Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag


“They say time heals wounds, but I have never believed them.” 
“Nor I.”
~Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag

Since Plenilune has received so many reviews, it will be my goal in this one to bring an expanded perspective to the table. Pacing of the book has already been covered, as well as the beauty and magic of the narrative choice of words. Therefore, while I heartily second the general consensus on those things, this review will be dealing with other aspects.

First of all, if you're looking for easy answers on whether or not you'd like this book, there are none. Plenilune is not a cut-and-dried novel, and as such cannot be easily put in a box--or on a page, for that matter. It has great virtues, and it has great flaws. Both go deep; both are things that every reader will need to grapple with. Some I am still grappling with a couple weeks after I have finished it.

There are some questions that a lot of you bibliophiles are still wondering about before you buy Plenilune, ones that I think deserve answering. So let's get to it.

The Book 
[From Amazon:] The fate of Plenilune hangs on the election of the Overlord, for which Rupert de la Mare and his brother are the only contenders, but when Rupert’s unwilling bride-to-be uncovers his plot to murder his brother, the conflict explodes into civil war. 

To assure the minds of the lord-electors of Plenilune that he has some capacity for humanity, Rupert de la Mare has been asked to woo and win a lady before he can become the Overlord, and he will do it—even if he has to kidnap her. 

En route to Naples to catch a suitor, Margaret Coventry was not expecting a suitor to catch her.

Age Recommendation: 18+ 

My Thoughts 
Jenny puts everything she loves about literature into this novel. Sometimes that is a good thing--majestic prose and best friends who fall in love. Sometimes it is not--salty language and bitter self-reliance. But all-out enthusiasm is the way books should be written, and that is what I love to see. Plenilune is a book of fierce wars and faithful loves, of characters who have deep hurts, and whose hurts cripple them from forgiveness. And characters who could have deep hurts, but who choose not to go down that path.

Margaret Coventry holds a great deal of the key to this book. She is a woman who comes, not as a coward, but very much Victorian in her sentiments and capabilities. She grows into a woman with greater strength by the end--to wield a sword and endure long days of fatigue and stand firm in the face of evil lords who love her beauty. To take action, whether it leads to glory or destruction, and see how it turns out.

Unfortunately she finds half of her strength in her bitterness. She hates her mother, and spends a great deal of the book acting in defiance of her, and that defiance develops into a self-confidence that is half of her 'maturity'. I think that can be a dangerous portrayal of maturity for girls reading this, thus part of my age recommendation. But the other half of her strength and maturity Margaret finds where she should--under the influence of faithful friends and loyal allies who covenant with her and weep and laugh and eat and sleep and battle together. Who show her that there is some good and hope and love worth fighting for, and encourage her to rise above her own problems and face those of a nation.

The characterizations in this book are all vivid and important to the plot. Margaret finds a host of Kings and Lionhearts in this novel, and I love every one of them, from crusty Lord Gro to dear Lord Skander and his bluejay-man. From dark Lord Rupert to mysterious Lady Woodbird, they are deeply beautiful and superbly confident lords and ladies.

Through all the battles Jenny is able to laugh in victory at the grand conflict of good and evil. Yes, laugh. Over the fate of an entire planet. There's no way to explain it on paper--but it was good. That the War-Lord of Plenilune should feel great grief over the deaths of little people and laugh silver-bright in the face of pending destruction seem like paradoxes unable to be reconciled. But they are not. They are Plenilune, and that I love.

While Plenilune contains mentions of forced marriage, and even people suspecting characters of sharing a bed, they are for the most part entirely unobjectionable. Sometimes those conversations are frank and honest, but only in two instances were they disturbing. Chapter 21 (Kindle location 6449) contains a sexually explicit comment. If you are trying to avoid some specifics about the facts of life, you should probably skim a little. Chapter 27 contains a horrible, sickening war crime of rape. (Kindle location 8617-8660) Many girls would be shocked at the kind of attempted rape it was, and even ignorant that such a kind existed until this book. Beyond the purpose of brutal honesty about war crimes, I failed to see the edification of including it in the plot.

