The Book Opens With a Prophecy
Master of Sorrows
by Justin Travis Call
“There are worse ways to die than blood loss and blackthorns.”―
Justin Travis Call, Master of Sorrows
You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.
But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?
What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?
Among the Academy’s warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents’ killers.
Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of a forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy’s masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma, until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.
Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is . . . and the darker truth of what he may become . . .
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 !!
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Eleni is a Greek student who grew up in Italy, and is currently working on getting her BA Honours degree in Literature from a Scottish university! When not typing away for her disseration, she can be found reading all the SFF she can get her hands on, and reviewing it for fun when inspiration strikes and she just needs to share her passion for reading. Alternatively, she will definitely be with a needy Westie in her arms watching series or movies. You can find her writing on her shared blog with her course mate at https://latenightbookscom.