Book Review

Jeff Wheeler’s THE KINGFOUNTAIN SERIES (BOOKS 1-3)

Wheeler, Jeff - AUTHOR.jpg
Title:
The Kingfountain Trilogy (#1-3)
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Format: audiobooks, read by Kate Rudd
Start Date: August 1, 2017
End Date: August 15, 2017
Rating: 4 stars

Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain Series was a pleasant surprise.

However, to avoid being redundant, I am going to combine my review of the first three (six total) of Jeff Wheeler’s The Kingfountain Series into a single review. This story within this “trilogy” is pretty self-contained, as The Hollow Crown picks up years later with the next generation. The reviews for the individual books will be separated below, followed by a brief review of the series thus far.

Also, it is important to note that the author recommends reading his Muirwood series before delving into The Hollow Crown, as he warns there are spoilers. I do not plan on reading Muirwood, so my subsequent reviews will be about The Kingfountain Series only.

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Wheeler, Jeff - 1 The Queen's Poisoner - COVER
Title:
The Queen’s Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series, #1)
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Format: audiobook, read by Kate Rudd
Start Date: August 1, 2017
End Date: August 4, 2017
Rating: 4 stars

Too many people are frightened. They want youth to last. They complain bitterly if sickness comes. But the world is always in tumult, and fortunes rise and fall and fail. It is the ambitious who accomplish things. It takes courage to be ambitious, for never was anything great achieved without risk. […] A goal not written down is merely a wish.
-Dominic Mancini, Espion of the Palace Kitchen

(from The Queen’s Poisoner)

The Queen’s Poisoner tells the story of a young boy by the name of Owen Kiskaddon who comes to Kingfountain as a hostage after his father, the Duke of Westmarch, betrays the king in battle. To survive in this strange, new court, full of loyalty and deception, he has to prove to the king that he is worth more alive than dead.

I really liked the complex cast of characters in The Queen’s Poisoner. Young Owen was shy and curious, yet very intelligent. Ankarette Tryneowy was secretive and talented, yet very loyal to young Owen. Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer was talkative and brash, but able to keep secrets. Dominic Mancini was ambitious and manipulative, though he had his moments of bravery and sense of the bigger picture, even if it was to secure his own ends. King Severn was thought to be a harsh leader, but Owen soon learns that appearances aren’t everything.

These diverse characters were each working toward their own goals, often in opposition to one another. I really enjoyed the banter between characters, especially those initiated by Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer, or Evie (as Owen calls her), and Owen. I got an overwhelming sense of balance between the characters: between Evie and Owen, between Owen and Ankarette. Each character had their strengths and weaknesses. They all made mistakes, but they are better for them in the end.

The plot was also intricately done, as were the others in this series. All the intricacies of planning how Owen would become valuable to the king, the intrigues and “drama” of the court, as well as other events that unfolded were meticulously done.

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Wheeler, Jeff - 2 The Thief's Daughter - COVER
Title:
The Thief’s Daughter (The Kingfountain Series, #2)
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Format: audiobook, read by Kate Rudd
Start Date: August 7, 2017
End Date: August 10, 2017
Rating: 4 stars

“There’s a saying. He who complies against his will is of his own opinions still,” Lord Roux said. “I’ve found that true in mules and men.”

(from The Thief’s Daughter)

The Thief’s Daughter picks up several years after the end of The Queen’s Poisoner. Young Owen Kiskaddon has grown from a shy eight-year-old boy into a confident young man of seventeen years. His childhood friendship with Evie has grown into mutual affection, and Owen loves her deeply. However, King Severn has other plans for the pair, using both Owen and Elysabeth as pawns to ensnare an imposter that claims to be the rightful King of Ceredigion. Owen must choose between duty to his king or duty to the woman he loves, no matter the consequences. It’s a dangerous game, and not one Owen is willing to play.

