Thanks once again to Doug Meeks, who has been kind enough to do up another reader recommendation post. I do love to see what others like, and hopefully these little posts can give some attention to a lesser known author or series who deserves the recognition. This time around, Doug chose a stand alone story from author Grace Draven called Master of Crows.
SUMMARY: (Fantasy / Fantasy Romance) What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target. Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him. Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love…REVIEW: We all have books that stick with us well beyond the last page; Master of Crows is one of those books. Released in 2009, this is not a new book and somebody did NOT tell me what an excellent book this was going to be. Let me clear up something and that is that all my all time favorite books have been epic type novels/trilogies/series where the hero/heroine struggles against seemingly impossible odds. That is where this book took me, as with most fantasy romance it is slow paced but the reason is that there is not the “MINE” moment you find in a lot of PNR/UF and so it is a more realistic slowly evolving romance based on days/months of interaction. Master of Crows held to this principal in an excellent manner keeping my attention while moving along towards a goal that becomes seemingly unattainable.Master of Crows is a wonderful fantasy/PNR romance with a great balance of rich world building mixed with a solid, steamy hot romance between the Silhara of Nieth, the Master of Crows, and Martise of Asher, a slave girl with a hidden surprise. This book slowly paints a unique world with Gods, priest clans, mages, giants, soul eaters who are dispersed among the story.Silhara is a sarcastic, anti-social mage. Martise is the plain, unremarkable woman sent to spy on him against her will. I wasn’t sure if the author was going to be able to convincingly pull off this unlikely pair. In the end, these two very different people suit each other well. The balance between fantasy and romance was well maintained.Since I don’t do spoilers all I can say is that they have to defeat a god, a ruling body of priestly sorcerers and a few personal demons to have a chance, the odds are NOT in their favor. So, for me this gets 5+ Stars on its ultimate entertainment satisfaction, this is not “love at first sight” romance (it DOES get there, but I am not sure there is even a kiss before 50% of the book) but it is storytelling at its finest and an ending that is richly satisfying. I love it when I expect little of a book and find it to be exceptional, the only other time in recent times that has happened was with Original Blood by Stuart Land.Bottom Line: 5+ Stars and it is a wonderful combination of action, romance, mystery and memorable characters that will stay with you long after the last page.NOTE: This is pretty much R Rated for occasional sexual scenes and although it is more erotic in a few places than some people enjoy it is far from the driving force of this book, it is almost an aside with so many things happening.Your Reviewer: Douglas C. Meeks