Hello Humans! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Justin Call’s Master of Sorrows. This is an awesome fantasy novel that explores ideas of villainy and destiny (so you can imagine I was pretty easily sold) and I leapt at the chance when the wonderful team over at Orion asked if I wanted to join the blog tour! I’m delighted to be able to share my review with you. Be sure to head on over to Twitter to read the other blog posts in this tour!
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 . . .
CW: Ableism (I’ll touch on this later).
This book has one of my absolute favourite things in fantasy fiction – creative problem-solving. I know that sounds silly and or a little bit sad, but I absolutely love any book where the protagonist(s) have to think outside the box, to work with their weaknesses and solve a problem or complete a challenge. This book does that on more than one occasion and it is great. If you, like me, adore that kind of trope then I’d say definitely pick this one up.
I initially thought I wasn’t going to like Annev, because I have a tendency to…react negatively to male ‘chosen one’ character types. I just find it hard for anyone to redeem a teenage boy. But Annev is actually alright. Does he utterly idolise the one other female main character in this book? Yes. But it does get less prevalent later on (at about the same time that said female character proves she is far more awesome than she has the potential to be within the initial bounds of the story. I think, like other male protagonists I have read in the last year or so, Annev has the potential to show some real character growth through this series and I’ll be really intrigued to see what I think of him after another book!
I’ve mentioned the ableism in my content warning, and I will stress that as I am not a person with a physical disability I am not the best person to be analysing how good the representation of Annev is. I will say that it is set up in this world that having a physical ‘deformity’ (Annev has one hand) is what marks you as ‘oh they’re going to be evil’. That would normally be a ‘put the book down this is bad’ moment but I persevered and it is made clear that this isn’t an attitude built into the world, it’s more something that has developed because of events prior to the story. Again, I think there’s potential for a real breaking down of these damaging attitudes in future books, and if that’s the road this author goes down then I think it’ll be a great way of exploring this in a fantasy setting. Of course, we should all be looking to own voices reviewers for those opinions.
I did think that the way this book played with that theme of destiny, what it means to have something set out for you from the start of your life, was really interesting. It managed to avoid that somewhat outdated ‘chosen one’ trope by making Annev destined to be the opposite of a hero – I’m fascinated by the idea of what that could mean in later books.
This book is a little slow to start, taking it’s time to set up the quite small setting (most of the book takes place in one village) and how Annev’s magic is forbidden and so such, but it is absolutely worth persevering as the end of this book is where the story truly shines. The side characters get more page time, Annev gets a lot more interesting and the world outside the village starts to be more important.
In the end, I think this was a great start to a series that could be incredibly strong. First books, particularly where a good deal of worldbuilding is required, are almost always quite slow to start -or so I’ve found – but the way this book came to an end makes me think we’re looking at some really special books in the future.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading Master of Sorrows? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.