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The Ill-Made Mute

(The Bitterbynde #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,343 ratings  ·  284 reviews
In a thrilling debut that combines storytelling mastery with a treasure trove of folklore, Cecilia Dart-Thornton creates a lushly romantic epic adventure, set in a world brimming with wonders and terrors.

The Stormriders land their splendid winged stallions on the battlements of Isse Tower, while the scullions who dwell in the fortress's lower depths rarely even see the sun
Paperback, 560 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Warner Books (first published May 2001)
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Jordan No, there is no sexual content in the series. There are romantic interests, but these are not physical or explicit.
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Rob Angol
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,343 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Start your review of The Ill-Made Mute (The Bitterbynde, #1)
"Then the mizzenmast was braced around, jibs and staysails sheeted home, 'tween mast staysails reset, course steadied and the spanker eased off"

Excuse me ? Could you put that in clear english or at least, as I saw suggested in another person's review of another book, put up a picture in which such things were marked clearly (and is it only me who really wants to know what a 'spanker' looks like ?)

Cecilia Dart-Thornton luxuriates in words and images and boy does she have a lot of them. When she
Feb 16, 2012 added it
Shelves: dnf, fantasy, audiobook
DNF because, shit, it’s boring

I have had a brand new paperback copy of The Ill Made Mute sitting in my pile of to be read books ever since I first bought it on a word of mouth recommendation back in 2001 or so. I probably should’ve read it then because now I have no patience for the tediously descriptive, wandering plot that comprises this story. That’s what happens when you realize you’re getting older and there are just not enough hours in the day to read boring books.

I’ll state up front that
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
I found this book extremely difficult to get through. The narrative was so dry, I kept having to go back and reread passages because I'd zoned out. Part of the problem was the author kept stopping the story to tell other stories, which sufficiently killed any momentum it had going for it. Overall, the basic concept of the book was an interesting one, I just had issues with execution. I won't be continuing on.
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I feel as though I need to defend my 5-star rating for what is, in fact, a flawed book (other reviewers are mostly right). For me, the book, and the series, is worth reading for the setting alone. Dart-Thornton's vision of a world based on Celtic folktales is complex and fully imagined, so complex that it actually serves some of the functions of character. This world may be divided between "seely" and "unseely," but it is far more morally complex than most fantasy worlds where villains are someh ...more
Dev Null
May 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy reading the dictionary
Shelves: epic-fantasy, fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I believe this is her first novel and it's descriptive passages were bewitching, in the old sense of the word. When I read this book I kept getting so drawn into the story that I was often late for appointments! I would sink into the landscape of marshes, forests and fog-hidden villages. Its mythical arc spans more than one lifetime and is full of fey creatures that are very individual and fully-fleshed out.
Its a fairy-tale for adults. Maybe even for children too, although dark and scary in part
Jan 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
There's a part of me that wishes I could have given this book more than three stars...but in the end, I only liked. I didn't love it. The idea is a good one: Celtic mythology heavily woven into a world that is part medieval/part steampunk (though there is no steam. Just airships). The protagonist is an interesting idea: hideously deformed and mute. There are moments of great beauty and the feel of the best kind of fairy tales.


But there are also times--and far too many of them--when the flori
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished, fantasy
Way to go, GR, giving away the surprise in the blurb.
Ashleigh Oldfield
Wow, wow, wow. Fanstastic trilogy! This story has so many twists and turns that I never saw coming. I have read this story so many times I almost know it by heart.

This tale follows the journey of a young person's quest to find three things, and on the way discovers so much more. This story has everything: low life scumbags, a ruffian who turns out to be a hero, a hero who is not who he seems, a heroine who is not who she seems, and a tonne of mystery.

This book contains a lot of Celtic mythology,
Kristi Thompson
Mar 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Odd book. Was wavering between "decent" and "eh', but I really liked the use of Celtic folk tales, so I was generous. She made a world where legendary folk-tale happenings were part of common, everyday life, but very different from books like One for the Morning Glory, or Bridge of Birds. The people were more like the historical Irish who told those tales, down to earth and unlovely and afraid.

