“Returning to the world of The Silent Gods felt like riding a bike.
A brand-new bike with all those extra and fancy sport gears.
Said bike was also on fire.
Going down a steep hill.”
Review of Master of Sorrows
I have come to terms with the fact that joining book Twitter was a mistake. My TBR tripled, the people I follow keep enabling my book buying, and I keep coming across great reviews or give-aways. Now, I won’t pretend like any of that is bad, other than for my wallet that is. But! Really, it’s helped me find some amazing books to read these last few months, among which, this sexy looking thing.
I first found out about Master of Sorrows from someone’s old ARCs giveaway, and even though I didn’t win it, I was very taken both by the cover and the title. A quick lookup for the plot and I was sold! A hidden Academy training master thieves to retrieve magical artifacts – I mean… just like candy for me. To my dismay though this series had only one book out! I prefer binge reading and don’t mind not being up to date with the most recent releases to be honest. I already have to use up all my patience for so many release dates of things, so I save my peace of mind when it comes to reading. Most of the time anyway … Every now and again I make the rare exception. This year, Master of Sorrows and another book made the cut, with the added bonus that I would only have to wait a few months for their sequels to come out too. So I ordered it and oh my, the cover was even better in person, for it was so shiny!! I am evidently a magpie I know…
The book opens with a prophecy – who doesn’t like a prophecy – which I always rather enjoy, especially because I get to pick out the bits of it that are coming true as the story progresses. Feels like a treasure hunt and I really like it when authors do that. With a strong prologue to follow, the reader is immediately drawn into a world of extreme prejudice, fanaticism, and bigotry against those who bear the marks of Keos. Marks which the reader soon finds out are nothing more than any sort of physical disfigurement or disability. I have to say, it has been a while since I’ve actually read characters with physical disabilities like the ones in this book and found it a remarkably interesting change. Indeed the crux of this story is the protagonist’s struggle with this environment, wherein he desperately wants to fit, even though he knows their teachings are misguided if not outright cruel and wrong. Call shines in his character work any time the protagonist struggles with this reality, and I rather enjoyed the way he didn’t fall into annoying clichés to accomplish it either! More than once I found myself thinking nooo don’t do the thing!! But then the expected thing didn’t happen, and I was positively surprised. There are several instances of varying degrees of plot twists that kept me guessing in fact!
Moreover, there will *never* come a time when I will not love an acquired father figure, and even more so when it isn’t over-ridden with angst either. I was soaring throughout this whole book with the goof feels born out of the relationship dynamic that protagonists Annev and Sodar share. Awesome character work also came in the form of Annev’s academy classmates, ranging from the true friends, to the bullies, to the unexpected allies or enemies by the end of the book. All these complex and interwoven relationships, written in such a way to give each of them the right amount of depth, worked really well to make the characters truly stand out and come alive to my eyes. That said, the author also left evident room for growth and change in the coming books as well that I am certainly looking forward to.
Furthermore, the setting of the story, even though relatively less sprawling than expected with similar fantasy premises, was rather contained within a small area so to speak, and I found that worked really well toward highlighting that this first book is really just a first chapter into the life of the protagonist. A chapter which, unsurprisingly, comes to quite a fiery end, propelling both the characters and story forward with quite the blast. Indeed, Call’s writing is quite evocative and creates an ambience which complements the overall action and feelings of the characters at any given time, oh so well. More than once I found myself thinking of early Assassin’s Creed games as well, for both the setting and action sequences, which brought new life to the academy tests trope for me. So while I really enjoyed this common trope of – character has big test to prove his worth etc- ., I am quite happy with the turn Call took it towards, and rather excited to see how that is all going to change now that Annev is no longer bound by his previous routine/structure ! The magic system was also interesting, common to an extent but with several details that made it stand out enough for me to want to learn more about it- always appreciate it when there is a cost to using magic too, not just a never ending energy or source of power without any side effects.
Finally, while easily flowing but perhaps a little slow at first, the book follows a steady pace interspersed with vivid action sequences, leading up to a strong ending that considerably picks up the pace; to the point where I read the last 90+ pages in one fell swoop! In other words the more I read and got into this story, the faster I wanted to keep on reading. In my opinion, this move from a quasi-idyllic beginning, which as the story progresses reveals more and more cracks in the veneer, into strong action and starker consequences/revelations for the protagonists, worked amazingly! Like many things in this story, not everything is how it appears at first, and I loved it for that! By the end my feels where shattered and torn but that’s beside the point really, because it all fit in *so well*, everything had its place and not once did I find myself thinking eeeh this could’ve been worked out better or another way.
In short, Master of Sorrows works as an amazing introduction to The Silent Gods series and I am *very* excited to see where Justin Call will take us and his characters. This first installment promises a lot, both in terms of world building/plot and character work to come, and I for one, cannot wait to see it deliver !!
My Thoughts on Master Artificer
I was very graciously sent an e-Arc of this book by the author who “somehow” learned of my impatience for this sequel – Beth you’re a Star – and he was kind enough to put me out of my misery; this does in no way affect my review.
Hello dear reader, I am back once again to sing to you the praises of a fledgling series that promises greatness. It’s not often that I get the chance to review the single installments of a series as they come out, so this ought to be interesting a few years down the line; but regardless, if you’re familiar with my previous review of Master Of Sorrows, book 1 in The Silent Gods series, then you’ll know that I decided to hop on this ride from the start and see where it leads, instead of my usual MO of reading series that, if not complete, have at least a few installments out already. An exception was made this time because I am too curious by far, and my interest was piqued way too much to ignore. The origins of a dark lord after all, are not a common enough trope yet!
