3 out of 4 stars
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Masters and Bastards by Christopher J. Pennington is a science fiction story about a teenage boy Andreas Marset and his unwilling rise from a simple soldier to an Imperator (the temporary Emperor). Once he involuntarily becomes involved in imperial matters, some powerful parties wish to use him, others want to get rid of him, especially because of the supernatural powers that even Andreas is unaware of.
What I liked about the story was the idea of humans evolving from a simple DNA that was sent into space from our Earth as it was dying. In other words, an entirely new human civilization was born. I loved how the author entwined our history and futuristic vision and turned it into the eclectic reality of the New World.
There is no doubt that the author possesses a deep understanding of our history, especially when it comes to armed conflicts. I liked the idea that even a new human civilization, with the knowledge of the old one, still manages to repeat the same mistakes (racial and cultural segregation, lust for power, etc.)
What I didn't quite like were exceptionally long battle scenes that stretched for chapters, even if they were not much of an importance to the entire plot. Yet, I must admit, the skill of writing those scenes is impeccable. Readers who like war stories will certainly find those long battle scenes fascinating. However, for me, they drowned the main plot – the multilayered scheme to take over the rule of the world, and the impending invasion of a superior alien species.
Now, while the battle scenes were elaborated and brilliantly written, the intimate scenes just felt awkward to read. They were short and non-explicit, but still, quite mechanical and emotionless.
Nonetheless, the book as a whole was interesting and, although somewhat reminiscent of “Dune” (two women, where one is emperor’s daughter, a young boy, destined to become the leader), it had a unique idea of the new human civilization and unexpected twists.
The writing style was also great, but I did catch some grammatical errors. The author is good with words and storytelling. The dialogs felt natural, lively, and did not lack a sense of humor. The plot twist at the end was surprising and even shocking. The main character’s evolution from a humble, trembling boy to a powerful man with supernatural powers was well developed. Actually, every single character in the book was well developed and distinct.
All in all, I would give this book 3 out of 4 stars because of the issues I mentioned above. Still, I would recommend it to those readers who enjoy an interesting science fiction book interlaced with magic, for as long as they equally enjoy long battle scenes.
Masters and Bastards
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