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.
“Master of Restless Shadows” is the kind of book that should come with the warning “This book will make you late. Do not read if punctuality matters to you.” There aren’t many books that have made me lose track of time so completely.
I read somewhere that this was a spin-off of the author’s well known “Lord of the White Hell” series and that you should read that series before starting with this one. Well, this is the first book I’ve ever read by Ginn Hale and I had no trouble understanding what was going on. I guess it might be set in the same universe.
I will admit it took a little bit to get into the book, mostly because the religion reminded me a lot of Christianity, especially of the Roman Catholic variety. I don’t like it when fantasy religions are so clearly inspired by real ones. But once I got over that, I started to really enjoy the story and when my tardiness started to become an issue. I still think “Sorry, can’t work today, I can’t stop reading” should be an official reason to stay home or at least be late.
The world-building is stellar. It’s very complex and, other than the main religion, utterly fascinating. It’s never confusing, though, and it’s perfectly interwoven with the plot itself. There’s no boring info-dump and yet you learn everything you need to know.
This is mostly brilliant Fantasy with a very slow-burn romance. The first kiss happens somewhere around the 70% mark, if I remember correctly. But that allowed for a natural development of the relationships and when that kiss finally happened, I was inwardly cheering them on.
The magic system was really interesting. It was a good mix of people who can do magic and those who can’t.
To sum it up, “Master of Restless Shadows” is a brilliant book. I do have on tiny criticism, but since I enjoyed the rest of it so much, I rounded it up to a generous 5 stars.
If you like well-written Fantasy with a bit of romance that happens to be of the m/m variety, then this I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book. Just don’t expect a super romantic love story with a Fantasy backdrop.
I’m a bit on the fence about the cover by Zaya Feli. I wouldn’t expect a Fantasy novel hiding behind it, it looks more historical. It still looks nice, though.
Book details: Kindle Edition, 671 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Blind Eye Books (first published October 6th 2019)