Cover Image: Master of Sorrows

Master of Sorrows

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I received this arc for free. I enjoyed the writing. Its a strong dark fantasy debut novel. I would recommend to everyone.
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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review.  This book made me feel all kind of things for Annev. It did not start off on a foot for for him. There were things with this mentor, those at school and some internal struggle that he has to deal with. It puts a lot of weight on his shoulder and he is going to have to make a decision on where his life is going to go. I really want to see what the next going to bring. I still have a few questions, but that is a good thing when a books makes you think about what is going to come next and think you have it figured out and the author throws a curveball.
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This is a great debut for author Justin T Call. Plenty of magic and adventure. I appreciated how you were kind of eased into the story, rather than thrown into the fire with a lot of questions unanswered. Can't wait to see what's in store for the rest of the series.
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Master of Sorrows is the perfect book for fans of adult high fantasy. I was completely engrossed in this read. Each part of the book was introduced by segments from sacred texts within this world, and not only did that add to the incredible world-building, but it also allowed to show the author’s ability to switch from an archaic, more eloquent lingo to a more linear narration in the rest of the book, which was still some great writing.

As I mentioned before, I really appreciated the world-building, which had absolutely nothing to envy famous names in the fantasy genre. The religious and magical system was complex and filled with intrigue that tied in beautifully with the main plot, but what I loved most of all was the way the village was brought to life by the narration. I could see it before my eyes as I was reading, with its streets and its villagers, with all its imperfections, prejudices and obstacles to overcome. It created such a realistic frame for Annev’s story, and it made his struggles and his achievements all the more engrossing to me as a reader.

Speaking of Annev, this incredible main character was one of the strongest points of Master of Sorrows. I felt for him ever since the very first pages. His fears and desires were so easy to relate to, and it was impossible not to root for this cinnamon roll to obtain all the happiness the world could offer.
Which means that I was screaming in pain by the end of the book, naturally.
Annev was also the chance for some disability representation, which I find super important in all genres, but especially in fantasy, which is so compelling to a young audience! The author’s take on the theme was not only delicate and prominent in the plot, but also incredibly mind-opening and empowering!

I admit that at the beginning I was not completely sold on the supporting characters. Apart from Sodar, who acts as a mentor figure for Annev (and was one of my favorites in the book), I couldn’t bring myself to really care for Annev’s friends or for Myjun, who is his love interest. I was always more interested in the rivalry between Annev and Fyn (refreshingly, a rivalry that had nothing to do with the girl!), but I was happily surprised when, in the second part of the book, the secondary characters also went through important changes, both individually and in their relationships with Annev. I ended up picking a few favorites along the way, but I feel like it would be a spoiler to mention who they are!

To wrap this up, I really enjoyed this book. The only reason I’m not giving it a 5 star rating is because the first half had a much slower pace, which was enjoyable in most places but felt a bit dragging in others. But I still recommend this book to everyone who loves a good adult fantasy with a complex world, disability rep and self-discovery. Also keep in mind that this book is not romance driven if that is something that you look for in a book.
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Thank you, Justin Call's wife for supporting him with his passions, though the genre doesn't tickle your fancy, I know your encouragement allowed him to create a marvelous debut. 

At first, I didn't quite know where MASTER OF SORROWS would take me, aside from the blurb. Why? Well, when I noticed the Prologue and Part One before the first chapter I became quite terrified at the wealth of information about to be dispersed. Many writers or authors run for the hills or shudder at the word Prologue, however, Justin Call didn't.

In fact, the first flavor of darkness awaiting in this novel reared its ugly head in the Prologue, and the foundational history for which MASTER OF SORROWS is built upon was cast in Part One. There are darker evils in the world than blood and death; MASTER OF SORROWS simmers with the inner hatreds breed from closed-off cultural ideals. From the first step into the Prologue of trying to kill a child born with a deformity, then to that child doing everything to conceal and live a life acting as if he was normal.

Well, as normal as anyone with half a missing arm and a magical one in its place.

