Call has created a rare blend of story innovation, authentic characters, and a finely-crafted, diverse world that elevates the bar of what epic fantasy can achieve.
The first thing that jumped out at me about Master Artificer was the color of its cover. Black, I thought. Interesting choice. This was only the second book of a planned tetralogy, and there’s rumblings of twelve full books in mind for the series. Master of Sorrows was the introduction to the saga of Anneviog de Breth, a relatively innocuous start to his story as we spend just four days of his life in his hidden forest village. It is heavily implied that Annev’s life is headed down a dark path with many difficult decisions ahead, and I thought it was a bit premature to go with a black cover tone this early on. Shouldn’t this be saved for a bit later in the story? Book one has an Eye of the World feel with a Sandersonian magic system – relatively lighter fare on the scale of how modern dark fantasy is measured in recent years. How dark can book two really get?
Dark, my friends. Really, really dark.
If Master of Sorrows lit the match for Annev's path forward, Master Artificer sets the whole forest aflame.
This book is really three novels in one. There’s Annev’s crew, trying to do right by the world, struggling to gain knowledge and protect their own in a constant battle against those trying to destroy them. The second story is centered around a returning character who forms and uneasy alliance with a group of rogues to emancipate a city reeking of corruption through any means necessary. The third story goes dark, figuratively and literally, continuing the epilogue of Master of Sorrows and dragging the reader through worlds of shadow and violence, horror and revenge, and much, much worse.
There is a huge cast of vivid, multi-layered characters that enrich this saga in a strikingly cohesive fashion; it feels like there is less of a small group of main characters rather than an entire cast of players evenly contributing toward the advancement of the massive, overarching chronicle. It is a true group effort from across all cities and peoples involved that helps to earn the label of ‘great world-building.’ There are no rules to the amount of POVs leading the fray. Some claim large chunks of the narrative, others are one-shots. But they all serve the purpose of building a towering behemoth of a story, a magnificent foundation of a living, breathing world with contributions from all those involved. While some books with such a large cast might sacrifice nuance for the sake of driving the plot forward, Call ensures that even the minor supporting characters were complex, flawed, and relatable in their actions.
The character work is finely balanced with large story events that make the book difficult to put down -- *deep breath* -- prophecies, magical ability manifestations, monster hunting, political machinations, town rebellions, ancient religious lore interpretations, monk trials, a lizard supervillain, dimension-hopping shadow assassins, street rogue gangsters, fleshmetal monsters, memory chopping, demon hunting, dream walking, gods wars, 462 types of hybrid dualist mages, and so many damn magical items that there’s a magical item to keep track of all the damn magical items there are. And believe it or not, there are countless other revelations and explorations keep the excitement level high from start to finish.
There was a bit of a lull during one storyline – a whodunit mystery was given a lot more pages to resolve than I felt necessary – but that was quickly overshadowed by the multitude of concurrent threads being woven just outside the doors of that particular story line.
There were a couple of instances where I felt the story bit off a bit more than it could chew, at least from a reader’s perspective. It’s clear to me that Call has an extremely detailed, well-developed plan of where things are and where he wants everything to go, and those blueprints are undoubtedly going to cost a lot to print out at Kinko’s. But in some cases, Call teased out a few too many names and ideas with little explanation that became difficult to keep track of. This continued through to the end point of the story. There is little precedent when I felt a 900+ page book ended too early, but this book checked that box. There was early reason to believe that some pre-planned, major events would have been addressed in this book, but we were left hung out to dry before we came close to addressing most of them. Perhaps I’m greedy with how much further along the story I wanted to get, but now it looks like we have the map of how the final two books might play out.
Call does manage to leave us with some tantalizing cliffhangers that left me genuinely angry that I’m going to have to wait a couple of years before finding out what happens next, so that’s as good a praise as I can think of for an author. It’s a testament to Call’s ability to take such a small, self-contained story of four days in the life of a small-town boy in a tucked-away forest into a world-encompassing series of events over the course of one book that brings to light how much control Call has over his massive body of work, as well as his talent to mold it into a format that appeals to the reader’s sense of adventure and wonder.
If Master of Sorrows established a fresh new mark on modern epic fantasy, then Master Artificer carves a brightly burning glyph that will attract a bigger and bigger following for years to come. I can say through experience that there are numerous mysteries and rewards to unpack upon re-reads of these books. There’s more than enough content to establish a fan base of theorists, linguists, fan fic writers, artists, game designers and forum posters, which should flourish as Annev’s story continues to unfold in the years ahead. Call has created a rare blend of story innovation, authentic characters, and a finely-crafted, diverse world that elevates the bar of what epic fantasy can achieve.
Review by Adam Weller
1 positive reader review(s) in total for the The Silent Gods series
9.3/10 from 1 reviews
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