The other element that factored into my age recommendation is the language. Yes, there is language, and yes, there is a lot of it. While I understand some authors choose to include language, I only saw the good guys have a serious swearing problem, and under their influence Margaret used it more and more the more confident she became. I would have liked it spread more evenly between good and bad characters, and I don't think it was necessary for Margaret to use it at all. It is not a good example for the main character to swear more and more the more she needs to deal with anger and annoyance.

If you're wondering about the magic, it's really not something to be worried about. If you're comfortable with Lewis and Tolkien I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy that aspect of Plenilune. It's creative (scooping up fire and braiding it for sheer pleasure is splendid) and clear-cut good and evil. Yes, some of the men have powers that us ordinary mortals do not. I think it's portrayed spot-on good. As for violence, I made it through all the battle scenes just fine (if you've seen PJ's LOTR without trouble you won't have trouble with Plenilune's battles) though there was one instance of strangling where the indifference of the killer disturbed me.

My favorite part about this whole book was the fox. That little fellow is a dear companion. His great, pulsing, foxy heart and snarky conversations were near and dear to me. The mockery borne of pain that is able to take all most precious to him and turn it into a matter for jesting is something as familiar as home. His comforting little paws and aged youth and mournful wisdom were lovingly captured, and whenever I had a scene with the fox I was supremely happy. Out of all the characters in Plenilune, if I could only remember one, I would count the memory of him worth all the other characters combined.

Is Plenilune a story of good triumphing over evil? Of course. Of good characters triumphing over evil ones? That's where it gets more complicated. All the characters are deeply flawed, whether on the good side or the bad--just like us. But similar to Christian salvation, some of them cling to heaven and some of them cling to hell, and that makes all the difference. Greater grace, not inner goodness, rings deeply throughout this book.

It helps going in to view the reading of Plenilune as fighting a war. All the exultation of it, all the shame of it, all the aftershock and nausea of it. All the victory of it. Most of you will experience all those reactions in reading it. If you do not feel comfortable, there is no shame in that, but realize that those elements are there. The best advice I can give in reading this book is that it is not one to be fangirled over. It should be read earnestly, with your discerning powers 100% engaged. When you read it, be honest with the book and yourself about the right and wrong you find.

For another reader's perspective on this book, a review I highly recommend reading, click here.

And prepare yourself for a story that will shake you out of your little brown shoes into a whole new world.

“God forbid,” said his cousin crisply, “he should ever elect you scribe of the Book of Life.” 
“It should make for rummy reading if he did." 
~Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag

15 comments:

  1. Hm, this sounds like quite an interesting book, although I may not read it until I'm much older. Violence and language have little or no effect on me, but sexual elements, however light they may be, disturb me very much. Thank you for yet another lovely book review. ^.^
    Oh, and you have been tagged: http://inkdropsandcitylights.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/a-very-late-shelfie/

    ~Victoria

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    1. I would be interested in your opinion, Victoria, when you read it--though don't rush until you feel ready. :) I think you would have a wise and mature perspective on it when the right time comes.

      Thank-you for the tag! Alas, I have no bookshelves; only an array of boxes with books in them which are not photogenic. But if you would like to see my one shelf, I put a picture of it on this post: http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2013/05/when-bibliophiles-play-part-two.html

      Have a lovely day! :)

      ~Schuyler

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    2. I hope so. I feel at times like I throw myself on books a little too rushed-ly without thinking more about them. But I'm growing, I suppose. =)

      Oh, I understand entirely! But your one shelf is wonderful. And books don't need shelves to be amazing. ;)

      ~Victoria

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  2. Thank you so very much for the review! I have been seeing this book /everywhere/, and am glad to have found a review commenting on the contact. I, too, (like Victoria above) will not be reading this until I am older, but it is one I hope to eventually get ahold of. :)

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    1. I'm glad the review was helpful to you, Katie Grace! I think you're wise to wait until you feel ready (I'm almost not sure I was) but when the time comes I do hope you enjoy it. :)

      ~Schuyler

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  3. Thank you for an expressive, passionate, and honest review. I have begun (though not yet finished) Plenilune, and so far, your statement that it has both great virtues and great flaws is spot on.

