The theme read for the Unapologetic Romance Readers for July was a fantasy romance, so I put forward Master of Crows primarily because it was recommended for people who liked Uprooted. I loved that book, so this was an easy nomination for me. I didn't actually realize it was by Grace Draven, one of whose books (Radiance) we read before, until someone pointed it out. But it still got a pretty good number of votes, and so off we went.
The story follows Martise, an apprentice magician who can't actually use magic and who is enslaved to one of the highest magicians in the land. She's placed with Silhara, a dark magician known as the titular Master of Crows, when he requests help finding a way to kill a god. Martise is valuable because of her ability to read ancient languages, but she's also supposed to spy on Silhara, who's an enemy of the Conclave, and find proof of heresy so that the Conclave can, uhm, dispose of him. Silhara, in the meantime, has requested assistance even though he knows said assistant will be a spy because he's plagued by the god Corruption, who wants to possess him and enslave the world.
So. I wanted to read this book because of how it was recommended for those who liked Uprooted. How did it stand up? Hm... Well, I didn't like it quite as much as Uprooted. That book has an enchanting, fairy tale-like quality to it, despite some of its contents being quite terrible. Master of Crows didn't have that same vibe, though. It was darker and not as whimsical-feeling, maybe because the "enemy" was more concrete than the Wood was. It's also much slower than Uprooted is. Still, I quite liked the central romance here. Silhara can be a real jerk at times but I think he did redeem himself, and the Dragon of Uprooted was a real bastard in his own ways, too. The romance itself is a slow burn, with a bit of instant attraction but a real relationship blooming over the course of time and both parties reluctant to relate their feelings because of their respective positions. The romance is definitely more prominent here than it was in Uprooted, as well, which is something I liked and really what had me picking this up--you say it's like Uprooted but with more romance? Yes, please, I say! I also liked the world that Draven built up; the religious aspect of magic, the idea of killing gods, and the different cultures that she incorporated all struck good notes with me.
What I didn't like was how this set up some promises that weren't really followed through. For example, Silhara was supposed to a mysterious, dark magician, one of the most dangerous ever--and while yes, he's very powerful, he's really not dark and spends most of his time tending his orange orchard. If you're going to have a dark hero, I feel like you need to fully commit to him, rather than just brushing all of it off as just rumors. Also, I'd hoped to see a bit more emotional turmoil on Martise's part. She decides in pretty quick order that she can't betray Silhara, because she loves him, and there's really no waffling on this issue. Considering that the nature of her enslavement is that a member of the Conclave owns a piece of her soul, I think this would have been a bit harder of a decision to make, love or no love.
Still, I did quite like this book. I didn't like it as much as Uprooted, which was one of the most magical books I've read recently, but I liked it significantly more than Radiance, the other Draven book I'd read. I was excited to see this had sequels, and disappointed when I figured out they weren't true sequels but instead short stories, which just don't appeal to me in the same way. Sigh. Maybe some day.
4 stars out of 5.