Annev is a student at the Academy of Chaenbalu, where he has been training to be a warrior while also studying religion. He also has the attention of Myjun, a girl at the Academy who he someday hopes to marry. Annev has hopes for a nice life, but he also has a dark secret he has been hiding from his fellow classmates and Masters since birth. At present, he is close to graduating from the Academy and is doing everything he can to ensure the life he has planned comes to fruition.
Alas, fate has other plans for Annev, and a series of events forces him to make some hard choices. Now he is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: accept his destiny or fight for the life he has built at the Academy. The choices Annev makes will not only affect him, but it might also determine the path of those around him.
Master of Sorrows is a story of magic, mayhem, and prophecy. One boy’s choices may determine the fate of the world. What will he choose when destiny calls?
Master of Sorrows follows the story of Annev, a student training to be a warrior and a scholar. He has to navigate all the normal trial and tribulations of someone in his position: fighting with his peers, talking to girls, annoying his Masters – being a teenager. At the same time, he is harboring a secret that could get him killed. When he is sent beyond the walls of the Academy (which is protected by a magical barrier), things start to get REAL fast. Annev comes in contact with a witch who tells him of an ominous prophecy and meets an old friend of his mentor. It turns out, has life has not exactly been what it seems. Given new information, Annev has to make a decision, but he is torn between his old life and the prospect of starting something new.
To me, this book was incredible read, and the genius of it lies in the different layers created by author that kept me intrigued. That starts and ends with Annev as the main protagonist, as the reader experiences his adversity along with him. His life at the academy is not easy to begin with as he has to deal with bullies, rivals, girls, training, differing Masters, exams and tests. Once the story gets into the broader scope of things and Annev learns there is a prophecy that may apply to him (and not a good one) the story amps up from there and that adds even more complexity to the narrative. As a reader, this ensures I always have something to look forward to in the story; when Annev is at the Academy, he is dealing with the issues he has there, and when he is away his story focuses on the destiny piece of the narrative. And oftentimes he is dealing with both at the same time; either way, there is no lull in the story (once you get into it), and it leaves the reader always wondering what is going to happen next.
The character set is really well-written and diverse, which is an important characteristic for a story such as this one. Annev as the main protagonist is especially well-done, as there is so much put into his story. His history is significant, and he deals with his dark secret in every situation that comes up. Annev is also pulled in a million directions at the same time, and very often it seems as though he is both running toward his destiny and away from it at the same time. During the course of the story, Annev is so divided it feels as though he is constantly torn in pieces, put back together, and ripped to shreds again. As a reader, I really came to care for his story, along with the rest of the cast. Due to the nature of the world building, it is difficult to know who to trust. Annev has enemies within and without the Academy, and he also has friends and mentors. But if his friends knew the truth about him, they could turn on Annev and make his life even more difficult than it already is.
Another great aspect of this book is the overall storytelling and the author’s use of narrative devices. I do not want to give too much of the story away, but there are many examples of this: rivals who are put in situations where they are forced to get to know one another, when they otherwise would not; using a sort of magic school as the background for the story, which leaves the author with many options for character and plot choices; Annev as innocent victim of fate, falling into both hero and villain roles in almost all aspects of his life. These are just a few of the ways the author makes purposeful writing choices that move the pieces around the chess board.
The only drawback is that the story was difficult to get into at first. It starts with a prologue, followed by a reading from a religious text, then the first chapter is a little bit of an info dump. The first 25 pages felt a little heavy, but once the story gets going it draws the reader in quickly. I found it to be quite difficult to put down, which is the highest compliment I can give.
Overall, Master of Sorrows is a great book. It is an interesting and complex story, and the writing itself is excellent. This was storytelling at its best. Highly recommended for all fantasy readers, and an absolute must read for fans of epic fantasy. I am looking forward to the next book in the Silent Gods series.