Annev, the main character, struggles with trying to be normal while balancing his past. Like any teenager does in modern society. The extreme want, the need to belong magnified by his hidden disability. This longing comes through with all of his predicaments, but the layering of his morals throughout his raising with Sodar contradicts so much that surrounds him.

Overall, I found Annev's character refreshing, uniquely gifted for speaking around half-truths, and repeatably flawed. MASTER OF SORROWS is the perfect read to challenge the wrong mindsets of wanting to belong rather than embrace once's differences and be the individual fate intended on their own terms, and that sometimes those issues aren't always resolved quickly or easily.

5/5 stars! I truly look forward to the sequel.

I received an eARC of MASTER OF SHADOWS by Justin Call in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of the review.

Let’s be honest here. If it was great or sucked, I have no problem writing it out. Want to check out the Cover Review for MASTER OF SHADOWS, then check out The Mother Cover Lover Blog at www.jenarcollins.com .

Review will post 5/8/2020
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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, which has not altered my opinion of this book.

I am a sucker for any sort of magical school trope. I love reading about magic schools and the adventures that happen in them. There is also the bad habit I have that causes me to place many of my main characters into the appropriate Hogwarts house, Annev is a Hufflepuff, pure and simple. He never leaves his friends behind and always believes the best of everyone. All this while he is hiding a secret that would turn the entire city against him.  What is this secret? Well, we find out pretty early on, but he was born without one of his arms, so his father figure has stolen him a fake arm. According to superstition, anyone who is disabled in such a way is the child of their equivalent to the devil and is subsequently kicked out of the city. This city is surrounded by a forest that bends the fabric of time and the same path can take you 20 minutes one day and 4 hours the next depending on how the forest feels. There is also the idea that magic is not exactly something to treasure but also these students are brought up and taught to not like magic but fight against it. It's a bit of a backward system, but that's how the leaders felt.

I loved how the entire world was very well developed and I look forward to traveling to other parts of this world in the next books. Our main character is presented with many different options throughout the book and none of them are clear cut options, which made this seem more realistic. Each choice had pros and cons that Annev would then have to deal with. He also made choices that caused me, as a seasoned reader and non-teenager, to roll my eyes, but these choices felt true to his character and I really appreciated that Call stuck to the characters' personalities and what they would do were kept as accurate. Very well done.

There are only two major things about this book that bothered me, which is not bad at all in a new fantasy series. My first complaint about this book is that the first part of this book was just a bit uninteresting and slightly dull to me. Once I got through the first 100 pages or so I really got into the story. The second one was the female rep, of which there was basically none. The only female characters in this story were designed as love interests. While the girls' school is proved to be better at teamwork than the boys, that's about all we see of them. They don't make another appearance. I understand that this is due to how Annev would run into the females but I still wish there had been something. I am hoping that in the next few books there will be more female characters that aren't simply for the love interest.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend that fantasy readers read it! There is magic, disability rep, and a world so well developed that I was able to immerse myself into it without much difficulty. I do plan on continuing with this series, of which it looks to be four books long. Overall 4 out of 5 from me.
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2.25/5
I was provided this free for review by Netgalley, but all opinions are my own.

Annev is an apprentice and ward to Sodar in a terrifying, magic hating backwoods town where having any physical abnormality or deformity marks you as, in plain terms, a very shameful sinner. Annev is also a student in the village's school where the focus is to kill anyone with a deformity and to find all magical items for safekeeping. At it's core, this novel is about young Annev growing up and becoming more than a victim.

Now let's get into the meat of this. First off, this book makes no sense, or at least the world doesn't. Outside of the adequate writing style and just fine overall plot, the execution is just bad. The town Annev lives is in centers a lot on fighting, as the students are expected to learn to fight so that if they pass and become Masters, they're able to safely retrieve the magical artifacts. Fine, right?

Wrong- because to be injured, even after birth, is to be marked by Keos (the devil, basically). This is trouble outside of Annev literally only having one arm and using a magical one to avoid detection, because a school that centers on FIGHTING with SHARP WEAPONS should not also center around a culture of HAVING NO INJURIES. A main character is shunned by others after receiving a facial scar, despite it happening at school. This makes him marked by Keos.

