Thursday, June 14, 2012

THOUGHTS on "Master of Crows" by Grace Draven

Master of CrowsMaster of Crows by Grace Draven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silhara, the "Master of Crows" is a reviled mage who finds himself in the unenviable position of being courted by an evil god. This evil god is rather determined to get Silhara as his enslaved avatar, so Silhara sends to the hated Conclave for an apprentice to help him find a way out. Martise, a slave owned by the High Bishop of the Conclave, is sent to his home in this capacity, having been told that if she finds evidence of Silhara's heresy, she will be freed from slavery.

I loved this book. I totally fell in love with Silhara, his bad-temperedness, his rumpled/scowling morning manner, and his directness with Martise. When he decided he wanted her, and that no substitute would do, he accepted it with no prolonged, tormented anguish about how she was a spy. He made the realization, made his decision, and then made his move. It was a nice change from over-angsting woe-is-me heroes, who anguish and act like jackasses towards the heroine because of their inability to make a resolution between facts of the world and their emotional needs. (end rant)

I also liked Martise. Her life has trained her to hold her tongue and be submissive, and her position as a servant/spy in Silhara's household reinforces this. Yet of course she finds herself being goaded into rebelliousness by Silhara's manner. And I liked how she could see through Silhara's claims of being immoral, and find humour.

Speaking of humour, I also really enjoyed how their relationship played out with rather humorous interactions that were intertwined with the plot. For example, Martise is trying to communicate with the High Bishop of the Conclave, who has told her that she must sing to his trained crow in order to send messages. Only, Martise has a very poor singing voice and Silhara's horrified reaction to it had me laughing. I also loved Silhara's attempt to assuage Martise's worry about her nudity when he is applying a salve to her sore muscles: he tells her that he had grown up in a brothel, and that unless she had something really unique, like three breasts, he wouldn't be curious enough to ogle her. I particularly loved how this came to be a joke between them when their interactions turned romantic. Like the previously mentioned interaction, this scene is fluidly interwoven with the plot - Silhara only notices Martise's soreness when he tries to avoid giving her magic lessons, and this avoidance was a consequence of his struggle with the god that is trying to make him his avatar.

As for the storyline, I loved how Martise's hidden magical "gift" (while it did come to save the day in the end), is, in the scale of things, a terrible thing that is of no use to her. It's so often the case that the hero/heroine in PNR realizes their hidden talents, and these talents are deus ex machina, For Martise, her hidden gift is primarily a way to bind and enslave her, and not a way for her to get power. So often these hidden gifts are escape hatches, and instead, Martise's gift is a terrible weakness. As a reader, I had expected it to be something wonderful, and when it turned out not to be, I sympathized with her as she grieved, and felt that her grief make her a stronger character mentally. This twist in the plot also introduced an (additional) complication into Martise and Silhara's relationship, as Silhara's magical disposition is such that he could take advantage of her weakness. Seeing them acknowledge this and deal with this (especially Silhara's piss-poor attempts at comfort) made their relationship feel much more real. I also love how Silhara, at this point, doesn't pull a standard alpha-male reaction and tell Martise that he'll protect her. Rather, he asks her to let him give her the means to protect herself.

The writing style was smooth and gorgeous. I'm really looking forward to anything else Grace Draven comes out with.

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