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Master of Sorrows

(The Silent Gods #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,093 ratings  ·  332 reviews
You have heard the story before - of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an
Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published February 21st 2019 by Gollancz
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Justin Call That depends what you define as romance. In the first book, for example, there is a romantic relationship, but it's not a true romance. It's …moreThat depends what you define as romance. In the first book, for example, there is a romantic relationship, <spoiler>but it's not a true romance. It's an opportunity for character growth and a chance to see two naive characters evolve beyond their imagined dependence on one another.</spoiler>

Within the series itself, though, characters frequently fall in and out of love, sometimes within the same book. Some relationships stick. Some don't. Some become complicated to the point that it becomes hard to define whether people are romantic interests or not. There are love triangles, hate triangles, and a variety of other intersecting lines. Despite all of those complications, there are still characters who I "ship" together, and the focus of their relationships (romantic and otherwise) is integral to their character arcs. Whether or not you define that as romance is up to the reader, I suppose, but I like to think that, yes, there are threads of romance in the series – though some are weak and some are strong.

But if you define romance as sex scenes, then I would probably say no, there are no descriptions of sex in the series (though, as in life, some characters may have sex "off-screen" and some characters may talk about sex using lewd or suggestive language). I don't consider that "romance," though, so for the purpose of your question, I'll refer to my previous answer.(less)
Justin Call Blackstone Publishing will release Master of Sorrows in North America in February of 2020 (Gollancz/Orion UK has English rights for the rest of the wo…moreBlackstone Publishing will release Master of Sorrows in North America in February of 2020 (Gollancz/Orion UK has English rights for the rest of the world except North America).

However, it is possible to get the hard copy version of the UK edition by either ordering through Book Depository (free international shipping) or by visiting and paying for shipping to the US. Here is a link to the former:

If you are hoping for a digital US release (ebook or audiobook), you will still need to wait until the book comes out next spring.


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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Sean Barrs
This is a very strong dark fantasy debut that will appeal directly to fans of The Poppy War and The Name of the Wind. It’s intense, mystical and brutal.

The novel is Asian inspired, depicting a fighting academy that has an eastern quality to it. The masters who rule their and teach their ways despise the use of magic and hoard it in their secret vault to protect the world from its effects. They hunt and kill magic users and will gladly slay an infant at birth if they bare the taint of magic. Th
James Tivendale
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: freecopy, fantasy
I received an uncorrected proof copy of Master of Sorrows in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Justin Call and Gollancz.

The narrative begins as we are introduced to the 17-year-old acolyte Annev. He is aiming to progress to the desired status of an Avatar of Judgement in this educational environment. The atmosphere he lives within, the classes he frequents and seminars he attends are to help him achieve this, whilst also being aided by the influence of his guardian Sodar and a varied
TS Chan
ARC received from the publisher, Gollancz, in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars.

Master of Sorrows was a remarkable debut which I simply cannot put down.

This book recalled so much about what I loved about classic epic fantasy and yet felt modern. The author has quoted David Eddings as his earliest favourite. Having read and loved Eddings' works myself, I can definitely see the influences from The Belgariad in this book; a prophecy, Gods and a coming-of-age tale of a young man destined for
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Actual Rating: 4.25 stars

“It is wise to fear what we do not understand.”

I am not sure that this review will do this book justice, I fell into a reviewing spiral and it took me many months to finally catch up with all the reviews that I need to write. I read this in May so I forgot some of the details but I did not forget that I enjoyed the book so much!

I am starting with the cover just because my mom commented on how good it looks and she us
Nils | nilsreviewsit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
C.G. Drews
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've been on such an epic fantasy kick lately, devouring IT ALL, and so this came at the perfect time for me to be so into the story! It's thickly epic and has harsh magic schools, forests of monsters, complex god lore, and a protagonist who manages to be affable and completely badass. It's quite a thick beast, but I found it really easy and accessible to read. The characters are mostly teens so it's a good crossover from YA to adult fantasy. It also plays a bit with some good ol' fantasy tropes ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Re-read update: Oct 13, 2020: Since I'm about to start a pre-ARC of the sequel, I thought it would be a good idea to re-read Master of Sorrows to have all of the material fresh in my head. We're just scratching the surface of a story with massive scope in lore, religion, locations, and carefully constructed rune-based magic systems. I was expecting all that upon revisiting this book. What I wasn't expecting was to pick up all the nuance, the subtle foreshadowing and the clicking of so many piece ...more
Mary S. R.
Dec 19, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy, dark, adult
You have heard the story before—of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

Um, THANK YOU???? The hero that could be the villain and the villain that could be the hero is what I need in every. single. book.

Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital
Nicholas Eames
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I did the audiobook for this one, and loved it.

While a few things tripped me up in the beginning (an occasionally "whining" tone from the main character and what felt like a long "here's what the gods did" exposition scene) I really, really enjoyed this book.

About halfway through I listened to a podcast interview with Travis which I think helped frame a lot things for me. First, the "gods" scene that irked me actually served a very important purpose, because it's mirrored later on from a differ
Dannii Elle
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

The synopsis begun thus:

"You have heard the story before - of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world."

But from the very first page I knew this was a book unlike any other I had encountered before.

Many elements remained that are a prerequisite for what I consider a stellar fantasy novel - a complex magic system, a fantastical ac
Justin Call
Apr 07, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This is my book. I rather liked writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Some things that may be helpful to know about this novel, its accompanying series, and my writing process:

(1) This is crossover fiction – both Adult Epic Fantasy and YA Fantasy. That's a feature (not a flaw); it's meant to appeal to both teens and adults. Tough cookies if you don't like that, but there it is. I tried to write something that both my 13-year-old self and my 30-year-old self would enjoy. I succeeded in doing t
Jan 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, dnf
DNF at 26%

(but since I spent 10 days of my life reading that much of this book, you can bet I am rating it even though I did not finish it)

Sadly, Master of Sorrows did not touch the right buttons for me. It all comes down to the fact that this book reads very slowly. Normally, I wouldn't mind if writing is good and characters are fascinating. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Not only main character Annev is boring and super annoying but also there is none world-building. This unfortunate co
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I need to gather my thoughts to review this.
Hiu Gregg
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-releases, arcs
I’ve had my eye on Master of Sorrows for quite a while. The whole concept of a hero destined to become the villain, and the struggle of fighting against that “destiny”… that’s the sort of thing that speaks to me.

But y’know, for a book about a boy destined to become The Great Evil, this is a remarkably relaxing read. There’s a lot of stuff in here that feels familiar, as though it’s pulling from or influenced by classic epic fantasies. And yet it feels fresh. It’s just familiar enough to get you
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Every master has an apprenticeship

* *
2 / 5

The premise of Master of Sorrows was intriguing: a boy missing an arm in a world where those with physical scars and “deformities” are presumed to be worshipers of the dark god, with forbidden magic and a secret quest. But mostly I picked it up because I read a review that compared it to The Poppy War. The Poppy War was a dark, compelling, haunting and disturbing masterpiece. It literally haunts me sometimes. Master of Sorrows was nothing like The Poppy
Mike Everest Evans
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full review originally posted on

The Good: Destiny and dark magic, a fresh take on time-honoured tropes, a world brimming with history, belief and ideals, action sequences that dare to be different, and a plot filled with secrets and surprises.

The Bad: Bit of a slow burner at the start, and some of the early dialogues felt a bit like exposition (albeit necessary when covering this much world-building), but both are worth the pay off.

The Ugly Truth: A modern take on the
Jeremy Jackson
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, I needed that. The breath of air you get from MoS is both fresh and nostalgic at once; fast-paced and compelling, it reads like a classic fantasy without feeling derivative. It harkens to Earthsea and Name of the Wind, but its world is wholly original. We glimpse intimations of its grander scope, and the promised twist--that the Chosen One is prophesied to be an instrument of darkness instead of good--is tantalizingly alluded to, but never realized. I assume this development will be expound ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, fantasy
It has got elements I like:

•High Fantasy blended with mythology
•Complex magic system
•Internal politics and secrets
•Magical creatures
•Master-apprentice trope, this was very well done.
•Protagonist with a disability

But, it was slow paced for my taste. Couldn't get into it in the first half, it was more YAish. Second half took a turn and got darker, pace improved as well. The main character made some questionable decisions which irked me. The idea of a traditional hero descending towards a darker p
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a captivating dark fantasy, set in a world where having magic is a curse and a proof of evil. There are not a lot of books where magic is prohibited, and I like to read them. Other than the fact I was imagining that Annev was 19-20 years old instead or 17, because let's face it, he knew too much stuff for his age, I have nothing negative to say about this book. It is a whirlwind of action, magic, teens being teens (tw for bullying) and it's SO GOOD.

