*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Knight’s Ransom
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Publisher: 47 North
Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom. When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.
Less than positive review coming your way.
Wow! What a hot mess of a book this turned out to be. The Knight’s Ransom started out interestingly enough. A historical fiction with hints at fantasy, it follows the story of a young boy nicknamed Ransom who, abandoned by his own father, finds himself pursuing the path to knighthood with little more than the basic skills he possesses and a few tenuous familial relationships to help propel him forward. I was eager for something a little bit different, and this book promised that. However, I was left sorely disappointed and unfulfilled by a plot that really seems like a whole lot of nothing in the end.
Where to even begin?? The plot holes perhaps. Wheeler wants this book to span a huge timeframe and an even larger amount of events. Despite this book’s size, there is SO MUCH missing. Years disappear leaving out key moments of characterization, context, and world building; and leaving behind a patchwork story that just screams half-assed. I’d get hooked, then be let down repeatedly. Wheeler’s writing is easy to engage with and so I kept thinking that this book would turn into something wonderful. But alas, that was not to be.
Next, let’s talk about the women in this book. Their contribution in this world is minimal and their portrayal might best be described as problematic. Only one woman is given a voice of her own and it’s limited to single page diary entries between each of Ransom’s chapters. We only see her through his eyes. The two of them are supposed to have some great romantic connection, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. We are told they grow up together, but the reader sees little of their relationship. They are rarely given any opportunity to interact in person, and they don’t write to each other, so why they want to be together so desperately is anybody’s guess. Claire is supposed to be this “fiery” heiress, but I’m not sure what makes her “fiery” beyond the fact that she sort of speaks her mind and will make her own choice of who she gets to marry—something we’re told 50,000,00,000,000 times. She’s barely even a character. Next we have Emiloh, the queen. Again, she is only ever seen through Ransom’s eyes and while he admires her, her agency is strictly limited in Wheeler’s world, and she loses it entirely when she pushes too far. She is the silenced woman. It seems like the only man who respects her in this story is Ransom, and really, he only does because she paid a ton of money to get him out of imprisonment and he owes her a huge debt. Lastly, and probably most infuriatingly, is Noemie, young Prince Devon’s wife. She is marked as a villain right off the bat, with zero redeeming qualities, although arguably, she is the only woman in the book with any sort of real power or agency. Go figure, the one with the ability to do anything tangible is the one who is designed to be the antagonist. She is portrayed as duplicitous, conniving, secretive, manipulative, traitorous, etc., but she is likely truly just ambitious. She’s painted as a seductress to Ransom who, of course, is too good and pure to fall prey to her actions. Men triumph again and again in this world. Women are treated as inconsequential.
Honestly, I feel like this book slapped a big name on a poorly executed story. There is so much more that I could share that I struggled with. This book was easy to read, and the prose was engaging enough, but there were too many huge holes to make this story truly any good. I hate a bad review, but I was so let down by this book. Wheeler fans will buy it because they’re Wheeler fans, not because this book is worth reading. And what’s sad is that there was potential for this to have a very epic GoT vibe, but it just falls flat again and again.