REVIEW: Master of Restless Shadows #1 (Caledeonian Series) by Ginn Hale
ARC review .
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.
WARNING FOR VIOLENCE AND SOME TORTURE, HEED THE WARNING.
Dear Ginn Hale,
This book was the only ARC I requested this year. I reviewed a couple more ARCs but those were offered. I pretty much never request ARC anymore, but for your books I always made an exception. I regretted doing so very much this time. If it was not an ARC, I would have abandoned this book long time ago, I was that miserable when I read it .
Readers, please note that this is NOT a stand-alone title. This is the third duology (or maybe there will be a trilogy, I don’t know ) in the Caledeonian series first being “Lord of the White Hell” and “Champion of the Scarlet Wolf”. I did not reread the previous books before starting this one, but I certainly was not confused when I was reading this. Irritated? Yes. Confused? No, I was not.
This book does not continue the specific story dealt with in the “Scarlet Wolf” books, but it certainly continues the overall story arc which is the way I see it is a fight against tyrannic evil, fight for the better world for as many people as possible. I certainly do not expect fluff from Ginn Hale in general, and from these series in particular. For crying out loud “Lord of the White Hell” was a story about a band of school boys and was the lightest in tone overall amongst three parts of this series, but innocent person being possessed by evil and saving him from that possession was still front and a center of the plot.
So I did not expect fluff, but what I expected was *some* lighter moments to give me as a reader a break from the constant misery a lot of Caledonians are in due to the power hungry sadistic politicians who only want more power and of course decent people are trying to fight them. I would argue that I did not get such a break at all in this book. Maybe once or twice . This book occupied 9028 locations on my kindle. Once or twice was not enough for me.
And when I say I got a break once or twice, I meant that we have the couple described in the blurb actually communicating with each other and I could see that they could be attracted to each other – couple of times during the book.
They are described in the blurb. I will be the first one to say that I consider the review which could be summarized as ” I did not get the book I expected to get” to be unfair. I think you should evaluate the book you are reading rather than the book you wanted to read, but I am sorry when I am reading the third part of the series and the first two parts featured prominent romance front and center in addition to the fantasy plot, I think it is totally fair to expect to see prominent romance in these books as well, especially when the blurb is talking about Atreau and Narsi, I think it is fair to expect a *romance* between them. I consider the blurb to be misleading so far in a sense that it led me to believe that we will see a romantic chemistry between them.
I fully realize that this is only half of the story. However this was a *very* long first part of the story and mostly it had been about political intrigues and power struggles so far. Which once again, let me stress I am perfectly content to read about. I was severely missing romance though.
Actually let me correct myself, there was another romance building and I would argue that the other couple had tons more chemistry than Atreau and Narsi so far. Which was so weird, because the other two men had a lot of issues to deal with before romance between them would be possible, if they would survive the war (I have no idea if they would survive or not, so this is not a spoiler, but pure speculation. I also have no idea if the romance will happen if they will survive). The blurb is silent about them and it will be very significant spoiler to discuss their activities and whereabouts so reluctantly I will remain quiet.
The writing about political intrigues and power struggles was clearly influenced by the American political climate, which is once again I totally get – it is impossible for an American writer to not be influenced by what is happening in our country and for that not to be reflected somehow in her writing. It was just such a depressing read for me though. See above about needing some lighter moments.
I also think that we are supposed to see that in the fight of throwing an evil sadistic ruler from the power one is supposed to take their allies where one can find them and not to look for perfect people, which I am in total agreement with. The side effect of this theme was that I really did not like most characters in this book including one half of the so-called main couple. Narsi was lovely. Atreau was not bad either, I was willing to give him more of a break than he would have given himself due to the work he was engaged with for the Duke of Rauma, but I just did not feel that he possessed enough charisma to be the lead character. I thought a place on the sidelines was perfect for him in the previous books even if I appreciated the joke about him writing “Lord of the White Hell” and “Champion of the Scarlett Wolf” as his memoirs of the sort.
It is really too bad it will be very spoilerish to discuss second couple, because I suspect (again speculation not spoiler) that the title of the book refers to one of them and not to Narsi or Attreau, which if true, I find the blurb even more misleading then.
And may I say just how much I missed the magic in this book? Oh the magic still exists as a very important part of this world, what I missed was the beauty of the magic shown in “Scarlet wolf”. There were couple of gorgeous descriptions, but that was it.
Once again we see characters from other books making a brief appearance as needed in person or in the thoughts of other people and I appreciated that appearances were part of the plot and not just a cameo. I also suspect that the themes from the first two books will be brought full circle at the end. I just hope that the second book will be less painful read for me.
Grade: B/D. (because the book is obviously technically well written and many readers will like it I am sure, but I was so miserable while reading it that I had to separate the grade for my enjoyment of the story from the rest of it).