“They say time heals wounds, but I have never believed them.”
~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.
[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+
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.
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