2 out of 4 stars
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The third installment in Matthew Tysz’s dystopian series, The Turn, begins with our protagonists, Ashley and Scholar, comfortably adjusted as co-captains of a ship they acquired at the end of the second volume. While Ashley struggles to overcome trauma caused by Cattleprod’s actions three months past, Scholar is immersed in training his own guild of assassins, while assisting his best friend in all the ways he can, feeling woefully inadequate at the task.
Meanwhile, the author introduces Aurora and Mavon Defury, cousins whose unfathomable powers strike fear into the hearts of the gods. The cousins wreak havoc, in a bid to destroy the god Meret and his beloved universe, Anima Mea.
Tysz gets to show off his commendable world-building skills in the depictions of Anima Mea, a "universe of worlds within worlds." Essentially, it is a cohabitation of the same space by different planes of existence, all overseen by a time-and-space-hopping city that Meret resides in.
Meret has dedicated his kingdom to imposing punishment upon the souls reaped during the Turn, and, with the assistance of his allied gods, reincarnate those he finds worthy of new life on Earth, poised to conquer the blue and green planet on command. The so-called ‘Turn’ had been a worldwide catastrophic occurrence two and a half years prior that caused the death of the majority of mankind, leaving the survivors permanently scarred. The Cousins Defury, who not only survived, but also conquered Meret’s perdition, aim at saving the Earth from his dastardly plans, irrespective of the cost.
By the completion of this volume, the phenomenon of The Turn is clearer to the reader, as one is able to understand why for two years, the sun had been so dull as to barely support life, the ground often shifted, the rain was only ever a drizzle, and most importantly, why the turn occurred to begin with. While this does provide some insight, it nevertheless causes the tale to lose the mysterious allure; the intrigue of the unknown which had been, to be honest, its main appeal.
While maintaining some of the same themes, The Sins of a Master Race has diverted from its initial genres; it has lost its horror and psychological thriller aspects, in favor of a distinctively fantasy-mythology style. There are many who would appreciate that, but unfortunately, if one's fascination with the first book was influenced by the former genres, the adjustment may disappoint them. It feels as though the tale is gradually morphing into something completely different, considering only resembles its predecessors in its final fifth.
I rate The Sins of a Master Race 2 out of 4 stars. The parallels loudly drawn between the relationship of the Cousins Defury and that of the pair of protagonists are overly predictive and painfully on the nose, not to mention, the author spends too much time emphasizing the uniqueness of the bond between Ashley and Scholar.
My penultimate complaint is that the time-frames assigned to various occurrences are impracticable. For instance, after training for barely two years in his adult life, Scholar is an assassin of unequaled skill. Also, the technology enjoyed by the post-Turn civilizations had been rather rudimentary for two years, yet Cattleprod takes control and in the midst of all his conquests, is able to bring the technology back to its pre-Turn glory, in barely six months. If this rebuilding had been so uncomplicated, why had it not been undertaken already?
Lastly, the series has surely become predictable; by this point we are aware that if the opportunity arises, Scholar will inadvertently choose to fulfill his self-assigned task of dispatching gods, and will accomplish the objective with unrealistic ease. Once more, the gods are not as formidable or infallible as the name would suggest, no less than seven of them having been slain by humans thus far. Their mediocrity is compounded by the fact that they typically plead for their lives rather pathetically at the very end. These reasons are why I could not happily give this volume a 3 star rating, as I did its predecessors.
On the other hand, I appreciated that the emotional aspects were developed better, with attention to minute gestures, thoughts and actions, which inspires a feel of plausibility. Furthermore, romantic facets of the relationships between certain characters are delved into. As a plus, we have an opportunity to see different perspectives of people, like Cattleprod, who turns out to be a man not entirely devoid of honor or scruples, rather, one haunted by his past mistakes, who always honors his accords and pays his dues.
Additionally, subplots hinted at in the first novel unfold beautifully and integrate with the overarching storyline to form an intricate and rich narration. The best example of this is the tale of Jasper Rose, a survivor of unthinkable violation by scientists and laymen alike. His story, initially a macabre one, is still intriguing, not to mention hugely promising, and seeing as I expect his participation in the sequel, my greatest hope is that he is not underutilized.
As usual, Tysz’s use of language is remarkable. The words of his characters are attractive in their simplicity, while compelling in their truth, such an example being, “The greatest blasphemy is the destruction of optimism.” The author’s unique perspective is a breath of fresh air, like his description of the suffering of certain beasts, who “could feel pain, but it was like a layering pain, a pain on top of an already suffering existence; a deep stab in the back (would be) just an added inconvenience.”
This book is best suited for adult fans of the fantasy and dystopian genres. I would not recommend it to anyone who has not read the preceding volumes; The Turn and The King of May.
To conclude, I shall leave you with the powerful words of Scholar, “We’re going into that world. We’re going to experience it. We’re going to enjoy it. And then we’re going to conquer it.”
The Sins of a Master Race
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