Master of Restless Shadows (Maya’s Review)

Title: Master of Restless Shadows (Master of Restless Shadows #1)
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: October 6, 2019
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Sword & Sorcery
Page Count: 406
Reviewed by: Maya
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5


Freshly graduated Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm has left his home in Anacleto and journeyed to the imposing royal capital of Cieloalta intent upon keeping the youthful oath he made to a troubled writer. But in the decade since Narsi gave his pledge, Atreau Vediya, has grown from an anonymous delinquent to a man renowned for penning bawdy operas and engaging in scandalous affairs.

What Narsi and most of the larger world cannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.

After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives.

I actually didn’t realize when I started that this is the same universe as the author’s previous books. It can be read as a standalone, but I’m guessing it would be better to read other books beforehand, because there are references to previous events. Considering how good the book is, that is not a hardship!
The book spans relatively short period of time, but it doesn’t feel that way as the stage is painstakingly detailed and vivid. It is a swirls of intrigue and conspiracies with added touch of fate of the country hanging in the balance. All characters are firmly gray, not good or bad, just people forced to act by circumstances they are in. They do the best they can with few choices they have. It resonates with reader.

The world building is exquisite. Plot and machinations abound in this rather intriguing fantasy world. The influence of church and religion brought in mind my history classes on times when Church did wield tremendous power. All of the characters are imbued with strength and sorrow. It gives them strong presence in what is a very lively story. It might appear to move slowly, like an intricate chess game, but there is meaning to every move and encounter and the flurry of events follows slow and inexorable unfolding of old secrets and promises.

In the midst of it all, there is a rather sweet romance. It’s somewhat out of focus as most of the story went to world building, but there is no denying its pull. It’s a bit of play on tropes of innocent ingenue and depraved libertine, except that Atreau and Narsi are more than that. I had a soft spot for Atreau. He is ostensibly jovial and reckless fellow. He is also loyal to his friends (maybe in excess) and hasn’t been lucky in love so far. He is afraid to try again. Narsi who has lot less experience is much more confident in this area.
I loved the way their relationship was set up! At the beginning, author alludes to them meeting years ago. I had my ideas about that, and it turned out I was completely wrong. It was unexpected, delightful and perfect portrayal of both men. I truly hope for happy end for the two of them!

The book does end in cliffhanger. I didn’t know whether to be annoyed or happy there has to be more of the story. To be truthful, I wasn’t that annoyed because the story was very, very good and I honestly enjoyed every page. I am hoping the second book will come out soon!

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Galley copy of Master of Restless Shadows provided by Ginn Hale in exchange of an honest review.

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