★★★★☆ | This releases on my birthday, yo.
Title: Master of Restless Shadows
Series: Master of Restless Shadows, #1; The Cadeleonian Series, #5
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: October 6th 2019
Genres: Fantasy / LGBTQ
⚔ Two M/M Relationships; all four have POV
⚔ Side Sapphics
⚔ Side Trans Man
⚔ Lots of Religion Talk; kinda parallel to Christianity & Rome/Vatican
⚔ Magic in a World without Magic
⚔ Court Intrigues
A childhood promise has led Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm to leave his hometown and journey to the royal capital of Cieloalta. Atreau Vediya, the man Narsi is chasing after, had a lot going on for him between the double life of a lousy author and the spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.
But with the royal bishop’s attack on witches, a physician is exactly what Atreau needs to stop a war.
➽ THE CIELOALTA AND THOSE WHO LIVE THERE
The action takes place in a parallel Italy with the Crown and the Bishop wrestling for power.
Long ago there was a big battle in Cieloalta. Since then the magic was cast out and the only acceptable version of it is channelled by the Church while the rest is treated as a heresy.
This places lots of power into the Bishops hands and lets him rid of inconvenient people.
We also get to see many aspects of Cieloalta while following four different protagonists.
Narsi is close to one priest that isn’t awful so he brings the good side of the Church along with the world of medicine and his perspective of an outsider seeing Cieloalta for the first time along with us.
Atreau shows us the underground of scoundrels and artists. Sometimes both at the same time. He knows the secrets of the capital and he learns them both while sneaking around and partying.
The Duke of Rauma brings us into the official court life. The balls. The daily duties. Politics. We tour palaces and look at marble statues with him all the while whispering in someone’s ear.
Ariz gets the worst parts — the awful people living there. We see him struggle and suffer in silence and learn that there is evil even in the most beautiful places. Or especially so.
The POVs are focused on men but all of them rely on amazing strong complex women and even though they’re not the focus of the story, their characters are really well developed.
➽ WRITING STYLE & PLOT
I skimmed a bit because of how it was written so I may as well join those.
This book will be great for people who love history. I hate history. There are so many names and titles and politics. I enjoy political intrigues but I have a goldfish memory when it comes to names so I couldn’t get so into it when I barely knew who is who for a long time.
But that is more of my personal failure so let’s put it on the book’s failures. It was interesting even though I didn’t always know what was going on.
It was also rather slow, though my attention span is different than other people’s due to my mental health stuff. You may enjoy the rich exposition. I couldn’t stay focused for too long at a time.
What I really enjoyed about the writing style was that every POV had a distinctive voice. Each of those men had his own way of thinking and tone. Also, it’s hilarious at times.
There were two relationships here.
The first one is Narsi and Atreau. They have kind of a budding romance and that at best; Narsi harbours his childhood crush while Vediya focuses on securing kingdom’s safety and starts developing some interest in the other man but his past attempts at romance make him reluctant and he places his country above individual people.
The other is Ariz and Fedeles. And, well, now we have the longing and yearning guys! Those two are like magnets and desperately want some closeness in their lives. Ariz lives under difficult circumstances though and he can’t hope from much from life so he can’t even get the hint if it hit him in the face (also involving himself with the Duke would be dangerous for both of them).
➽ GENERAL FEELINGS
I’m interested in the 2nd book as well as the other books from this world but (in my opinion) it would profit from some stricter editing as it would be better shorter and faster-paced.