Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Master Of Crows

by Grace Draven

Master Of Crows is a romance in which an outcast is changed by a woman who initially comes to his cursed and lonely dwelling against her will. Silhara of Neith is an extremely powerful magic user, but he won't take any orders from the organisation known as the Conclave which rules most mages. Silhara is occupied with resisting the temptations of a malevolent god, Corruption. Because he needs help to kill this god he allows the Conclave to send someone, knowing full well that the person they send will be untrustworthy. But if he can't find a way to defeat Corruption he risks a fate worse than death as the god's puppet.

Martise is a bookish slave, sent by a Conclave bishop to spy on Silhara whilst she helps him to translate texts in his library. Travelling through a cursed woods to a crumbling mansion, at first the setting seems forbidding. The Master of Crows is hated and feared by the Conclave, who think he is into dark magic, and to begin with Martise finds him abrasive and scary. But she has to stay because she has been promised her freedom if she can report back anything that can be used against Silhara.

Martise is consistently described as plain by everyone around her, although she has an extraordinarily attractive voice. It's a fairly unusual choice for a romance. She is also believed to have a magic Gift, which could mean anything since at the beginning of the story her magic has yet to show itself in any way whatsoever, despite her years of study.

The romantic part of the story is a slow burn. The story has some faint echoes of Beauty and the Beast, more to do with the emotions it evokes and the cursed setting than in its exact plot points. The narrative alternates between Silhara's point of view and Martise's.

Silhara's household is made up of a large dog and a giant mute servant called Gurn, as well as being surrounded by crows. Martise is quick to befriend Gurn and the dog Cael as she settles in. Yet she doesn't get to settle for very long because they are soon involved in dangerous missions, or travelling to various places where they tend to get into trouble and make disturbing discoveries. All the while they are trying to keep secrets from each other.

Smouldering looks fill the pages and pent-up sexual tension grows chapter by chapter. As a result of some revelations, the story builds up to difficult choices for our main characters and a showdown with the forces of evil. The god Corruption is determined to take possession of Silhara, and it will take a major sacrifice for the mage to beat him and keep the rest of the world safe.

In between highly charged magic battles and steamy romantic scenes, Grace Draven has found ways to include Silhara's friends and family in a way that makes him seem more human and rounded, with extended family who have cultural differences to the one Martise is used to. The book is full of domestic descriptions that lend the story a cosy feel, contrasting with the death and mayhem on other pages.

In spite of a few twists later in the story, Master Of Crows isn't unpredictable. It's a feelgood book designed to lift the reader's mood. Even when the characters are in danger, there is something comforting about the way each crisis draws the main characters closer together. The story is neither an intellectual challenge nor a gritty cautionary tale. Instead, it delivers on moments of sweetness, lust, and high adventure to create an enjoyable experience full of feeling.

26th May 2020

Book Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Books

  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy

More about Grace Draven