3 out of 4 stars
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Masters and Bastards by Christopher J. Penington is a book set in a fictional Iberian Empire, ruled by Emperor Constatine. The plot of the story revolves around a soldier, Andreas Marset, the main protagonist. Marset has distinguishing abilities that are considered unique for his "bastard" kind- an Arpathian race considered the lowest social class. The Iberian aristocracy was intrigued by Marset's exemplary performance in the military entry exams. He scores the highest scores, which have never been attained before. To confirm his intellectual capacity, he is subjected to more academic essays, which he further excels in at a tender age of seventeen years old.
Emperor Constatine also considers himself a "bastard". Although he is an Iberian by birth, he has been brought up in a low social class. His manner of speaking suggested thus, because he frequently uses a lot of slang and profane words, while addressing his subjects. Constatine believes that his legitimate sons are not capable enough to inherit the throne after he dies. He then conspires with his daughter and concubine to seduce Marset into impregnating Isabella, Constatine's illegitimate daughter whom he has sired with the Crone, his concubine. Will Marset give in to their demands? What lays ahead of the "bastard" soldier in a military characterized by rampant racist practices? Will he survive the deadly missions that he is sent to accomplish?
Penington's vivid descriptions of the characters and geographical topography of each setting, avidly enhanced his plot line. He assigned certain characteristics to a place, which performed the task of completely transporting me from the real world to a world of reality. The exceptional personality traits of his characters such as telepathy and psionipathy is also commendable, as it allowed the author to create an absolutely different social construction, free from conventional influences. Although the characters were assigned similar ideological beliefs and behavioural mannerisms, their ambitions and desires in life is what distinguishes them from other races. This investment in character development is what considerably places the book above other sci-fi novels.
The thematic concerns that dominated the plot included but not limited to: racism, political conquests and administration, extravagance lifestyle, murder, social manipulation, illicit sexual affairs, friendship and betrayal among others. The medium-pace of the novel provided enough space and time for Penington to develop his novel, without distracting the reader. I believe that besides literary entertainment, the author was interested in showcasing what happens in a typical society. He tried to make the issues addressed in the novel as relatable as possible, much as some aspects in the book are purely fictional.
I didn't find anything that I disliked about the book. Moreover, I applaud the author's extensive research evident in the book. Although it is filled with a lot of curse words and profanity, I'm inclined to believe that the words were relevant in revealing the character traits of different characters and singling them out from the rest. I found few grammatical errors, which I believe can be corrected with another round of editing. I also recommend the inclusion of a glossary at the end of the book, for terms such as "psionipath", whose definition I had to thoroughly research elsewhere for me to relate the characteristic trait of Marset with the definitions I found attributed to the word. With that in mind, I, therefore, rate the book three out of four stars. Readers interested in violent actions will enjoy this book. However, some murder scenes are graphically described and may prove distracting to conservative readers.
Masters and Bastards
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