Good morning, all.
I haven’t gone crazy and started misspelling the word ‘Winter’ (see blog title), and this isn’t another blog post about how much I love the season that comes at the end of the year. So, have no fear. Trust me, gentle reader. Today, I want to write about my love for another kind of winter – Protector Lady Wynter Moorehawke, to be precise. She is the central character in Celine Kiernan’s ‘Moorehawke Trilogy’, which I finished reading a few days ago. I’m not quite sure what took me so long to get to these books, but I suppose it’s better late than never!
I first came across Celine Kiernan’s writing when I picked up her standalone novel ‘Into the Grey’ some time ago; this book is such a masterful piece of work that I read it twice, straight through, before surfacing for air. Telling the story of twin boys in 1970s Ireland struggling to cope with being uprooted after their house burns down, and who then have to deal with a visitor of the otherworldly variety, it’s an amazing story. It has one foot in the First World War, bringing that period of history face to face with the boys’ own lives; they suffer what it was like to ‘go over the top’, and to face mortal terror, in their own version of a battlefield. It describes the unbreakable love between siblings, and shows how far into danger the love of a brother can bring you. It’s not only brilliantly and evocatively written, but I found myself deeply moved by it, too – possibly because anything to do with the First World War touches my heart, but mainly because of the rich, believable characterisation and the relationships between the two sets of brothers at the heart of the story. I highly recommend it, whether you’re a young reader or not!
But, to business. The Moorehawke books are also mind-bogglingly good, if completely different to ‘Into the Grey’. Wynter Moorehawke, daughter of the marvellously-described Lorcan Moorehawke, Protector Lord and right-hand man to King Jonathon, is our heroine. We read of her life as she learns about a secret and deadly ‘Machine’, the use for which is kept tantalisingly under wraps until the very last book. She’s intrigued by this, and wants to learn more about it, despite the fact that her normally fearless father dreads to even hear it mentioned. Meanwhile, Jonathon’s kingdom, which he has worked diligently to build up, is under threat – his heir, Alberon, has disappeared, and rumbling rumours are coming back to court that he is planning to topple his father. In the first book, ‘The Poison Throne’, we’re introduced to court life and the delicacies of protocol needed to manage a kingdom, including the difficulties that arise when the ‘legitimate’ heir disappears. Wynter is a Lady, and very close to the King and his family, but not technically part of it. This is a wonderful way to allow the reader close access to the heart of the kingdom, while still allowing her the distance to be a critical voice.
Book Two (‘The Crowded Shadows’) sees Wynter, her friend Razi and the strange, yet enticing Christopher Garron set off in search of Alberon. Razi is Alberon’s older, but illegitimate brother, and is an unpopular choice as heir because he is a ‘Musulman’, or of Arabic origin. It turns out that Alberon is drawing all the disparate tribes of the region together, including those which are normally mortal enemies, apparently to march on his father – something his friends can’t bring themselves to believe. Book Three (‘The Rebel Prince’) brings the story together in a rich and complex way, finally allowing us to see Alberon’s true purpose, and we follow the friends as they race against time to reunify the kingdom. The power of the terrifying ‘Machine’ first mentioned in Book One is finally revealed, and in the final battle, I read with my breath held, the book trembling in my grip, waiting to see who would live and who would be lost.
These books are brilliant. I loved them, particularly ‘Poison Throne’ and ‘Rebel Prince’ (‘Crowded Shadows’, I felt, dragged a little in the time it spent describing the characters’ time among the Merron, one of the tribes of people in the kingdom whose existence is threatened by the political manoeuvring), and I fell in love with Wynter Moorehawke straight away. For me, a girl who can talk to cats, see ghosts, wield a carpenter’s toolbelt and also sit, ladylike, at a state dinner while being completely aware of which lord wants to murder the others, is a girl worth loving. She’s brave, passionate, loyal, skilled, funny, compassionate… I could go on. But what I love the most is that she’s just a girl – she’s not the prettiest, most delicate, most wonderful little flower of the kingdom. Kiernan describes her in earthy terms sometimes – she has bodily functions, she swears, she gets dirty, she sweats, she struggles to cope with being a woman on a long, dusty campaign trail among a bunch of men, and I can’t tell you how much I loved this. The narrative doesn’t linger on her physical appearance (this tendency to describe women through their physicality really got to me when reading ‘1Q84’, for instance – every female character in that book is described by the size of their breasts, no matter what, and it really grated on me); we know she’s considered pretty by some of the men, and we know she’s loved and desired. But that doesn’t define her. She’s a rounded, real character, able to perform the duties of a courtly lady on one hand, yet also capable of lacing on her workboots as a carpenter’s apprentice on the other.
There are things I wish I could change. Wynter’s ability to talk to cats isn’t used enough, I think, and I wish her father’s story had ended differently – this is possibly because I was a bit in love with Lorcan Moorehawke, too. I loved the fact that she could see ghosts, and I know this couldn’t carry on beyond the first book, but it doesn’t stop me wishing for it. I was a bit confused by the Machine (perhaps this was the intention), and I think I sort of got it mixed up with something else mentioned in the first book; when the Machine is finally revealed, then, I was a bit confused. But that might be just me. I was thrilled by the use of the Irish language all the way through these books, and I thought the love story was expertly judged and delicately described. I loved Razi’s character, and the complexities of being ‘other’, and a dark-skinned man in a light-skinned court.
If you’re looking for books for teenagers (or, indeed, anyone) which are complex, multi-levelled, historical (albeit an alternative history!), layered, funny, moving and marvellously written, ‘The Moorehawke Trilogy’ can’t fail to deliver. I really recommend them.
If you’ve also read them, and feel like sharing your opinion, I’d love to hear it!