Monday, January 24, 2011

The Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Keirnan

I have been waiting to read Celine Keirnan’s The Moorehawke Trilogy for more than a year now. Keirnan is an Irish writer, so her books were released in the European and Australian markets earlier than here in the United States. My best friend is a writer who lives in Germany, and she hyped the first book up to me before it was even available here. I got to read The Poison Throne when it was released in April 2010. Wow. Just wow. I wanted more, but when The Crowded Shadows was released in July, I was mega-busy with my graduate studies. There just was no chance for me to read it until I got through summer and completed my fall semester.

Enter winter break. Once I got through vacations, family obligations, and holiday madness I hunkered down with a warm blanket and The Moorehawke Trilogy. I re-read the first book because it had been awhile, and hey, it was good enough for a second read. I loved it just as much the second time as I did the first. Then I read the last two books in the series. My wow factor tripled. Wow wow wow.

The series is set in Europe of the 1500’s, but this is not a historical setting really. Kiernan has re-imagined the time period to suit her world, weaving fictional countries and politics in with decidedly nonfictional ones. My husband the history buff would be aggravated, but it worked in this narrative and I didn’t really mind. Her world also has fantastical elements such as talking cats, ghosts, and shapeshifters. The touches of fantasy were used with great care, and they added considerable depth to the story. A reader might expect whimsy, but most of the fantasy was of a darker nature.

In fact, I learned that this series faced something of a marketing conundrum (for more on this, check out the interview with Celine Kiernan on The Skiffy and Fanty Show). Teenage female heroine, talking cats, ghosts-- that equals young adult, right? But there are some pretty graphic scenes of torture and violence. Hrm. In the United States, it got shuffled into the fantasy market even though it might be considered lightweight by the dedicated sword-and-sorcery crowd.

I don’t care about that. The series is beautiful and nail-biting and uplifting. It will be added to my short list of books to read again and again.

Wynter makes a fascinating study in the fortitude and self-possession it takes for a woman to navigate life at court while maintaining her own ideas, opinions, and agendas. Although she is not noble by birth, her father was named Protector Lord by the King, and Wynter is the Protector Lady. As such, she grew up at court in the company of Razi and Alberon, the king’s two sons. Razi is older but illegitimate, so he has been trained for life as a doctor. Alberon is the legitimate heir to the throne, but a few chapters into The Poison Throne, you discover that something is terribly wrong.

Wynter is forced to decide between loyalty to her friend, loyalty to her country, and loyalty to her ailing father. She does not decide lightly, but her course of action shapes the events for the last two books in the series. Her adventurous path leads her to danger, romance, and more danger. The romance is rocky and sweet and wonderful. I don’t want to say too much more for fear that spoilers may slip. So, all I will say is go buy the books. Read them! Love them!

And do check out Celine Kiernan’s website ( and DeviantArt gallery ( Her background as an illustrator makes for incredible “extras” to the series, like a Wynter paper doll. LOVE.

Hachette: The Poison Throne by Celine Keirnan
Image Source: Hachette
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-10: 0316077062

Hachette: The Crowded Shadows by Celine Kiernan
Image Source: Hachette
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-10: 0316077089
Image Source: Hachette
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 978-0316077071

This review was originally published at Kawaii Writing and is republished with permission.

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