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There is a game that the immortals play.
There is only one rule:
Don’t lose.

From Olivie Blake, the New York Times bestselling author of The Atlas Six comes Masters of Death, a story about vampires, ghosts, and death itself!

Viola Marek is a struggling real estate agent, and a vampire. But her biggest problem currently is that the house she needs to sell is haunted. The ghost haunting the house has been murdered, and until he can solve the mystery of how he died, he refuses to move on.

Fox D’Mora is a medium, and though is also most-definitely a shameless fraud, he isn’t entirely without his uses—seeing as he’s actually the godson of Death.

When Viola seeks out Fox to help her with her ghost-infested mansion, he becomes inextricably involved in a quest that neither he nor Vi expects (or wants). But with the help of an unruly poltergeist, a demonic personal trainer, a sharp-voiced angel, a love-stricken reaper, and a few high-functioning creatures, Vi and Fox soon discover the difference between a mysterious lost love and an annoying dead body isn’t nearly as distinct as they thought.

MASTERS OF DEATH by Olivie Blake is my new obsession. My entire personality. I need to coin a new word for jealousy, but without the negative connotations, to properly sum up my feelings for this book. Strap in for an unabashed, unrestrained gush review, friends.

The first thing that stood out to me was how MASTERS OF DEATH seems to be a study in knowing the rules and breaking them on purpose. The narrative bounces around more than a little bit. We start with a very distant voice, the sort that doesn’t even know the names of the characters it is describing. We are merely observers, not close enough to get anything except the most basic of details. We jump next to first person POV from the voice of Death, speaking directly to us. And then into second person as Olivie sets the scene for our meeting with one of our main characters, Fox D’Mora. (Is he my favourite? He might be my favourite. But I don’t know. I could sooner pick a favourite of my own characters than I could pick a favourite from this cast, they’re all so much fun.) All the way along, the prose is indulgent and beautiful, but also quirky and funny and approachable.

Fox has lost so many people in his life and has felt the sting of it sharply enough; and anyway, perhaps it wouldn’t matter to you in the moment that Fox D’Mora has not grown close to another human being in the last two hundred years or so, because whoever he is, and whomever his loyalty begins to, he sympathizes so deeply, so humanly with your loss. 
And more importantly, his is present, and he is here to help.
“Now,” me murmurs. “What would you like to say?” 
The words, once buried in your soul, dance temptingly on your tongue. 
You lean forward. 
This is communion.

Only after the scene is set do we launch into the overall voice of the book, a regular and familiar distant third. In a less skilled writer, this jumping around might be disorienting, but in the hands of Blake, it whips us up to a desperate, adoring fury that makes us ravenous for whatever is to come.

And what a feast she sets before us.

The story arguably focuses on the godson of Death, our Fox, but we also have Vi (a vampire), Tom (a ghost), Isis (a demon who only ever seems to wear athleisure wear), Brandt (a godling), Cal (a reaper), and Mayra (Fox’s guardian angel), all of whom come together to tell a story about love, loyalty, grief, mortality, and vice. So continues the rule breaking. No info dumps? Please. Blake peppers the book liberally with the most delicious little backstory info dumps that bind us ever tighter to our cast. Rather than slowing the story down, I found myself excited to get to each little aside and interlude that would tell more more about the characters I already adored so deeply.

Since we deal so much with death, immortality, and the afterlife, Blake sprinkles in a wide variety of folklores and mythos and religions to populate the outskirts of the story. Brandt has connections to Norse mythology, specifically Idunn’s apple. Mayra, when faced with Gabriel and Raphael, casually mentions that the God they work for is not her god. Somebody’s mysterious ex is a mermaid. None of it is really explained, but I love those wide open gaps. We focus instead on the little details, the small parts of their lives. These details become delightfully campy, but in a way that celebrates the camp. The book knows that it borderlines on silly, but is self aware enough to keep it well balanced and fun. Vi, our vampire, drinks her blood out of juice boxes so as to better pass as a plain old human real estate agent. She attends support meetings for other creatures, where she shares her undead-troubles with a siren, a werewolf, and Isis the demon. These little details let us fully plunge into the fun. We don’t need to think about the how’s and the why’s and the bigger world building, because we aren’t here for those things. We’re here to enjoy how very human a story about a bunch of non-humans can be.

“And anyway, to continue the introductions: Louisa’s a siren,” she explained, gesturing. “Sly’s fae; Fox is a mortal with an abandonment complex; Brandt’s a random thief we don’t know anything about yet, short of his romantic falling-out with Fox; Mayra’s a guardian angel who’s almost certainly hiding something; Cal’s a reaper who’s very clearly obsessed with Mayra; Tom’s a poltergeist who won’t be quiet—”
“Excuse me?” they all protested in unison, and Isis shrugged. 
“Just catching everyone up,” she explained, and frowned. “What? You all look upset.”

The emotional core of this novel very nearly broke me. Our ghosts, reapers, angels, goldings, mortals, vampires, demons, and all the beasties that come with them, spend the story arc diving deep into what it means to love, to ache, to lose. To long for something you can’t have. To feel things at the very depth of humanity—or what it must be like not to feel them, if you happen to be non-human. The push and pull between Brandt and Fox (yes it’s queer, and I was so wonderfully surprised because I didn’t know!) almost breaks me, and then puts me together again post haste.

Oh yes and then there’s the plot. Fox & Co. are drawn into the aforementioned game that immortals play, duelling the Big Baddie for mastery of Death himself. We come to the game very slowly because first we must meander through each backstory, but I didn’t mind how long it took. This isn’t an action oriented novel. It’s page after page of charm, wit, a dash of heartbreak, and bone-aching romance and what that looks like in the afterlife. And then suddenly, we stumble upon the game, remembering suddenly that a book can’t be only vibes but needs a plot, and the next layer of Blake’s skill reveals itself: even the game requires the characters to torture each other with their own memories. We’re delivered the last pieces of backstory that we need for the ending to fully and completely break our hearts. But Blake only lets us be heartbroken for a moment, and for that I cannot thank her enough.

“I love him, Papa. I forgave him the moment he came back to me. I would love him still, even if he left me again. I would love him through several lifetimes, I think, and I would love him in every world, if he asked.”

I didn’t know what to expect when I brought MASTERS OF DEATH home, and yet it defied my expectations anyway. It’s fun, it’s brilliant, it’s cozy, it’s heartbreaking, it’s hilarious, it’s beautiful.

Most of all, it’s so unabashedly human.

Consider me a rabid Olivie Blake fan. I’m off to go buy everything else she’s published thus far.

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

Masters of Death

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