3 out of 4 stars
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Humans have colonized the planet Poltervaut after the destruction of the Earth. Iberia and Scythia, the two kingdoms are sworn enemies. However, they now face the threat of invasion from the Vulgari, a feared alien species. They must unite their forces if they are to resist invasion. Humanity’s trump card is the presence of a handful humans who possess the gift of ‘inseligence’, i.e telepaths, whose power includes manipulation of fire, electricity, mind, et cetera. Will they be able to put aside their differences?
Masters and Bastards by Christopher. J. Penington follows seventeen year old legionary Andreas Marset, an Arpathian bastard (which is a race looked down upon), and a powerful ‘psionipath’, as he rises through the Iberian ranks based on his strategic mind and combat prowess. Due to his superior powers he is made use of in political powerplays despite his reservations. Initially only a low-ranking grunt, he is promoted as he proves his mettle in the numerous battles he wins. Though difficult for the snotty Iberians and Scythians to stomach that a lowly Arpathian could rise so high, they learn to acknowledge him as a talented yet dangerous asset. Andreas is smart in his dealings with people, shutting some up when required, and treading carefully since everyone seems to be interested in him for their own gain. Although in matters of the heart, he is but a fool.
Intended to be the first book in the ‘Marset Chronicles’, I think the author did a fine job of capturing the essence of human nature which doesn’t change no matter which world they exist in, including sloppy politics, selfish motives, changing loyalties and much more. The story takes place across multiple planets, Poltervaut, Gideon and Rubicon and features intergalactic travel between systems. I think the author was appreciably creative in his world-building. I especially found it interesting how he had the telepathy manifest itself in Andreas’ brain. The telepathic powers complement the story culminating in a telepathic battle at the end of the book. Admittedly, it can seem a bit cliche.
The initial pacing is slow as the reader is introduced to the characters and the world, but once it picks up pace, it has you on the edge of your seat. There are a number of conspiracies involved. Just when you’re sure about someone, something turns up making you doubt your views. Paradoxically, at the same time it can be predictable too. Although sufficient on its own, there are a few questions unanswered and the ending left me a bit unsatisfied. I would like to see how the author proceeds in further series.
The thing I most enjoyed about the book was the obvious military influence. The discipline of the men, their way of life, their way of letting loose, the rough language yet obvious respect for superiors and camaraderie from fighting together on the battle field, I was pleased with how it was portrayed. Even the execution of the battle plans, the strategic plays and victories by gauging terrain was well thought out. Readers who appreciate such tropes would particularly enjoy this. Despite telepathy being a superpower, the grand victory was won only by the dedicated military.
What I didn’t like about the book was I felt that Andreas was too overpowered in his telepathy. Granted, he had those powers taking a toll on his body, I would still have liked for him to have more limitations.
I would rate this book 3 out of 4 stars as I feel it could be made more interesting with a few tweaks. Additionally I think the author could have done a better job of inculcating the telepathy in the rest of the story. But overall I enjoyed it. The presence of multiple errors, more than 50, was enough to leave a bitter aftertaste. For example, a mountain pass is sometimes referred to as ‘Tigesis Pass’ while sometimes as ‘Tagesis Pass’. A few sexually explicit scenes and the presence of not too over-the-top profanity makes me caution against children reading it.
Masters and Bastards
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