book a 3/5. Then I wrote this review and realised, actually 3/5 is probably a bit generous. So 2/5 it is.

The next edition in the Covenant of Muirwood series was fine. I don't regret reading it (high-praise, I know) but I am finished with this series. Though there is only one book left in the trilogy and Kindle Unlimited has that book for free, I lack any motivation to continue on. I can't really explain what happened in this book, mostly because nothing really did. The exciting climax had a resolution that just kind of fizzled and felt unsatisfying, and I fell out of love with the characters I had respected in the first book.

Reading this I abruptly realised just how religious this series is. It was relatively subtle in the first book, but now the symbolism is blatant and I reached the end of the book finding it difficult to read the plot as anything other than a massive religious allegory.

It just started to feel a bit too much

Maia is praised for being "meek." She is humble and quiet and lots of words that don't seem all that complimentary. All the characters around Maia make all the decisions, and occasionally she speaks up, usually to parrot the same lines emphasising forgiveness. Whilst Maia's faith in the goodness of people is not a bad thing, her meekness makes it difficult to feel like Maia has much of an impact on the world (outside of her faith in the Medium of course). Maia is essentially just an instrument of God, sorry, the Medium, and is expected to quietly have faith and get on with it.

Whilst a book being an unsubtle allegory for Christianity isn't enough to warrant 2 stars, the devolution of the main character and the removal of all agency to instead force all her motivation to be about "having faith" is. Maia the Meek becomes a character that is neither relatable or aspirational and she became a little frustrating. Additionally, there is little plot traction throughout this book until right at the end, where the one big event fizzled out.

If you love Christian fantasy then I would very much recommend this book.

For me, The Ciphers of Muirwood was disappointing and I will not be pursuing any further books in the series.
Profile Image for Iryna Paprotska.
192 reviews15 followers
February 21, 2019

There was something really compelling about this book for me. I was impressed by it and even the author himself said in the afterword that 2nd book is his favorite.
The story in the book here is both interesting and refreshing with old characters. There were moments in the novel that made me think about many things in the relationships of people. Like how Chancellor Walraven had used his kystrel to tame their feelings instead of letting the couple learn to work through the sadness and comfort each other. Of course the meekness and the humbleness of Maia is the fairytale, but still, it has to be exaggerated to make the impression that it does. Like when all was forgiven in the end. I loved all the tactical twists and turns, even if the strategy of the plot was clear. And how Kollier came to be.
I am looking forward to reading how the situation unfolds in the future. When Maia will probably be stripped and no sign will be found on her shoulder, but we will see, I am anticipating.

I loved the short notes from the tome of the current Aldermaston of the Muirwood Abbey. For the look like a Buddhist fable about anger to me. I have saved many highlights from the story here. There are a few I liked most:

“Character is not developed in moments of temptation and trial. That is when it is intended to be used.”

“There was never an angry man who thought his anger was unjust.”
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. A single word, spoken in enmity, can scar a heart for a lifetime.”
“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”
“The instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”
“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provoked it.”
“Hatred is settled anger.”

“All those who offer an opinion on any doubtful point should first clear their minds of every sentiment of dislike, friendship, anger, or pity.”

“Speak the truth. Do not yield to anger. Give much when you are asked for little. By these three steps will one walk the path leading back to Idumea.”
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lora Milton.
620 reviews
November 14, 2020
Second book in a series.

The story begins around the same time the first book was ending, so there is just a little crossover. An Earl is to be executed for refusing to sign an oath of submission. It's a shocking situation that violates everything the king's sworn oath to the Medium as a Maston stands for, and is witnessed by a loyal kings man who is imprisoned with his sons through a tower window. He realizes then that he and his sons must escape somehow, because they are likely to have their turn soon on the chopping block.

Meanwhile Maia has reached Muirwood Abbey and is settling into her studies, while dealing with mixed reactions from the other students due to her banished status. But there is no rest for Maia. Even more shocking news comes and the safety of the Abbey is compromised.

This is not a five star series, but it's really holding my attention and I'm looking forward to reading the third book. This one has fleshed out the characters who were introduced in the first book and some of them have developed significantly. I sometimes want to shake Maia and tell her not to be so naive, but she's generally a good character and I think she'll turn out alright in the end.

That is the one problem with this volume, it doesn't end. It's not exactly a cliffhanger, but an important situation is left unresolved so that reading the third book is compulsory. Luckily I have it waiting, but I don't like series books that hold me hostage!

