The Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Posted by

This is not a story for those who want something light and upbeat — which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the title. Both the cover and the title looked very interesting to me so I decided to give this one a go.

What I got was a darker coming of age story in an academy that’s training its acolytes to detect magic, find magical artefacts and bring them back, and to find those wielding magic and kill them. Magic is thought to be tied to evil in this world… a long time ago there were lots of mages and magic users but that time has gone and now there are just a few left.

This culture also has a sinister take on those with disabilities or any kind of perceived malformation of the body. Our main character, Annev, was born without one of his arms and because of that his mother was murdered right after delivery, as was his father. He was supposed to be abandoned in the woods to die but managed to escape death because of his caretaker and magic user, Sodar.

Annev has to hide who he is or he would be stoned to death like his father and so he wears a magical prosthetic thanks to Sodar. It’s a delicate balance trying to learn magic from Sodar and keep that life hidden and live a second life as a student of those who would kill him for it.

I found Annev to be a relatable character, I did enjoy him and found that I was rooting for him. However, my god did he annoy me sometimes. I couldn’t fathom going along for as much brainwashing as he did. I think if I discovered murder of an innocent person was not just acceptable, but sometimes ordered by those in the Academy that I wouldn’t want anything to do with them.

The second thing that sort of got under my skin as far as Annev and his decision making/logic… the love interest. She abhors anyone with a malady, she is convinced that it’s truly a mark of evil to be maimed in any way, even if you got injured helping defend the innocent, or got it in a war, or an accident; it doesn’t matter, she will hate you. How could you love someone like that? Especially since they also almost never got any time together because there was a divide between the boys school and girls school. So, this was more infatuation to me than love and I don’t tend to like those sorts of storylines. He was willing to give up a LOT and was willing to overlook a LOT for a girl he didn’t really speak with often. I’m kind of salty when it comes to romance storylines, so take that as you will.

That said, I found the world building to be fantastic and one of the best things about the book. I find the hints at ancient artefacts and lost magics and people with extended lives to be my cup of tea. I really loved learning about how magic does and doesn’t work and I think there’s a lot more to come later on in the series. I’m pretty stoked about all that.

The prose was great, I found myself flying through this book. For such a complicated and intricate world I didn’t feel overwhelmed. The pacing was a bit slow in the beginning. I would say the first third left me guessing what the big picture looked like; the middle third sort of answered the question, and the last third was insane. This book ended in a whirlwind and not a happy one — but I definitely want to see where this is going and I’m definitely getting the second book.


  • Plot: 12.5/15
  • Characters: 11.5/15
  • World Building: 13.5/15
  • Writing: 13/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 12/15
  • Enjoyment: 8.25/10

Final Score: 80.75/100 or 4/5 on Goodreads