I wish she'd found a better tale to set in her background. And written it with more skill. Lots of awkw
Kelly Flanagan
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As I clear a few little wet spots from my lashes, I start this review. Hoping t find out if the story continues or if I wait in helplessness like so many readers grasping for that next book in the series.

Because wow, this is a story to be reckoned with. soft and gentle the wording may seem at first, the horrors are so much clearer that way.

I was captured at the first. Echoes of the rain pattered outside my windows asking me to fall into the book, to let it take me into a dreamworld where all the
May 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Scanning down the other reviews, I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed that the author used the word 'eldritch' in every third paragraph! Apart from a few 'pet' words that the author is obviously in love with, this book is the most boring case of thesaurus-rape that I have ever read. The romance is nausea-inducing, the language is dull and pretentious.
 Ms. Ewing
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This first book in a 3-part trilogy jumped to top of my favourite books list; a deeply researched fantasy based on Celtic mythology. If you liked Lord of the Rings you will love this; the difference is that you never know which way the story and the main character are heading. One of the most beautiful love stories told.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-fluff
Just got finished with this one and more than half way through the second...

Good ol'fantasy fluff. Fun read with some great vocabulary. The story is really well constructed too.
Althea Ann
Although it's definitely not "serious" literature, I couldn't help liking this book. A mix of original high fantasy, Celtic legend, and escapist romance come together in a dazzling – if not all that substantial – mélange.
A youth, face hideously scarred and bearing other marks of violence, is found unconscious and brought to Isse Tower, a Stormrider's outpost. Deformed and ugly, and suffering from amnesia, the youth is reviled and works as a drudge – the lowest of the low. Driven to escape on one
Jan 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
When I first saw this book in the library I was intrigued; it had all the aspects of at least an average fantasy, and who knew, maybe it could have developed into an amazing one. Well, I know now. It doesn't, it didn't, it won't. This book was a startling disappointment for me. At first I thought it may be because I had been over reading and that I had become saturated with books, however, when I went back to it the result was just the same; dull, boring and oh so mind-numbing. Still, I was surp ...more
Kim Mallady
Aug 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
I really, really didn't like this book. It was a struggle for me to finish. The only reason I did was because I read a review saying they liked the romance in this book and I'm a sucker for romance. But the romance here is very, very minimal, so don't let that be your reason for reading this!'

I'm not a writer, but once when I was in high school I decided to write a really long story. A few pages in I got bored and switched the story line completely, mid-story. A few pages after that, I changed i
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book due to the beautiful descriptions, yet I quickly started to skim over these in the vain attempt to find the story.
This is a novel centred around learning more about the protagonist's identity, and it is a story that assumes that the readers sticks with it because they are intrigued enough by this quest and empathetic enough towards the main character. However, because the protagonist is so featureless for a long time and literally everyone around them is hard-hearte
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Alright sorry I'm not more articulate...I think the reason this book isn't to everybody's taste is a) it's a very girly book. b) Flowery writing with lots of long words.

But I adored it. Even I wanted a little more action than there was - a problem which was overcome and then some by Dart-Thornton's other series, the Crowthistle Chronicles. But the way in which the world was built with folklore and elements from Dar
Katie Breden
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wish I could do more of a 4.5. Really excellent with beautiful prose and a story that, while repetitive, is still enchanting all the way through. A nice world to live in for a time. The ending didn't make me *need* to go out and get the next book, I admit. I may read the rest of the trilogy, one day, but for now I'm satisfied having had this little adventure to live in for the beginning of summer.
Erica Lyn
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best fantasy trilogies I've ever read and that's saying a lot. Cecilia Dart-Thornton takes Faerey mythology and brings it to life in this story. I left my copy behind in Wuhan 9 years ago and have regretted it ever since. It's really hard to find them on bookstore shelves so if you do make sure you pick it up (and then loan it to me).
Sara Allen
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such imagery, took me into he book and kept me there through all those pages. well researched myths and fables were interwoven seamlessly. excellent story.
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
(This is a joint review for the entire trilogy. No spoilers)

So, the first book in the trilogy is titled The Ill-Made Mute. I highly recommend it. Now, a large part of the book is very hard to wade through. I would not be surprised if this woman had earned a doctorate in pre-Industrial Celtic and Anglo-Saxon folk tales and legends. She incorporates almost every known folk tale from these cultures as a bona-fide part of her world. The Great Hunt rides at night, seelie and un-seelie wights await a
Meagan Bailey
Update: As of Feb. 20th, I gave up on page 59. It was 60 pages too many.