You might say, well, Sydney, obviously the author was creative and these students have to be very careful. I might agree with you if 1) the author had chosen to make only deformities at birth devil touched, 2) certain deformities devil touched. For literally every injury you incur, you are marked by the devil in this village and considered a second class citizen. Who in their right minds would be willing to be a fighter, or do anything dangerous at all when having just one injury, like a simple scar, marks you and makes you worth less than other humans?

Outside of that shaky aspect to the world building, I felt like the characters were lacking depth, and the dialogue more than lacking. For instance, take Annev's love for Mjyun, daughter to the school's headmaster. Every time he thinks of her, or they have on page interactions, anyone can tell that there is no chemistry between them. I think that was the point, but because Mjyun is never developed and fully realized, she only says a few lines here and there, it makes Annev seem incapable of reason despite how he considers himself a tactician. There wasn't even any normal, "i'm a teen and you're just hot" aspect to their relationship either. Annev talked a lot about how much he loved Mjyun, but he never really had a reason outside of well she's a girl. I'm not the best at understanding romance, but I need more reason than that, even if the characters are teenagers. They will at least have SOME reason to be together, like attractiveness if nothing else.

There is a prominent villain character that causes a lot of trouble for Annev, but that relationship remains undeveloped at the end. Truly, there being no real other villains in the story until the last 10% of the book that sort of came out of nowhere.

Because the characters and plot are so underdeveloped, we don't know much about any villain. Part of this I suspect is because this is a series, but Annev and this character don't ever really resolve anything, or create a strong enough relationship (good or bad) that makes me care. This made it really hard to connect with the plot and characters. I would have loved if this story focused on Annev discovering his school is evil and fighting against it. I think really developing Annev and focusing a lot on other students and then later on in the book discovering there was more to the village than he thought. I would have loved a more focused plot. This covers a lot and despite being close to 500 pages, still manages to be vague.

Finally, the character that at antagonizes Annev a lot is underdeveloped and therefore, again, not a convincing villain, much like Annev not being a convincing hero. Fyn is constantly referred to by his dreadlocks and huge size but outside of that what do we know about him? (He's also referred to in the middle of the book as "tanned" so in terms of this being a diverse cast, I'm unsure because anyone can get a tan).

Overall, I did not enjoy this book, I don't understand how a book about a FIGHTING SCHOOL thinks that any deformity whatsoever makes you devil touched, and I feel like this book should've been far longer to cover everything covered.
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Master of Sorrows by Justin T Call follows a boy who is deemed evil based on the physical deformity he was born with. The boy goes through many trials and tribulations to continue with a normal life and hiding his deformity.

To start off, I found the characters compelling and realistic for the ages that they are portrayed. I enjoyed some of the character arcs they went through and the way relationships were cultivated, such as moving from love to hate by the end of the book.

The writing was a little conflicting at times. The author would insert more complicated vocabulary to make it sound more mature but would also spend a lot of time explaining things that were very easy to understand. I didn't find it problematic, but it definitely pulled me out of the story at times.

The plot is where I have more complaints. This book didn't seem to have a plot other than following a 17 year old boy around. The plot was more reminiscent of a massive prologue to set up the next book. The advertising for this book is "will this boy destined for evil turn his back on a prophecy and become good". This prophecy isn't mentioned until 50% of the way through the book, and the whole book was used to set up that question. Nothing was answered. This book was very predictable too. Anytime something was mentioned, it was guaranteed to happen. Fifty pages later, when the characters find out, there are paragraphs explaining how they missed it and how it was so simple to see. Yes, I know. I saw it fifty pages ago.

The world building was nonexistent in this book. For 90% of Master of Sorrows, we are in the same village. There are other towns mentioned but nothing is expanded on for culture or customs. Additionally, the magic system in this book was poorly explained. There are three forms of magic that mimic the three gods. I couldn't really tell you how they differ from each other and why one is considered evil when the others are not. The magic was so poorly explained that I was expecting random magical things to happen like a resurrection with no explanation of how it could happen.