Returning to the world of The Silent Gods felt like riding a bike.
A brand-new bike with all those extra and fancy sport gears.
Said bike was also on fire.
Going down a steep hill.
And even though you thought for a moment that the fire had gone out, it came back blazing even more.
I mean all of this in the best possible way.
This metaphor got away from me a little, but that’s what happens when you try to convey all your interest about something you do not wish to spoil – at least in my case. So let me try and be more serious for a moment.
Book two picks up a few moments before the end of book one, but from a new point of view. This first change already is very interesting. Indeed Master of Sorrows was a great introduction to this series, and one of the reasons for it was because of its limited scope and narrow viewpoint, seen as we only got to follow Annev’s view of his last days in Chaenbalu. For all intents and purposes the closed off village and academy was its own little microcosm, and getting to experience it in such a way, was what made the transition into book two so effective, I think. Truly, this was a clever a device to introduce the reader to all of the world building that is in Master Artificer, allowing us to start and glean the true scope of this series as a whole. And frankly, it is a big boi. Indeed this book does not shy away from some heavy expositing, the cast of characters has multiplied, the magic system is properly introduced in a way that we hadn’t yet had a chance to see and, just like the protagonists, the reader is suddenly thrust into the big wide world.
Heavy worldbuilding and exposition is not for everyone and that is very fair however I will say this – as both a character driven reader, and a paradoxical creature that is concurrently extremely impatient and happy to wait and see how things turn out as a whole – I didn’t find it to be intimidating, nor was it heavy in a negative way. This is something I’ve mentioned before in fact, but part of Call’s style is that nothing feels unnecessary. The way he shows us his world is through the eyes and experiences of his characters who are learning about it all themselves for the first time. Reader and protagonist learn of so much going on and slowly get the bigger picture, hand in hand. Which is what allows for 800+ pages of a book to pass you by without breaking your back or mind.
The magic system in this series is really intriguing moreover, and if you’re like me that likes developed systems with their own multiple subtypes and divisions etc. ala Sanderson, then you’re in for a treat! Figuring out how it all works (if needed, with the added aid of an awesome pair of graphics that the author presents for our benefit), was half the fun really, and it is the kind of system that lends itself very well to group/buddy read theorizing.
Now onto the characters!! As already mentioned, Master Artificer changes up from book one’s single pov and instead spreads out its story over several new viewpoints. Some are minor, some are more central, and the way that Call intersperses the main protagonists’ chapters with third party perspectives allows the reader to get that full 360-degree experience. You know the phrase, getting lost in your own mind, that’s what happens for a lot of these characters sure, but the reader is also free to escape that and appreciate the different angles all the more. I was amused, surprised, moved, and frustrated by all the different characters’ journeys in this book and that’s what made it all the more fun! The development was through the roof, sometimes for the better, others maybe not so much, but it was all written in the ways that most fit each respective character. There were plenty of moments that called for nuance, others that instead needed a literal slap to the face, or a shadow creature threatening bodily harm; and it all worked amazingly to propel each protagonist toward their respective growth! One in particular made me be feel like a proud mama – just felt all the feels for them. Especially because it was so unexpected based on how we’d seen them externally in book one. Also, the way that characters dealt with prejudice overall, and the eventual dispelling of misguidedly held certainties, was extremely well explored moreover, making for some rather wonderful scenes of development I might add.
Another really fascinating bit of character work went toward those protagonists that deal more with darkness. (I am avoiding names other than Annev on purpose, because mentioning them would be spoilery to book one if you still haven’t read it and I don’t want to detract from that experience). This is a series about a dark lord after all, so it’s not exactly a surprise that we’d get plenty of morally questionable moments and decisions. But there’s lots to be said about the way that Call navigated their inner workings. Deluded characters are always very interesting, but characters who *know* they are holding onto their delusions by a thread and yet still desperately hang on to it as tightly as possible because facing the ugly truth would be so much worse? Chef’s kiss honestly. In reading Master of Sorrows, I was wondering how the author would manage to turn precious cinnamon roll boy Annev into the dark lord of this series in a way that felt convincing and natural, but by the end of Master Artificer I was extremely pleased to see those first dawn rays of the looming darkness. (Oxymoron fan where?). Let’s just say that if the writers of a certain tv series had peppered in the hints to a main character’s dark side, the same way that Call does for Annev from early on, maybe then I might’ve accepted their sudden turn into villainy and psychosis, but I digress.
In short: this second installment to The Silent Gods series kicks open the door to a wider world of epic fantasy, with its wide variety of characters, complex magic systems that are revealed to be more than even their supposed masters know, political intrigues and mysteries, hints of bigger problems on the horizon, and the slow unravelling and/or build-up of characters. Legends and myths are seen through for what they really are, or proven real. But ultimately, Justin Call weaves a tale whose individual threads we can follow with ease, interest, and building anticipation, as we start to see the edge of this much bigger tapestry.
One thing is perfectly clear in fact, this series has so much more in store and, based on interviews that Call has given, there are going to be at least 12 books in it as a whole! All good things come to those who wait as they say, so what we as readers can do is give trust and enjoy the ride. The author certainly surpassed my expectations for book two, so I for one, am very happy to do both, and cannot wait to see how these characters will continue to grow or degenerate, amaze and frustrate! And I hope that you too, dear reader, will want to continue following along with me.
Until next time,
Eleni A. E.
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