Worthwhile Fantasy read.
Profile Image for Jacque.
543 reviews4 followers
October 30, 2021
This book made me like the first one on the series better. I also liked Maia better. I’m excited to see where the next book goes.
Profile Image for Bailey.
56 reviews
August 29, 2019
An enjoyable enough series so far even though Maia is not my favorite character. I am curious to see how the trilogy concludes. While the character arcs themselves are predictable (and one dimensional), the overall story arc is less so and I think that is what keeps me interested in the series.

Like many of his works, I think Wheeler can be heavy handed at times in the way he interweaves real world religious doctrine with the mythos of Muirwood. I am not unhappy that he makes the attempt, I am actually interested to find an author who does this. But I do think there is room for more creative liberty in having the magic system break further away from the religious beliefs it is clearly based on.

Really enjoyed the surprise cameo at the end, best part of the book in my opinion.
Profile Image for Kristina Aziz.
Author 4 books25 followers
August 24, 2015
I read the first installment of this series in graphic novel form, which has its merits. The last time I read a series in split formats was when I read Spy Goddess. I don't believe reading just one format for an entire series makes the experience any more or less enjoyable, but that's just me. Anyway, I got this version from NetGalley after reading the first book. In this installment, Maia finds a for of freedom from her father, and meets other powerful women like her training to be ciphers. Of course, in this world everyone is scared of the power a woman can wield, so her father and ex husband have plans to pass a law that would give her father far too much power. I really liked watching Maia develop as a person and seeing her deal with the sudden information that she needs to basically save the world with powers she doesn't have a complete hold on just yet. Pair this with the fact that nearly everyone she meets seems to not like her at all, it's inevitable that we get to see her find inner strength.
It takes talent and guts to release books so closely together as Wheeler is doing. It's not a bad thing--the previous book is fresh in our mind, we're still excited--but what a deadline! this book is set to release just a few months after the last one. Will we be reading the last one before Christmas? Luckily, Wheeler's prowess at writing keeps readers at the edge of their seats anyway, so he's doing a public service releasing these so close together.
Overall: I'd get it a library, and recommend it to friends. I wouldn't quite buy it for myself, but I would get a print version for my sister and then my daughter when she's old enough, so it still counts. 5/5
Profile Image for Gary.
521 reviews3 followers
October 21, 2015
4.9 stars
Another well crafted book in the series. Maia is more likable in this book (perhaps because she's not playing the role of an active hetaera?) Location wise, the story centers back on Muirwood as Maia seeks sanctuary there. That makes kind of a homecoming for the reader if you read the separate Legends of Muirwood series.

I did not care for the very last chapter. It is once again a contrived plot device required to transition the story into the third book of the series, but not really true to the preceding plot flow. (see spoiler) Hence the slight tick against a full five star rating.

Profile Image for Darryn.
379 reviews2 followers
December 1, 2015
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

I have really enjoyed both of the books in this series by Jeff Wheeler. They are fast paced with political intrigue, magic, quick wit, and memorable characters. The writing is wonderful. Beautifully smooth and colorful. That being said, there are a few things keeping my from giving this book 5 stars.

As with most reviewers I find Maia's soft spot for her father partially understandable (he is her father after all) but incredibly annoying. I would like to see a little less Lawful Good and more Lawful Neutral in the next book. Jeff Wheeler has said that he wants to write virtues characters your can root for, that inspire, but that doesn't mean they have to be a dull or predictable.

The King's motive is the other weakness in this book series that bugs me. Why did he all of the sudden change? Was he always bad? His mannerisms are also childish and tedious, not something that inspires fear. He doesn't make a very interesting villain in my opinion.

