Book review: The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley (Sol's Harvest #1)

 

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

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.

Publisher: M.D. Presley (April 6, 2022) Page count: 376 Formats: ebook, paperback


Sol’s Harvest series by M.D. Presley is one of my favorite self-published works ever. The last book will release in a few weeks and the author revised the previous entries, improving the content and changing covers. Let’s dive into the story.
The world of Ayr is an exciting place permeated with the Breath of Sol, their God, quite literally. Glowing Breaths float in the night and can be captured in a glass, serving as a source of light for houses (but they must be released before Dawn, or else it could lead to a death sentence). Ayrians’ faith is built on the belief that Sol split himself into countless pieces of Breath that animate the living world. Humans usually have three breaths, but some are known as the Blessed, possessing a fourth Breath that grants them all kinds of special powers. Here’s an excerpt from the book explaining this concept and showing how the main character discovers she’s one of the Blessed:

“There were the usual three all humans were born with, one in the centre of the chest representing the Body, the second in the middle of the forehead for the Mind, and the third at the crown of the head signifying the Soul. But in that moment of clarity, Marta could feel a fourth Breath nestled deep in her chest next to the Body. Were she not so angry, she might have been surprised to find it, to feel it thrumming with its own frequency. It had a resonance, a musical identity all its own that only she could hear.”

Being Blessed is a big thing. Some people inquire about it, and even try to breed the Blessed, but it seems there’s no principle to follow; it’s as if the Blessed appear randomly. On the other hand, the Childress clan seems more successful in breeding the Blessed than other families. The book’s protagonist, Marta, belongs to the Childress clan and is a Shaper. She can fashion Phantom Blades, Rabbit Legs, Armor, and other deadly appendages with her Breath. Shapers are quite powerful, but Weavers and Renders are even more dangerous.
The sides of the Civil War are divided by religion and politics, which is not uncommon in the real world. When we meet Marta, she is a ruined, battle-hardened character who drinks too much and is fueled by anger. The story is told almost exclusively from her point of view and unfolds in two timelines. One occurs after the war, following Marta’s mission to bring a little girl named Caddie to her father, whom Marta plans to kill. The other timeline happens in the past, revealing why Marta has become the person she is now. Her story isn’t uplifting, and some of the things she went through were devastating. We learn about them gradually, and personally, I enjoy this type of narration as it keeps me interested and engaged while slowly revealing the answers to my questions.
Apart from Marta, there are other significant characters, like her brother Carmichael, whom Marta describes as follows: 

“She felt like a chess piece moved against her will. She had thought herself safe as a queen, only to realize too late she was again her brother’s pawn. You really don’t want to stand in his way unless you want your life turned into a misery.”

Marta is assisted by two “freebooters”—Luca, who’s addicted to the exquisite torture of teetering between success and failure, and Isobell, who remains a bit mysterious throughout the book.
There’s also Caddie, the girl Marta, and the freebooters escort. Some things are hinted at, and we can only guess that Caddie is much more than she appears. 
The pacing of the story is excellent as we continuously learn new things about both Marta’s mission and her past in the Traitors Brigade of Shapers. The intertwining storylines keep the plot fresh and make it difficult to put the book down. Besides malevolent humans, there are all kinds of monsters: Ghouls, Emets, Glassman, and the scenes featuring them are remarkably well written. I especially enjoyed the scene with glowing Ghouls on spider legs—it was both creepy as hell and visually suggestive.
The world-building is meticulous and in-depth, but the author doesn’t overload us with info-dumps. We learn about the world as we follow Marta through it. The plotting is well done, and there are plenty of twists.
It’s not an uplifting book, and some of the scenes are terrifying. Marta’s story is sad and tragic, and there’s not much humor in the book to balance things. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot; it’s a rare gem.
I strongly root for Marta. I’m aware that some readers might not enjoy this unlikely protagonist with all her rage, occasional self-loathing, and anger management issues, but I find her complex and believable. Although she may appear one-dimensional in her intent to finish someone (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, all the time), there’s much more to her than that. She may have darkness within her, but there is also some light, no matter how hard she tries to hide it. 
Overall, I think “The Woven Ring” is a well-written, intelligent book with an exciting and unusual setting, excellent pacing, and just the right amount of drama.
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