Alright, so here is my first book review on this blog! I’m very new to this whole blog thing. Maybe with later reviews I will figure out how to make these posts looks more flashy ;).
I received Master of Sorrows from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Master of Sorrows is fast-paced, complex fantasy at its best.
This book has been marketed as a story about a hero who is destined to become the dark lord. What I experienced was something far deeper, more complex and more rewarding to the reader than just that simple premise.
Master of Sorrows is the beginning of what is planned to be a tetralogy, with the possibility of more books after that. We are introduced, early on, to Ainnevogg (or Annev for short), and his mentor, Sodar. The basic foundation the story is set on is that Annev was saved by Sodar when he was a baby, and kept “safe” in the village of Chaenbalu. We get to know Annev when he is a teenager, attending the local academy in hopes of becoming an Avatar. Avatars act as agents for the academy, sent out into the world to retrieve magical artifacts, which are then locked away in the Vault of Damnation because magic is believed to be evil. Initially, we follow Annev through his trials at the academy, but things quickly take a turn when he is provided a rather disturbing mission from one of the academy’s Ancients (basically the guys in charge). I wont go any further into the plot for fear of spoiling things for you, but suffice it to say this book is one hell of a ride!
One of the most interesting things about Master of Sorrows was the culture within Chaenbalu and the academy itself. This village is virtually closed off to the rest of the world. The people who live there are quite prejudice against anyone who is deformed, disabled, and anyone who can use magic. Those who are deformed or disabled, and those who can use magic are seen as children of Keos. Keos is an evil god, so being considered his child isn’t exactly a good thing.
Annev was born with one arm. This, coupled with what we know of the “dark lord” prophesy create very interesting circumstances as the story progresses, especially given the prejudices the village holds against those like Annev. He is able to hide his deformity with the help of the priest, Sodar, but there is always that concern he will be discovered.
You can’t have epic fantasy without excellent world building. It is obvious early on that Justin T Call has poured a ton of time, heart and passion into his fantasy world. As I read through the pages of Master of Sorrows I felt transported into this world, which is brimming with fascinating history, old magics, strange monsters, complex characters, and seemingly silent gods. This book is the epic fantasy enthusiast’s dream! What is equally impressive is how Call builds his world within this book. It is not uncommon to find a good amount of exposition in fantasy novels, especially during early volumes, in order to build the world for the reader. With Master of Sorrows, I felt the worldbuilding was masterfully weaved into the plot from page 1. In doing this, Call was able to build this world for us while simultaneously moving the plot forward. And wow does the plot move!
This is the fastest paced fantasy novel I have ever read. Chapters are short enough to give you the “just one more chapter” bug, but long enough to provide the detail necessary in an epic fantasy novel. The writing is clear, concise and provides fantastic imagery of what Justin wants us to see, leaving just enough room to allow our imaginations to do the rest. I have read a few reviews that describe Master of Sorrows as a slow burn, and I just don’t see it that way. I was absolutely hooked from page 1, and found myself, quite literally, unable to put the book down. None of this would have been possible without the excellent worldbuilding and interesting, complex characters. Each character has their own personality and their own motivations. Perhaps, what I liked best was the fact that pretty much every character was gray in their moral nature. Justin brings us into the troubled mind of Annev with each new page, and I found it fascinating and absolutely enthralling. This book was just so great!! So great that the digital Netgalley copy wasn’t enough, and I had to go out and buy the hardcover. Did you see that cover art?!!!
I have had a great year of reading so far (Book of the Ancestor trilogy and Ninth House just to name a couple), but Master of Sorrows may take the throne as my book of the year. It is early still, but this book just clicked perfectly with me. Justin T Call is a fantastic writer. The book is written in a way that it is easy to pick up, much in the way Brandon Sanderson’s books are. Actually, if I had to compare Justin to a well-established author, it would be Brandon Sanderson. The depth of the characters and the world absolutely rival Sanderson’s works. I think Justin T Call is going to be a headliner, and I am so glad I was able to jump in on the ground floor. I cant wait for book 2, and I cant wait to see what this fantastic author does with the rest of his career, which I expect will be long and fruitful. I highly recommend Master of Sorrows. This is a book that will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.