Looking forward to the next book to find out the ending of this series.
Profile Image for Ayla.
1,006 reviews29 followers
September 4, 2018
As this is the 2nd book in the 2nd series I feel very familiar with this world.
Maia is unlike many princesses in that she is more concerned with the feelings of others than with her own wants. Granted she does love Collier and wouldn't want to lose him, but she doesn't want to strike back at those who hurt her. She feels that revenge does not make it better. She has finally found family that is loving and supportive of her in her grandmother the high seeress Sabine. And in making friends with Suzenne she has a sister .
But now the veils of the Apse have been opened with her becoming a Mason, and who should be the first to cross over? What a delight!
So when she hears that her evil step mom is going to be executed what does Maia do? Not jump for joy, no she goes through the Apse veil to try to save her, and gets caught and thrown in the tower!
But wait the executioner is familiar, and does the lady die?
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next! The author is very knowledgeable and very articulate. A pleasure to read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ann.
5,193 reviews59 followers
September 11, 2015
Maia makes her way to the Muirwood Abby after being banished by her father the king in book one of this series. She discovers her special ability is to open the Apse Vail and release the trapped spirits of the dead. This fantasy is well written and fairly easy to follow. The story is full of magic, good vs. evil and family politics. I did not read book one of the Covenant of Muirwood but will look for it soon.
Profile Image for Hollie.
1,673 reviews
May 3, 2016
This was a much faster pace than the first book in the series. I'm glad I moved onto to book 2. I have to say, though, I am not a fan of the cliffhangers. I did enjoy how the characters seemed to develop much more in this read. I also appreciate this being offered as a kindleunlimited and I look forward to the next installment.
Profile Image for Bill Tillman.
1,644 reviews65 followers
November 24, 2015
Even better than book one. Maria becomes a Mason, she wins by a hair over and over again. Her King husband comes to love her, while her King father remains duplicitous. Come on its time to enjoy a marvelous fantasy trilogy!
Profile Image for Meghan Palmer.
47 reviews
July 3, 2017
Could the strong but weepy women cliche - written by a dude- be more exhausting?
Profile Image for Mari.
122 reviews2 followers
May 31, 2017
We all face difficulties, but they should not become our core. We grieve, we suffer, we weep. Challenges are experiences that help us to grow. Storms are always temporary and should never distract us from the beautiful days that were before or will come after. Do not become so fixed on a single injustice that you can no longer remember others may be suffering near you. Like the healing of the body when it is ill, the healing of the heart requires patience.

Hoofta, just typing out that quote already made me a little tired; however, I felt like it was too good to shorten. If there is one thing to take away from Wheeler’s Covenant of Muirwood series, is that he knows how to write a phrase that feels like it should be on a poster somewhere. Not only did I enjoy the plot more in The Ciphers of Muirwood, but I also enjoyed the writing more.

That being said, I still find myself struggling to get through these books. I’m constantly torn between whether I truly enjoyed this book or if it was a drag…even now I’m questioning the rating, but I want to give the author more credit than my uncertainty, so I’ll leave it as is.

The Ciphers of Muirwood was much more enjoyable in my opinion than the first installment, mostly because there wasn’t the need for as much world-building. Where I was left confused for a lot of the first, the second book gave me enough reminders to remember what happened in Banished yet built up from that and allowed me to learn more.

Maia’s time at Muirwood, practically the pinnacle of her religion, gives the reader a lot more depth and understanding of Maia’s belief system. While the description of the book calls it “the epicenter of magic and good in the land”, the entire system feels more like a religion than simple “magic”. Anyone who has had even the smallest insight into Christianity will see a lot of similarities between the two in this series. At times, the book did get a bit preachy and made me feel like I was reading more of a Christian fantasy novel (is that a thing?) than a fantasy novel. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, however. Anyone who enjoys both Christian lit and fantasy may get great enjoyment out of this; I enjoy both, but I wasn’t expecting both in this series, and the Christianity/religion/you-must-be-completely-pure-in-body-and-soul sometimes threw me off or lost me completely.

That last point is also related to the protagonist, Maia. While no longer under control of evil, she finds incredible peace at Muirwood. That isn’t what I have a problem with. Basically, from here on out, Maia is the most good, pure, and (almost) no-doubts-about-anything protagonist that I may have read about. Any doubt or uncertainty Maia feels seems to fly away pretty quickly. While I understand that she is working to purge herself of the evil she experienced before and that it is a perfectly acceptable goal, she was almost, dare I say it, too good at it? Same as in Banished, Maia keeps her emotions well-controlled and is seen as an embodiment of strength because of how she has persevered through her struggles. However, it’s difficult for an imperfect mortal like myself to truly connect and care about a protagonist who is just so dang perfect.

Also, if I read the below exchange (or anything similar to it), one more time, my eyelids are going to start twitching.

“I could almost kiss you for saying that,” he said, pleased. “But I will not.”