I both like and find it to be disconcerting that the plot jumps a whole nine years between the end of The Queen’s Poisoner and the start of The Thief’s Daughter. On one hand, there was little to no action occurring in those years, and to have a story filled with Owen’s and Evie’s mischievous childhoods would become tedious, to say the least. But at the same time, the characters in The Thief’s Daughter aren’t quite the same ones from the previous books. Instead of innocent children, Owen and Evie are grown and more aware of the broader implication of their actions.

I really liked this book, maybe even better than the first. Because Owen and Evie are now young adults, they are much greater players in the game of Wizr being played throughout the realm. The intrigue in this second installment is also more advanced as the pretender of the crown makes his claims, as the other kingdoms rise up in support. There is obvious planning and also back-handed deceit. The intricacies were sometimes hard to follow, but I think the author did an excellent job relaying the details to the readers.

Even the secondary characters are both complex, well-developed, and interesting. I found myself wanting to know more about Iago Llewellyn, Dominic Mancini, Etayne, Justine, and many others.

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Wheeler, Jeff - 3 The King's Traitor - COVERTitle: The King’s Traitor (The Kingfountain Series, #3)
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and 47North
Secondary Format: audiobook, read by Kate Rudd
Start Date: August 10, 2017
End Date: August 15, 2017
Rating: 4 stars

“We learn much through suffering,” she [Sinia] said. “But I think what we learn most is who we really are.”

(from The King’s Traitor)

Before I write my review on this book, I must confess that I’ve had The King’s Traitor sitting on my NetGalley shelf for a while. Now, over a year later, I finally decided to delve into the world of Kingfountain. In the back of my mind, I was waiting for the remaining books of the series to be released (The Hollow Crown (#4) was released June 2017, The Silent Shield (#5) will be released in August 2017, and The Forsaken Throne (#6) will be released in November 2017). But I’m almost sorry I waited so long because this was really good, with some definite moments of nail-biting, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat drama.

Just like the previous book, The King’s Traitor opens several years after the end of the previous book. In that time, Own Kiskaddon has grown to be a trusted member in King Severn’s court. However, Severn has become more ruthless as his power is threatened, and Owen barely recognizes his boyhood protector. As the threat of war looms on the horizon, Owen must decide where his true loyalties lie: with the power-mad King, or with the beautiful Duchess of a neighboring kingdom with Fountain magic more powerful than his own.

I don’t think I liked the characters as much in this one. Owen especially was grating. I get that he was heartbroken, but I feel that he was too mopey and felt too sorry for himself in terms of his love life. I get it, he was hurting. But he became bitter and sarcastic and cold-hearted to avoid being hurt again. After a while enough is enough, especially since it has been at least nine years.

However, I did enjoy The King’s Traitor, though maybe not quite as much as The Thief’s Daughter. My favorite part of these books (as always) is the intrigue – the plotting and scheming on all sides – as it is so intricately woven by the author. There were quite a few moments where I honestly did not know what course of events was going to take place, and though it was predictable on some level, I enjoyed watching the plot unfold and events take shape.

Before I go on, I must thank NetGalley and 47North with providing me with a copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.

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Wheeler, Jeff - 1 2 3 Kingfountain - COLLAGE COVERS ONLY

I wanted to end this review by making a few general comments about The Kingfountain Series so far as a whole.

First, the covers themselves are absolutely gorgeous. They are intricate, subtle, and colorful. I really like how the first three books are linked with the arches while the second three books are linked by trees, showing that the books are similar and part of a larger series, but the “trilogies” are slightly separated from each other.

Second, I like that these books are “clean” fantasy. I’m not squeamish – I don’t mind cursing or the occasional sex scene when I read – I just don’t like them to be integral parts of the story. It’s often quite refreshing to not have an awkward sex scene required to move the plot forward.

Third, I really like Jeff Wheeler’s writing overall. Not only is it “clean” but also well-polished and smooth. The stories he writes are seemingly simple on the surface, but the more you read, the more you discover that everything is said or done with a specific reason in mind.

Fourth, I really liked Kate Rudd’s narration. She was wonderful to listen to.

Lastly, I can’t wait to read the rest of this series to see what will happen when the next generation is old enough to take up the mantle of power in the realm!

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