3 out of 4 stars
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Masters and Bastards by Christopher J. Penington is a science fiction novel set several millennia in the future on another planet. Andreas Marset is a young legionary in the Iberian Empire's army with little hopes for his career because he's from a lower caste. When he's summoned before the Imperium, he discovers that Emperor Constantine himself has important plans for him, connected to Andreas's mental gifts.
The novel starts in a way that makes it almost look like a fairy tale, with a boy from a lower caste suddenly mated to Princess Isabella because he's someway special. It would have been easy for the author to fall into clichés that were already used in a number of science fiction stories. I appreciated how Christopher J. Penington avoided the trap of such clichés creating many twists and turns throughout the novel.
Intrigue and deception are basic elements of the novel. From the beginning, it's clearly stated that Andreas Marset has some special mental gifts, but everything about them is revealed slowly, bit by bit. As a legionary, Andreas gets involved in the war against the Scythian, another human power. That shows the perverse logic behind the Iberian Empire's decisions because a war is considered better than an alliance to unite human powers before the upcoming war with the Vulgari, an alien power.
Andreas is also at the center of a number of machinations and part of his problem is understanding who are his friends and who are his enemies. There are factions within the Iberian Empire with different agendas, and some people want to get rid of Andreas. His path is full of obstacles with twists and revelations about the people around him.
In that future, many technologies seem similar to the ones we have on Earth, but they can travel among the stars in relatively short times through wormholes. That's why interstellar wars are possible and are an important part of the novel. Andreas's growth passes through those wars.
All the elements mixed up by Christopher J. Penington in his novel create a story that in my opinion is very engaging because it's fast-paced and full of surprises. Sometimes it's dramatic, sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's focused on Andreas's personal story, sometimes it's more about big wars. The language is strong and there are sexual contents, so it's a novel meant for adults.
I think the novel is excellent, but it needed one more round of editing because I found several errors. That's why my rating is only 3 out of 4 stars. For its contents, I recommend it to anybody looking for a great science fiction story.
Masters and Bastards
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