I don’t think Collier could be clearer on his dilemma for the majority of the book. Speaking of Collier, I have a couple of quick comments. First of all, was I supposed to like Collier? I think I am, but I realized that I had no clue why Maia liked/loved Collier so much at this point in the book. While Collier is a fun and complicated character from the get-go, for a good portion of the series so far, all he’s done is help Maia in order to push his own agenda forward. He gave you a flower? That’s all fine and dandy, but it wasn’t really for you as a message that he knew who you were. I love a good romance in any novel really (I will not be ashamed for this), but I think I’ve been trained to find romance to the point that I sometimes have to slow down and remind myself to find it beyond: there is a girl and a boy so they must be in love. Then, as soon as I start to like Collier a bit more, he leaves. *sigh*

I know from my review that you may wonder why I gave it four stars (and I’m still sort of on the fence for a strict star review), I did enjoy The Ciphers of Muirwood more than I imagined and was glad that the pace picked up here. Whether because I’m stubborn, nosy, or truly enjoyed the book, I continued to the third installment immediately after the first without complaint. Overall, while this isn’t a series that I’m rushing to tell people about, I can see many reading this who enjoy fantasy, those who enjoy Christian/religious reading (without actual Bible verses), or those who don’t realize they like either one.
Profile Image for C.A. Gray.
Author 26 books461 followers
March 20, 2021
Still loving this series! Like all Wheeler's series, it's very episodic, but that serves to make it feel more like I'm actually in his world. As always, my review will have to contain spoilers--when stories as as episodic as this, I don't know how else to describe them but by stating what happens.

Maia's saga continues, still with shades of Cinderella. She lives permanently at an abbey where she studies to take the Maston test, and she's assigned a companion named Suzenne, though I didn't exactly follow the purpose of the companion other than to keep her from being too lonely. She's otherwise shunned by the other learners in the abbey, presumably from envy. She longs for her husband Collier/King Gideon, whom she's left behind, and who believes she betrayed him. She aids in Suzenne's romance, and is forced to watch, heartsick, as she and Dodd enjoy what Maia never can with Collier. My favorite part of the story is when Gideon turns up at the abbey in disguise, and they have the opportunity to at least attempt to mend their differences.

Time passes, and the abbey is first visited by Maia's evil stepmother and stepsisters (who vie for King Gideon's affections). He makes a spectacle of choosing Maia over them before revealing their secret marriage. Maia's father the king (of another realm), who first divorced her mother on shaky grounds and has now tired of her stepmother as well. When in power, the stepmother sentenced many of her enemies to beheading, but there are rumors that now that she is out of favor, she may suffer the same fate.

Maia's father then descends upon the abbey too. It has been prophesied that Maia will open the apse veil (which seems to be the veil between the living and the dead) in order to protect the abbey, and she eventually does so, bringing back central characters from an earlier series in this universe, Maia's own ancestors. In the process, Collier/Gideon, who had no interest in the Medium whatsoever, becomes a believer, and also declares that even though he never had any intention of loving Maia when he coerced her into marriage, he finds that he does anyway.

The stepmother meanwhile, with shades of Ann Boleyn, is sentenced to beheading after all. Despite how horribly she once treated Maia, Maia attempts to use what influence she has to save her. I do love how the messages of values like forgiveness and repentance lace through Wheeler's stories.
Profile Image for David A Engel.
5 reviews
June 8, 2018
I like this series. I've listened to it on audiobook. The narrator does a good job, and it's easy to listen to and follow. The detail isn't excessive like it is some fantasy series. I understand this to be called world-building, and it can get to the point in some books that it's over the top, and hard to follow, where you dig into details (counting stitches is what I call it), and pull back out to continue the story. And then you think to yourself, "where were we again?". The detail is sufficient to visualize it and to feel part of the world. Though I used the word fantasy, I don't feel this is a fantasy book or series. There is "magic" but I don't think the word is ever used. It's really more of a power that comes from "The Medium" who is a God-like being, or more similar to the Holy Spirit from christianity. A guide, and a source of direction. As as long as you have faith and believe in the Medium it will grant you powers to support a good cause, or defend the righteous. There are very deep ties to religion and faith here. I'm LDS (as is Wheeler) and there are certainly similarities between some of the Maston customs, rites, and rituals, and LDS doctrine, and Mason ideology. Though if you're not LDS you likely won't notice it, but that being said, I don't think it mocks LDS doctrines, nor does it take away from the story. He puts a creative spin on it. I give it 3 stars because I don't classify it as fantasy. And though I like the story I wish there was a little more conflict. This specific book in the series is slow, and I believe Wheeler explains his reason for that at the end of the book, in a note to his readers. This books has lots of dialogue, and very little happening in terms of conflict, adventure, or excitement. The book leaves you hanging, and I immediately picked up the third to continue the story. I'd give the third book 4 stars as it picks up the excitement more. No explicit language, or sexually intimate relationships, though there is a clean and growing love story for those that like that sort of thing. Overall, I'd say this is not your typical fantasy, but it's enjoyable to read, nonetheless, and I'd highly recommend it.
435 reviews14 followers
August 24, 2020
Star Rating: 5 stars

Note: This is the 2nd book in the Covenant of Muirwood series and the 5th in the overarching Muirwood saga.