I'm on page 19 of this book, partway through chapter 2, and this might become my fastest DNF ever, ahead even of Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

The book reads like the author was given unbridled access to a thesaurus and yet had no sense when not to use it. She will never use a plain word if she could instead use three obtuse multi-syllable words, and takes every opportunity to use odd or unusual sentence structure. Thi
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some books entertain, and some books make your heart sing. This book was one of the latter. I am truly happy that I read this book. It delves into some deep human issues about beauty, and gender...and highlights the human trait/history of story telling in a brilliant way. If someone had told me this was a story told partially through the device of characters telling stories (more so in the beginning of the book), I would not have believed it could turn out as epic and amazing as this book.

Mar 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-fiinish
CONCLUSION: Alright, I've given up. It should not take immense effort to read a book about Irish myth and legend, about flying horses, about airships and adventure. But it is, and it was, because Dart-Thornton's need to overexplain and focus on every little insignificant thing didn't make this experience sweeping, it made it plodding, stodgy, and mindnumbing. As an author, you should not be letting your readers zone out, edit you, consider aspects they could have executed better. But that is exa ...more
Jan 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't really add much to all the other reviews. A friend loaned me the book saying that it was a good story but not very well written. I think that about sums it up. I was increasingly intrigued by where the story was going the whole way through, but the ridiculously obfuscating writing style never settled down. The author has an absolute fetish for over-describing and, what's worse, doing it using words that nobody in their right mind has ever heard of and so of course can't picture. Hard to ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-fantasy
Just reread the Bitterbynde trilogy (February 2015). Will put here a review for all three, so warning, spoiler alert.

First off the bat, I just wanted to say that these books are still one of my favourite ever fantasy series. Hang on to that while I get a couple of things that bothered me off my chest!

Why that ending? Why?! Also, why does every character she's ever met have to come to the happy endings? Also, do we really need to hear about how beautiful Thorn is that many times? Why do all the c
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Picked this one up blind off the library shelf. Very pleased I didn't read anything about it beforehand. Fell in love with the characters throughout the entire trilogy and was really, really sad when it was over.

I must have been in a rather peculiar mood the first time I read this book. Not in a bad way. It's just strange for me to be patient with books, lately, and this book does require some patience. It moves slowly and beautifully through its plot. Nothing is hurried - not the l
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Cecilia Dart-Thornton was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, graduating from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology.

She became a schoolteacher before working as an editor, bookseller, illustrator and book designer.

She started and ran her own business, but became a full-time writer in 2000 after her work was 'discovered' on the Internet and published by Time Warner (New

Other books in the series

The Bitterbynde (3 books)
  • The Lady of the Sorrows (The Bitterbynde, #2)
  • The Battle of Evernight (The Bitterbynde, #3)

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“Nay, it ain't got fleas, and 'tis a girl.” 3 likes
“Eating be eating, b'ain't it, Birdie?'
'Nay, Uncle Bear: In Caermelor, at the Royal Court, they be so-oh, so much more advanced than anywhere else. 'Tis not done to wipe your fingers on your hair or the tablecloth, or belch, or speak with your mouth full of food, or scratch, or pick your teeth at table. Ye have to use little forks to pick up the food. Ye not allowed to pour wine for your betters or for yourself, but to wait for them to deign to pour it for ye, if they be feeling generous. And the carving of the meats must be done a certain way, and as for the toasts-it would take ye a whole day just to learn the complications.
'Takes the fun out of eating,' observed Sianadh.”
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