The second book of this series wil
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, epic-fantasy, ebooks
I enjoyed Master of Sorrows, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the series has in store - however something just felt a little flat, so for now I'm giving it 3.5 which I might up to four stars when I write a full review.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
This SOUNDED on paper like something I'd really enjoy, but in reality it was far from the case. I felt like this was too long, too drawn out and by the end I couldn't wait to finish. The funny thing is, there was plenty of action in the mean time; probably too much. Annev is always competing, fighting, discovering and the whole thing felt exhausting. At first, I was waiting for him to FINALLY achieve his life goal of becoming an avatar. (view spoiler) ...more
Liv | Books to Liv by
Rating: 4.5 stars
HEA: (view spoiler)
“I feared that knowing we might leave one day would stop you pursuing your dreams. Boys need dreams. When you become an old man like me, you exchange them for hope, and then spend your hopes on others’ dreams.”

Reading this book was a delightful experience. I knew it was about a young boy, Annev, born with a missing arm, that lived in a secret village where its citizens believed that deformities were the unmistakable mark of
Maja Ingrid
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fantasy
4-4,5 stars

“But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same? What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?” was what caught my interest when this book came. I’ve found I like that kind of stuff. While the book wasn't exactly what I expected, it was certainly a blast to read. And Annev was a gem to follow. I first thought he was around 15-ish, and not 17, because at times he does ac
 Vanessa  B. ☽♡
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads, netgalley
Master of Sorrows was a great debut by Justin Travis Calls. It is a dark fantasy that reminded of some other classic fantasy books, such as The Name of the Wind.

The book tells the story of Annev, an orphan who studies at the Academy in order to become an Avatar. Avatars are tasked with finding magical objects and hiding them from the world, in order to protect it from their corruption He is also hiding his identity and power. When he was born he was missing a hand, which was a sign that he is a
Jessie Sedai of the Black Ajah&#x1f940;&#x1f40d;
Thank you, Mr. Justin T Call, for restoring my faith in the notion that the epic fantasy subgenre is the single greatest literary device ever created.

I don't throw around the term "masterpiece" often, and for good reason, I mean c'mon, who am I to make that kind of call? I'm not a scholar. I have no English literature degree. I'm just a quiet, average girl wearing way too much cat hair who's addicted to fantasizing about living in a magical world where there's no modern day plumbing or Mallomars
Yuli Atta
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physical-tbr
This started out well enough and it was actually interesting to me for a long time. However, as I didn't see the plot progressing for 300 pages I gradually lost interest. I got to a point where I skipped 40 pages and I didn't miss a thing.

The first 240 pages are awfully repetitive and could've been cut in half. It's exactly the kind of thind I personally don't like reading about and I feel like I played myself dirty by trying a book that was so obviously not my cup of tea. However, I was willing
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, fantasy, 2019
I just could not get into this book, I found pages and pages of fighting and violence endlessly boring. I was relieved when I finished. I am bummed because I was expecting something different based on other reviews I read.

Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 5-stars
"There are two trails here, lad. One you know and one you don't. If you want to learn somethin' worth knowin', which do you think you should follow?"

Magic, action, Gods and prophesies: Master of Sorrows is an amazing debut from a new voice in adult fantasy. I was like many people hooked by the summary: "But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?" I mean, the hero of the book could be the villain? I'm sold. Still, I didn't expect to be so hooked. I had a
Christi M
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, fantasy
So many thoughts rolling around in my head in regards to this epic fantasy story that I don’t know where to begin. Too many, in fact.

Master of Sorrows follows a boy named Annev who attends the Academy where he is attempting to get promoted to Avatar of Judgment. To do so, he must win the Testing Day contest against his other classmates as well as friends. This is the last Testing Day he will be permitted to take part in. Failing to win means becoming a servant to the others and to make it worse,
Kal ★ Reader Voracious

Dreams really do come true! I was sent a beautiful and personalized copy by the author for review in advance of the book's publication in the US! Now does anyone know where I can buy a blacklight?

10/24/19: Bummed I have to wait until February 2020 for it to come out in the US, but super excited for this one!

...wait. Is this what it's like to not benefit from my privilege?
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Justin Call graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with an ALM in Literature and Creative Writing. He has studied fantasy literature for almost two decades and is the author of Master of Sorrows, Book 1 of The Silent Gods tetralogy. Justin is also the CEO of Broomstick Monkey Games and co-designer of the games Imperial Harvest, Royal Strawberries, Royal Scum, and 8 Kingdoms. He currently lives ...more

Other books in the series

The Silent Gods (4 books)
  • Master Artificer (The Silent Gods, #2)
  • Master of the Fallen (The Silent Gods, #3)
  • Untitled Call 4 of 4 (The Silent Gods, #4)

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