    Unflinching honesty from Christian friends and reviewers is an important aid to those of us who write. Jenny's power of sight and her ability to capture what she sees in words is an incredible gift, and I hope to watch the Lord do great things through her.

    Blessings,
    the Philologist

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    1. I think the second half of the book contains even more sharp contrasts than the first. So much so that I took it slowly and even took a few days before finishing the last couple of chapters. :)

      I love to see our community of authors helping one another, and hope that we can continue to speak the truth in love as more and more of us get published. It's vital to encourage each other to be even more pleasing to the Lord in what we write.

      Jenny has a beautiful gift; and I, too, look forward to what it will continue to bring forth. I love her snippets posts. :)

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  4. Schuyler, as someone who completely and hopelessly loved this book, I'm grateful for your honest perspective and criticism :). The other things you mention didn't bother me a huge amount (I am a little more jaded than you, I think), but I think you make an especially good point about the strength that comes through Margaret's bitterness--I knew something about her attitude bothered me when I read the book, but couldn't put my finger quite on what. While I appreciate that Jennifer Freitag wants to write realistically flawed characters, I'd have really liked to see her handle her flawed characters...a bit more in the way that CS Lewis might have, if HE were writing the story.

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    1. I was merely following orders like a good Watson does... ;)

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  5. Schuyler, I have just started reading Plenilune, so I really appreciated reading this in-depth, honest review before I dig deep, sort of a way to be forearmed for the meaty stuff of this book - I am really looking forward to it, and I *think* I will like it a lot, but would probably agree with you about the things you mentioned regarding swearing, the bitterness aspect giving the main character courage without a better way of potraying the truth of forgiveness (a very important element of the Christian life), and without resolving it, flawed though a character may be; there should be someone, if not the MC who points out that bitterness as a crippling thing to one's heart and conscience. Hmm, and I best keep an eye out for that war crime you mentioned - I don't think I want to read that with much detail, so i will try skimming over it. :)

    Jenny is definitely an amazing, one of a kind, authoress. I look forward to how her writing will expand and mature in years to come. I love her poetic description and use of words!

    Rupert is really quite terrible, but he has a lot to remind with Mr. Rochester i think :). I like Skander too. . .
    I just met the fox, and yes, I love him already!

    Great review, Schuyler! I can imagine this book must have been a real challenge to review (I dread the thought of it for myself!), but you did it so excellently. :)

    Many blessings,
    Joy <3

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    1. I loved Rupert and Skander as well. Skander is just like Sir Percy Blakeney in sidekick form. And Woodbird is like Marguerite Blakeney. O.o And don't you just love the dresses?!

      Hope you enjoy it, and I can't wait to hear what you think!

      Love,
      Schuyler

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    2. You *loved* Rupert??

      What, pray, do you mean?

      I may require a thorough explanation of this...

      <3,
      the Philologist

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    3. :cheekygrin:

      Well, not in a romantic kind of way. I'll explain it all as soon as you finish the book.

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  6. You did great with this review! ;) I'm glad you were able to read it, and tell us what your thoughts are. Jenny sounds like she writes with pulsing imagination--I loved how you described her characters laughing at disaster.
    I agree with Victoria, I don't like sexual elements in books...I did skim that part of your blog post a bit. ;)
    That's a fun quote you put at the end! :D
    Love,
    Carrie-Grace

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    1. There are tons of amazing quotables in Plenilune. I was the guilty person who highlighted a lot of them on Kindle. :D

      Love,
      Schuyler

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