Title: The Last Grand Master
Author: Andrew Q. Gordon
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
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Genre: fantasy romance
Length: 350 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: I thought that the first book of this fantasy adventure was too verbose for my liking more often than not, missed the marks on the emotional developments of the characters and the main characters took the fated mates trope to the silly extreme.
Champion of the Gods: Book One
In a war that shook the earth, the Six gods of Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For the three thousand years since, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity.
But then a new wizard unleashes the power of Neldin. Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, uses dark magic to create an army of creatures to carry out his master’s will.
One by one, the sovereign realms fall. Soon the only wizard who can stop Meglar is Grand Master Farrell, the Prince of Haven, the hidden home of refugees. An untried wizard, Farrell carries a secret that could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.
While helping Nerti, queen of the unicorns, Farrell saves Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen to be Farrell’s mate. But Farrell approaches love with caution, and before he can decide how to proceed, Meglar invades a neighboring kingdom. Farrell and Miceral find themselves in the middle of the battle. Farrell pushes himself to the limit as he and Miceral fight not only to stop Meglar but for their very survival.
Let me say this – fantasy is one of my favorite genres, romance or not, and if it includes a little or a lot of mm gay romance, I am prepared to be twice as happy. Moreover if it includes magic, I am even happier. I love learning about new ways to do magic that come from the author’s imagination. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, Harry Dresden fan, Kate Daniels fan, need I go on?
I was *very* excited to start this book, but unfortunately I was mostly disappointed with it. You can see the set up of the story from the blurb and it was a very good set up. The battle between good and evil with magic in fantasy kingdoms, while not exactly new, still leaves a lot of room to do something imaginative and fun. Unfortunately first and foremost I just did not enjoy the writing style. I thought it was verbose in the places it did not have to be. It was especially obvious when the main character does magic. The writer describes every little spell, everything that he does to the smallest detail. As I said above I am the kind of reader who usually loves this kind of stuff, loves learning how the magic works; if I am complaining, it is because I felt there was way too much of explanation.
Since this is book one of a series (duology or trilogy, I have no idea how many books are planned), there were only two battle fight scenes in the book, which actually made sense to me. One was in the beginning and took up maybe first 15-20% of the story and the other one was closer to the end and took even less. I thought the pacing of the first scene was especially skewed because of over descriptions of the spells, I did not feel the tension, the speed, the emotions of the battle nearly as much as I would have wanted to. I thought that I was observing everything what was happening in the slow motion.
Also despite the multiple descriptions of the spells, I still have no clue how the magic works as a system in this world, no idea what are the limitations placed upon the magic in this world, what the magicians actually cannot do (because it felt like the main character could do everything with magic and I am not exaggerating). Now other people, other wizards could do less than him, but I thought it was because he was the most gifted and talented and “The Last Grand Master”, not because the other people had some external limitations placed on them.
This book has extremely fated mates, so extreme that they know that they are complete pretty much the moment they see each other (as the blurb tells you Gods sent them to each other, I will not tell you the details, but that’s pretty much it). If you want to read about two people slowly (or even quickly) falling in love, this is not the book for you. Now the blurb also tells you that the main character is cautious about proceeding in love with his mate. I think it is highly misleading; yes, each of them pays lip service to “maybe we should not move in with each other after a couple of days and plan a life together”, but it takes one minute to calm them down, literally.
I was also not happy that despite the writing being so overly descriptive, the book IMO missed the mark on the emotional developments between the characters. Oh I am not talking about the main characters talking about how much they love each other – they did it so often that I really could have done with less expressions of eternal love. No, here is one example: we learn at some point and actually see that the two characters do not like each other much. One would think that before we were told that they now actually really like each other we would see the change in their relationship on page. No, we are told that things changed and they are shown liking each other. I did not like that.
There is also a secondary character who dies at the end. I had a feeling that we are supposed to feel great sorrow about his death because we were told several times that he was like a brother to one of the main characters. The problem for me was that he did not have nearly enough page space in order for me to start caring about him and I just did not feel any sadness about his death.
I cannot recommend this story unfortunately.