Master of Sorrows by Justin Travis Call – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
PHEW. That was a lot packed into what equaled three days in the book!
For a super fast-paced story with lots of high intensity fighting, for an interesting world of gods and magic, be ready for some “lore” moments where you read sections from the gospel to understand everything
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 fulfill. 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 a lot to say about this one so here are the bullet points:
- Annev is an idiot
- The relationship between Annev and Myjun is confusingly weak
- The end leaves a lot of questions open; like so many that I wish there were a few more answers to give a strong reason to read the next book
- The lore-building around the gods is amazing and fascinating
- There is non-stop action and important moments in this; you won’t be bored
- I want more magic!!!
I think I can easily sum my overall answer as I like the world, and I don’t like Annev. Annev annoys me as a character with his inconsistency and willful idiocy. The amount of times he would say he had decided and fully committed to a plan only to say two sentences later that there was no way he could follow through with that plan just about gave me whiplash. I can forgive some of his idiocy in chalking it up to “he’s a teenage boy,” but basically see everything relating to Myjun for further examples of how annoying he is. Overall he seems like a fairly weak-minded person, who is easily swayed by others’ words and actions.
Smaller issues arose in here that took me out of the story. I had to work hard to suspend disbelief at times, like the fact that only about three days passed in terms of the story, and in those three days Annev slept for maybe 3 or 4 hours. That would be rough for anyone, but in his case he was doing constant high-intensity running around and fighting, life-or-death stuff, so how the hell is he not falling down tired?! Apparently the twist is that Annev is actually Jack Bauer.
The ‘romance’ between Annev and Myjun was weird. Ignoring how Annev acknowledges his many bad ideas and just chooses to stick his head in the sand about them, it all seemed to come out of nowhere and really intensely, too. From what we get in the story, they can hardly ever talk to or see each other and have only been “courting” for like 6 months. Myjun may have become the most interesting character in the last few chapters though, and I will probably pick up the second book JUST to see what happens with all that craziness at the end.
The end. Man. I’m fine with not giving everything away, but there are still so many questions and unexplained aspects that it didn’t really have a lot of pull to read the next book. The events we end on, and presumably would pick up on, were pretty mild and we have no idea what they matter. I wanted more of a Big Reveal kind of moment so that you’re blown away and hooked and cannot wait to see more now that you know The Secret. As it is, I’ll read the next one, but I probably won’t be tracking it’s release date and I’m not really salivating to find out more.
Ok. I know that sounds like a lot of me listing out so many things that I disliked or that annoyed me, and honestly even I’m surprised by how much I had given how much I did actually enjoy reading this. I loved the interesting side characters, and I wish some of them had more of a starring or lasting role. I loved that any time I had to stop reading it was a bad time to stop reading, because there’s always something exciting or important going on. You will not be bored at any point in this, I promise! I loved the elaborate belief system that’s woven in through everything, and the larger-than-life humans who end up getting sucked into it. (Wait, are they all human though?) I love magic, and I love the idea of things like sharp air, and shadepools. I want more of that, which seems like it will be coming in the second book, and that is why I’ll likely continue with this series. The worst thing about reading an ARC is that not only do you have to wait until the next book is published, you have to wait until the first book is published.
Thanks to NetGalley and Justin Call for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.