Overall, this book was just a build up of background information for the next book where the answers posed in the summary of the first book might be answered. I'm half tempted to continue just to see if the reader is really given answers, but they will be strung along until the last book for the big reveal.
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I wish I had waited to read this until the sequel was closer to coming out. I love Asian inspired Fantasy and this one was great. It reminded me of The Poppy War but darker which is even better. The pace wasn't as slow as a lot of the fantasy books I read as well.
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The first thing that drew my attention is certainly the cover, it is brilliantly attractive.I will start off by saying this is one hell of a ride! it is a High and Dark fantasy with some elements of Sci-Fi, the world building is very dramatic.The plot line is seem-less with out any hiccups, the author's style of writing definitely adds a bit more to the already complicated plot-in a good way. It is really interesting to see character Arc of MC's, this is one of those books that require commitment which when you give promises a hell of an experience for the fantasy readers.In one word it is like dark grown up version of Harry Potter!
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"Master of Sorrows" is a welcome addition to epic fantasies. It's a coming-of-age tale of a young man who is destined for great things, but with a twist. Because it is a coming-of-age tale, we get to experience the atmosphere of a boarding school, which is another very popular and well-loved trope. Recommended for readers looking for a classic epic fantasy with a twist.
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This world is an impeccable example of what storytellers should be striving for. It’s dark, brilliant, exciting and fascinating and I loved every minute. I was nervous about the length of this one at first but it went so fast and never once felt slow. The way the story was consistently evolving made it such an entertaining read. The world building in this one sets the bar high, it’s truly one of those novels you fall into fully submerged because the depictions are so well written it feels very real. It felt like an old classic with modern twists around every corner and embraced some of the familiar storylines in fantasy adding an intensity and depth to them. Annev is one of the most fully formed characters I’ve ever read. He is genuine and kind but also naive and fierce, he’s not afraid to be independent and free thinking, he made this book for me. I loved the portrayal of his coming of age and the way his disability is represented there truly was so much to admire in how well written his character was. I was a bit disappointed that the female representation was lacking overall but I’m hopeful as the series progresses more female characters will emerge. I appreciated that as complex as this world and its history is, the way it forms is spaced throughout the novel and not all at once so it never felt overwhelming. I was so impressed with this one, with it’s dark magic school, forbidden artefacts, prophecies, monsters and religion it really checks off all the boxes for great fantasy reads and one I'd highly recommend to those looking for an adventure that’s as charming as it is fierce.
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The pacing and the writing were really solid, especially at the beginning, but then it all fell into rushed predictability. I also have issues about the attempts at diverse characters and the female characters overall.
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This book is a captivating dark fantasy, set in a world where having magic is a curse and a proof of evil. There are not a lot of books where magic is prohibited, and I like to read them. Other than the fact I was imagining that Annev was 19-20 years old instead or 17, because let's face it, he knew too much stuff for his age, I have nothing negative to say about this book. It is a whirlwind of action, magic, teens being teens (tw for bullying) and it's SO GOOD.

The second book of this series will be pure dynamite. This one ends in a marvellous opening that let your imagination picture every way this story can go on. 

Many thanks to Blackstone Publishing for the complimentary e-copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This book was so good. I knew I was going to love it when I first read the synopsis and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations.

Annev is such a great character and despite his deformity and not being accepted by his peers (who don't know about his deformity), he still tries so hard to be true to himself and treat others with kindness. He gets caught in his emotions of wanting to become an Avatar and not letting his mentor down. Until he is left with no choice but to be who he is.

I loved all the charcters. Each had their part to play in the story in leading it along.

There was no unnecessary characters or information just thrown in there to bulk up the story. Everything had a reason and brough so much to the worldbuilding.

I loved the relationship between Annev and his mentor Sodar, who reaised him. There was struggle and sacrifice, but above all, their was a love and friendship that couldn't be broken. 

