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 . . .
Masters of Sorrows is an unusual book for me. On the one hand, it’s a slow pace at the beginning for me. Many times, I felt when the story would move. On the other hand, as soon as I got halfway into the story, then it started to make sense. It’s got fantastic worldbuilding, great dialogue, and an easy-to-follow-along story. I resonated much with the imagery, the message of an unfair society, and the fact that disabled people have long been treated as impure in human history. It is a shame we live in a world where your disability is seen as your weakness when it is not and I applaud Justin for writing a fantasy that did just that. Then I could see the complex plans, the plots, the complexity involved and it gave me a much better appreciation of what the story is about. I thoroughly enjoyed the story once it started going and then on, it did feel slow-paced in some areas. Some scenes weren’t needed in my opinion, and some scenes could have been phased out. The story was slow-paced in description, scene, and dialogue, which I felt sometimes detracted from what the story was trying to do and tell Annev’s story. Many times, I also felt the narrator had his own bias about Annev as well.
The worldbuilding was rather complex at the beginning, however, it began to make more sense in the later stages of the story, I would have wanted a glossary at least for the names of places and a cast of characters which would have helped. Moving onwards, Justin has an eye for detail, noting the nooks, crevices of architecture, and the academy of Chaenbelau in which Annev studies. I was immersed into the father-son symbolic relationship which Sodar, his mentor, and a priest that runs the secluded village chapel in the Academy which is locked away from the rest of the world. He has been caring for him since he was a baby and he holds a secret that if revealed, would damage Annev’s life forever. Sodar was one of my most favorite characters and I eagerly await to see more of him in book 2. A man like him doesn’t die so easily. Sodar is always looking out for Annev, whether he is in this world or the spiritual world. I enjoyed that chemistry. The Elder Tosan who runs Annev’s academy is the biggest hypocrite in the world. The fact that these Ancients run an academy to retrieve magical artifacts and steal them, but declare magic a sin and anyone that’s deformed a Son of Keos is the stupidest thought. It’s no wonder why the Gods in this world look down upon humans in this world. I really enjoyed Crag, I love his name that Annev came up for him: Crack-Crack
Annev battles through constant emotions, turbulent circumstances that throw wrenches into his plans to marry Mjyun, Elder Tosan’s daughter. It, of course, doesn’t help that he’s trying to become an Avatar, battling the other boys that will become his companions in some form or the other. The entire story wrestles through that conundrum because Annev is talented, but he is held back by Tosan, who views Annev as being corrupted by Sodar’s influences. Annev can think for himself, something which I like. This novel could be characterized as a YA novel, but it isn’t. Quite frankly its characters can think for themselves if I’m rather honest. I enjoyed so many characters, some scenes made me laugh. Scenes which made my eyebrows go up, scenes in which I did not enjoy Annev’s love obsession with Mjyun when he can find the right woman, and I was right there with Sodar groaning at Annev’s mistakes. But when you’re young, you don’t know half the time what is right and what is wrong. When you’re an adult you realize the world is a blank slate, not everyone is good or evil, but there are plenty of humans willing to do more for greed and desire than anything else and that’s where Annev finds himself to be really.
Overall, this is a great story. To try the summarize the entire story would take eons because it is a fantasy epic. I enjoyed this, and I think you will too 😊