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 . . .
Master of Sorrows is a fantastic debut novel. It is the first in The Silent Gods series.
Seventeen year old Annev de Breth is training to be an Avatar of Judgement at the Academy in his home village of Chaenbalu. Meanwhile his mentor and protector Sodar is secretly training him in how to use his magic, while employing him as a deacon. He must hide his magical abilities and his physical disability, or the villagers will brand him a ‘Son of Keos’ and stone him to death if they find out.
This is an original and exciting coming of age story with an interesting take on the theme of prejudices towards those with magical abilities and deformities or disabilities from those who are non-magical.
There are many imaginative tasks and unusual obstacle courses set for the teenage acolytes of the Academy, who wished to raise to the rank of avatar, which are really well described and easy to visualize. It was great to see Annev making moral decisions as to how he wants to proceed – should he help his less able companions or go all out for himself?
Both Justin T Call’s storytelling and world building skills are very impressive. The story moves along at a steady pace with everything steadily falling into place and making sense as the reader progresses. There are a few different settings used, the Academy, the woods, Sodar’s church, Janak’s castle in Banok and all of them are full of descriptive detail and believable.
The characters are well-written and most of the teenagers’ characters develop as the novel progresses.
Annev in particular develops from being a caring and sensible yet naturally curious boy, doing the tasks his mentor sets for him. He has to grow up pretty quickly and come to terms with his place in the community and what his ideal future could hold for him, and to realize the serious dangers he could be in if he were to leave the village, due to his exceptional heritage. We see him grapple with the morality of telling lies to his superiors and peers, keeping his true nature hidden, while trying to choose the best path forward for himself without hurting or endangering anyone he loves.
Sodar is a very likeable wise old magical mentor and father figure to Annev – thousands of years old and fiercely protective of his ward. His loyalty and patience with Annev knows no bounds.
Annev’s love interest, Myjun is particularly prejudiced against anyone with a scar or disability and I found myself wishing he would wake up to her innate nastiness and pay more attention to his mentor’s advice that they should flee the village.
Fyn is the typical school bully who eventually learns to respect Annev and realizes it is better to work together for a common goal than be all out for himself.
Titus and Theron are Annev’s loyal sidekicks and trusty companions, who begin to find their own strengths and stand on their own feet as the story develops.
Kenton is Annev’s jealous adversary. He will follow Annev as a leader because he has been ordered to, but feels no respect or loyalty towards him and leaves him to die at one point without thinking twice about his decision.
The story has plenty of action sequences, edge of the seat fights, both magical and non-magical, and witches, scary monsters and mysterious creatures coming out of the shadows.
I really enjoyed Master of Sorrows and I am excited to read the upcoming sequel, Master Artificer!
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About the Author
Justin Call graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with an ALM in Literature and Creative Writing. He has studied fantasy literature for almost two decades and is the author of Master of Sorrows, Book 1 of The Silent Gods tetralogy. Justin is also the CEO of Broomstick Monkey Games and co-designer of the games Imperial Harvest, Royal Strawberries, Royal Scum, and 8 Kingdoms. He currently lives in Park City, Utah with his wife, his two sons, his Great Dane (Pippa) and his St. Bernard-Mastiff (Herbie).