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SPFBO 9 Official Review

Master of the Void

By Wend Raven

 

In the Seven Lands, magic is everything. So what happens when you’re the only person who has none?

Nothing matters more to Derrius Mendi than forging a better life for his family by pursuing a formal magical education at the University, something his parents have sacrificed what little they had to make possible. When disaster strikes on the eve of his thirteenth birth moment—the day he was to receive his magical gift from the Stars—will he choose perseverance or bitterness as he struggles against a society that would rather forget he exists than help him succeed?

As the third son of an archmage, Orimund Laetus has spent his life living up to the expectations of others. When his testing goes horribly wrong, he must decide who he truly is when his carefully crafted upbringing is rendered useless. Setting off on an epic adventure of self-discovery, Orimund must find his place in the world before a looming evil destroys everything he holds dear.

From swashbuckling sea voyages and magical heists to unlikely friendships and budding romances, Master of the Void is a sweeping coming-of-age journey that follows a cast of misfit friends through times of heartbreak, fear, joy, laughter, failure, and triumph. 


John Mauro:

 “Derrius stood, furtively wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. He was thirteen years old, he shouldn’t be crying like a child.”

Master of the Void is the C.S. Lewis-inspired SPFBO9 finalist by Wend Raven, an epic fantasy and coming-of-age story that will capture the imagination of readers of all ages.

Wend Raven’s debut takes place in the magic-infused Seven Lands. The children of the Seven Lands are evaluated for their magical abilities precisely thirteen years following their birth.

The various magical abilities are categorized by color and connected to astrological symbols from the moment of their birth. Those few souls without magical abilities are imprinted with the dreaded Void Mark on their hand, making them outcasts in a world where magic means everything.

Master of the Void has a vibrant cast of characters, consisting mostly of young teenagers as they find their paths forward within this society. Although there are several points of view, the book features two main protagonists. First is Orimund Laetus, the third son of an archmage, who has studied diligently as he tries to meet the high expectations of his parents:

“At fourteen and fifteen, Orimund’s older brothers had already passed their testing and had begun to excel in their magical practices. Most days, the pressure of living up to their successes was only a nagging thought in the back of his mind. Other days, he thought he might drown in it.”

But when Orimund’s testing goes terribly wrong, he must make a new path for himself.

The other lead protagonist is Derrius Mendi, a poor boy with uncommon abilities who studies hard to build a better life for himself and his family. But an ill-timed disaster on the eve of his testing forces Derrius to reevaluate his plans.

Master of the Void also features an outstanding group of side characters, several of whom get point-of-view duties throughout the novel. I especially enjoyed reading from the perspectives of Orimund’s best friend, Imber, who has an arranged engagement to Orimund’s older brother, Arrin. Both Imber and Arrin are willing to exploit the engagement as a means to help the troubled Orimund.

Master of the Void is full of positive messages as the children overcome their challenges, gaining self-confidence and finding purpose:

“‘Eventually, I came to the realization that no one in the Seven Lands had the power to make me feel good about myself,’ his brother continued. ‘Even if Father had suddenly decided to hug me and tell me he was proud, or the prettiest girl in school decided she was crazy about me, it wouldn’t mean anything if I wasn’t already happy with who I am.’”

These personal journeys are set against a rising evil that threatens to destroy the only world the children have known.

Master of the Void embraces all the well-worn tropes of middle grade and young adult fantasy. There are also the usual themes of friendship, familial relationships, overcoming adversity, and finding joy in a time of suffering, as well as an innocuous love triangle. Yes, all of this has been done before in countless other novels. But Wend Raven accomplishes everything so compelling in Master of the Void that I really can’t fault her for her embrace of classic tropes.

Master of the Void is a wholesome fantasy that parents can give to their middle-grade children without worrying about objectionable content. Wend Raven even captured my imagination as an adult reader who has seen these tropes innumerable times, providing a truly entertaining read that I am delighted to recommend.

Most of all, I’d consider Master of the Void to be a perfect gateway book for introducing young readers to fantasy, which could very well foster a lifelong love of reading. Honestly, I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

Master of the Void is the first book in a planned trilogy. The story continues in Book Two: Creature of the Void

8.5/10


Team Score: John 8.5, Whitney 7, Rebecca 6
Final Score: 7


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