Due to the release of the 1st two books of the Grave Kingdom, The Killing Fog and The Buried World, I had to pause in my reading of his backlist in order to read them, but now that I am caught up in that series, I was able to pick up The Ciphers of Muirwood, book 2 in The Covenants of Muirwood series and book 5 in the overarching Muirwood saga. This book continues the story of Maia, princess of Comoros, as she and her friends strive to refill the promises that their ancestors made at the end of the 1st trilogy, The Legends of Muirwood, while her father and his cohorts under-mind them at every turn.

The best part about this book is the themes that Wheeler decides to address, themes such as having patience, mastering anger, and looking to history to fix the mistakes of the present. Over the course of this series, Maia and her friends are subjected to multiple traumatic events that keep them from achieving their goals, and because of this have to learn to master their anger and be patient and in an effort to discover the right course of action, they find themselves looking to the past for guidance. I really liked this because I love learning about history and often find myself thinking we should learn more from it.

Another of my favorite things from this book is the allusions, especially the allusions to actual historical events. As previously mentioned, I love learning about history and I really enjoyed finding all the instances that Wheeler uses his degree and learning to flesh out the story and make it have more weight. In this book, he brings the reign of King Henry VIII and the English Reformation into the story as well as the start of the exodus to America, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Finally, I just want to mention that I completely agree with Wheeler when it comes to his love of middle books (Reference his author’s note if you don’t know what I am talking about.). All in all, this was a great installment to the series. 5 stars!!!!!!
Profile Image for Kyle Malone.
3 reviews4 followers
May 26, 2019
Sadly, the second Muirwood trilogy does not live up to the heights of the first.

I like Jeff Wheeler as a writer. I think he crafts interesting noble characters and is at home in his description of abbeys and ceremonies. But for me, the religious undertones and historical references which were nuanced in the first trilogy are overwrought here.

If the map at the start of the book isn't a dead giveaway we're in medieval Western Europe, surely the near blow-by-blow re-telling of King Henry VIII's reign is. Right down to the names of characters, the story was practically lifted from history. All pretense of suspense or tension vanished as soon as you knew who Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn was. Unlike the actual history however, Ciphers does not contain nearly so much controversy.

Instead, we are presented with a single problematic interpretation which is that Catholicism is flawless, all other forms of Christianity are wrong, and those who do not hold Christian beliefs are little more than barbarians. I should state that I am not against an author writing pro-religious characters or content. But the almost constant celebration of "the medium" felt next level preachy. Characters who doubted a higher power (e.g. Collier) were presented as ignorant, while the High Seer (*cough* Pope) was held up as some sort of deity. The fact that the main character, who was forced into marriage in book 1, now only wishes to stay married if her husband converts to her weird cult, was nearly too much. By the end, I was actually rooting for the villains, if only to silence the sanctimonious main character for one moment. I strongly hope the third installment can at least try be less one-sided.
Profile Image for Tiera McMillian.
1,150 reviews42 followers
October 12, 2018
While I do love Maia’s story this far I can’t help but compare her to Lia and Lia’s story in Muirwood. Though everyone keeps saying how strong Maia is with the medium I myself cannot help but wonder where that strength is? She herself is full of fears and doubts and longings that are against the medium whereas Lia was strong she seems weak in comparison in this book especially.

Maia is now at Muirwood Abbey safe for now from The Unborn Queen and her Myriad ones. She is there to become a maston just as she always wanted. I really felt that the plot was quite slow in this book, maybe it was the lack of action in this book in comparison to both the first book and all the other Muirwood tales. Maia seems to just have a lack of...drive in the sense that she seems to be reactive and not proactive. Rather than seeking the mediums will to help her kingdom and others she just seems to wonder aimlessly and wait for others to tell her what to do. She also doesn’t really hear the mediums whispers either. I really hope in the next book this changes. There are quite a few reveals throughout the story however that put Maia in a better place to understand what is going on. The author left us on a vague almost cliffhanger.

I am excited that we get a glimpse of our beloved Muirwood characters from long ago but to me that was the height of the story. Hopefully in the next book we really see Maia take off and really embrace her destiny!
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