Master of None by Sonya Bateman is one of those books I knew I’d be rereading even before I finished it. An urban fantasy told in first person POV, Master of None is Ms Bateman’s first book and I loved it. Here’s why.
1—It’s All About Character
The characters are what make or break a story for me and I fell in love with most of Master of None’s as soon as I met them. Gavyn, our narrator, the world’s unluckiest thief. Jazz, his acerbic getaway-driver ex. Ian—Gahiji’an—the even more acerbic djinn who turns out to be a distant ancestor of Gavyn’s. They’re all great fun to watch argue. Then there’s Tory and Lark, the djinn and mortal lovers, who also spend a good amount of time arguing with Gavyn. Basically the only people who don’t argue with Gavyn are trying to kill him instead. Which brings us to the villains, Trevor and Lenka, both nasty pieces of work—a torturer and a genocidal maniac, respectively.
Through it all runs the dynamics between mortals and djinn—Gav and Ian, who grow into grudging respect; Tory and Lark and their devotion to each other through terrible events; and the poisonous symbiosis of Trevor and Lenka. And then there’s that whole thing about Ian’s mortal descendants.
There’s also plenty of djinn politics and relationships of all kinds strewn in. Ian and his wife Akila, and his father-in-law Kemosiri; Ian and Tory have this whole war-backstory; and Tory and his devotion to his rayani—his princess—Akila.
2—Nothing but Djinn
I appreciated a break from vampires and werewolves and elves—not that I don’t love them—but sometimes it’s better to focus in on one thing rather than throwing in the whole fantasy kitchen sink. This approach allows Ms Bateman to develop the djinn and their history while still keeping the focus tightly on the plot. We meet three different djinn clans with different affinities but they’re not different fantasy species. Some clans are better at say, air magic, but they all work magic in the same way and have the same limitations on what they can do. Though each clan has a specific animal they can shapeshift into—wolf, falcon, snake; there may be more if we meet more clans in the next book.
The action in Master of None doesn’t let up, but in a good way. There’s always some new twist happening, but with enough downtime between to process. There’s betrayals and double-double crosses, misunderstandings and bad history getting in the way of solving present issues—so much history and misunderstanding between Ian and Tory. And Ian’s history with Kemosiri, is messed up too as said father-in-law basically is the cause of the destruction of Ian’s clan. Have I mentioned Kemosiri really disapproves of Ian’s and Akila’s marriage?
And the fate of two worlds is at stake, as Lenka is trying to take over both the djinn and mortal worlds and the only thing standing in his clan’s way is a spell Ian linked to his almost-extinct bloodline. And Trevor is trying to capture Gavyn’s young son so that he can torture the boy to death in front of Gav. So big stakes on two levels, always good.
I loved this book, as mentioned, and will definitely be picking up the sequel, Master and Apprentice.