The Woven Ring by M.D.Presley

Spy. Traitor. Soldier. Savior.
Born with the ability to create mystic blades out of thin air, Marta Childress’ parents groomed her to become the ultimate spy. But captured during the civil war that tore her nation in two and forced to crush her homeland, she aches to be reunited with her estranged family. Years later, her duplicitous brother arrives with a mission to bring her home again: escort an inventor’s daughter deep into enemy territory and then assassinate him. Accomplish this and the clan will welcome her back.
But Marta has plans of her own for the child. And for her hateful brother.
To enact her revenge, she’ll have to cross a continent teeming with daemons, airships raining down fire from above, ghosts that kill with a touch, and the devil herself. To make matters worse, Marta must rely on her brother’s handpicked agents, a charming mercenary armed with an enchanted switchblade and his mute companion. But both harbor secrets of their own, secrets Marta must uncover to keep the girl alive. And above all, she must smother her growing connection with the child if she hopes to avert a second civil war.

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My Review

I received a digital copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. Thank you M. D. Presley!

The Woven Ring is a story set against a background of civil war, “The Grand War”, and the roles played by one particularly affluent family, the Childress family, who are members of an influential clan of spies. The main character of the book is Marta Childress, the middle daughter who finds herself working undercover in the thick of the war.

The book is entirely written from Marta’s point of view but the time frame jumps about from chapter to chapter. I found the time jumps very distracting to begin with until they settled into two particular threads involving Marta during the war and Marta a few years afterwards.

Marta is a magic user known as a Shaper – she is able to fashion armour and weapons just by thinking them into being. The magic system within the world of Ayr is richly described and imaginative – it was one of my favourite elements of the book. The premise is that people are either born Blessed by magical talents or not – you cannot learn these talents if you are born without them, but if you are Blessed you can learn enhancements to your talents, as we see when Marta begins training her fellow soldiers during the war. The main types of magic user are Renders, Weavers, Shapers, Listeners and Whisperers. Each of them focuses around the various types of breath of the user and the existence of magical ley lines in the world and Nodi which join them. When someone dies their breaths can be seen as they return into the ever-flowing energy of their god Sol.

Marta longs to be reunited with her family. She acted as a spy for her father’s clan during the war and has become estranged from him since. She was very close to her younger sister, Oleander, who is not Blessed, and wonders what became of her. Her Whisperer older brother Carmichael has been indifferent to her since she broke his nose many years ago.

The main story arc is an undercover mission Marta takes on for her father, to return a young girl called Caddie Hendrix from a sanatorium to her inventor father, traveling across a war-torn countryside with many other factions also searching for the girl. Marta’s cruel brother Carmichael has a slightly different mission in mind and Marta must choose which one she wants to pursue.

There is an element of mystery to this story – why is Caddie unresponsive to men and apparently in a ‘war fugue’ state – she appears to have no thoughts or to have buried them deep within her – what can have traumatized her so much? I really enjoyed the character of Caddie and the mystery surrounding her.

I found it hard to empathize with the anti-hero Marta, I didn’t really get to grips with her emotions and despite the fact she survived many hardships I didn’t come to care about her character. She was not particularly kind to Caddie until near the end of the story and didn’t form any other emotional attachments. I understand this was probably due to all of the horrors she had been through in the war but it made it difficult for me to engage with her character. I found the freebooter characters of Isabelle and Luca much more interesting and would like to see a novel with them as the main characters.

Apart from the human monsters created by war, there are also actual monsters in this world: Emet and Glassmen who turn out to be scary horrors inhabiting human bodies they have killed. There are also festations and daemons, which are created by Weavers.

This book has a bleak feel to it, due to the fact that there is a lot of war and death described and not much hope to be found anywhere in this world:

“Marta fashioned a screen against the chill with her cold comrades, their bodies providing a bulwark against the wind’s bursts. She cuddled against their corpses and found they provided her a bit of comfort.”

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone looking for an uplifting light fantasy read. However, people who love to read about wars and all of the associated political intrigue will definitely enjoy it, along with readers who like a lot of well thought through magic in their fantasy worlds. 

About the Author

Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

And no, he’s not related to Elvis. Thanks for asking though.

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