The story itself was written so well with so much history and myth. The stories of the old gods and prophesies add so much to the story and without it all, it would have just been another fantasy read. So thankful it wasn't!

Justin T. Call is off to a great start with this enthrwaling debut novel. I honestly can not wait to read more of this world and any other works he comes out with.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Publishers for an arc of this title in excnage for an honest review
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I enjoyed this story. What first got me was the cover. I'm a reader who judges a book by the cover. Next, the character arc and plot points were what held my attention. The story flowed really well. The characters were relateable.
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This book is incredible!  Justin Call has developed a world onto itself and populated it with characters that speak to your heart.  Every reader hopes to find a story that will draw them in and challenge their imagination into "seeing" the characters as they travel through the day.  Master of Sorrows accomplishes this from the first chapter onwards.  It's a story of a young man who must meet the challenges of life to become a force for good or a source of evil.  His travel through the short period of time reflected in this book is full of choices that he must make quickly and how he works through the consequences.  An outstanding first book of what we hope will be a long time series.
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With everything going on right now I am definitely a little behind on my ARC’s, but I’m so glad that I was finally able to finish this one because it was great! As the first of a series, I think this book shows a lot of potential for what is coming next, and I can't wait!

I actually really enjoyed this book, and I’m excited to see where the second book of the series takes us! Justin T. Call was able to build a really interesting world that pulled me in right from the first page. I thought the book started off with a huge bang which I loved, but the rest of the first half was a little slower than I would have liked.To be fair, this book had a big job of setting up a huge world, so it did make sense that the first part was a little drier. That being said, I really enjoyed the second half of the book where we start to see Annev come out of his shell, and begin making some waves in both the Academy and the village. For anyone interested in a new fantasy series, I would definitely encourage you to give this one a try!

P.S. The cover of this book is also AMAZING, and I loved all of the maps that were included. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced copy of Master of Sorrows in exchange for an honest review.
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Master of Sorrows by new author Justin Travis Call is the first book in a fantasy series (The Silent Gods). I received an e-book of this novel from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I picked this book up because I loved the cover and the description in the blurb sounded very unique.

"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?"

This concept was in line with some ideas that I’ve had for some of my own fiction and I love to subvert some of the typical fantasy plots and themes. However, I found that this book didn’t do enough in that respect.

Annev is a young man who lives in a strangely isolated village, where he studies and trains to become an Avatar of Judgement, along with some of his best friends. This training involves solving obstacle course-like puzzles, practicing combat skills, and learning about artifacts and magic. However, the use of magic is forbidden, so the goal of the Avatars is to search out dangerous magic items and lock them away so that no one can use them.

As Annev nears the end of his training, the rivalry between him and other students heats up, as the rules state that only one acolyte can graduate to the level of Avatar. Annev has to pass his trial, but feels guilty that if he succeeds, then his friends must fail. He searches for a way to bend the rules while keeping ahead of his enemies.

This part of the book took much longer than I had thought it would. Most of the story occurs in Annev’s village, and we never get to see much of the outside world. The main narrative is broken up by short sections that relate the mythology of the gods, but I had trouble making this relevant to the current events in the book (although it does come together more at the end).

Overall, Master of Sorrows read more like a traditional fantasy quest-style tale than I had wanted. And while Annev has some dark aspects to his character and a huge secret, he is still a good person at heart. He tries to do the right thing all along, and while that engenders sympathy and makes me want to root for him, I’ve read that story many times before.

Master of Sorrows is the first book in a series but still reaches a satisfying conclusion to most of the events relevant to this volume. The greater story still needs to be told, and Annev’s ultimate fate is still unknown.
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I requested and received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

I must say I did not know what to expect from this book, I find Sci Fi and Fantasy are both genres that are hit or miss for me, but I loved this book from the first chapter!  I love the journey that Annev took throughout this book to discover who and what he is, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series; because I need to know what happens next!     

#MasterOfSorrows #NetGalley
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