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Life, Law & Libros

The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell (2 stars)

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This is the second book in Campbell's Pillars of Reality series. If you haven't read the first and don't want to be spoiled, feel free to check out my review of The Dragons of Dorcastle instead.

Also, heads up that Campbell writes this series for audio. Audio is the intended format. I read the ebook version, and the reading medium definitely impacts the review; so I encourage you to also read a review of the audiobook if you like the sound of this. :)

This e-book was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell
Series: The Pillars of Reality #2
Genres: YA/Adult, Fantasy
Published on June 10, 2015
Published by Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
The second book of the exciting The Pillars of Reality epic fantasy series, by New York Times best-selling author Jack Campbell!

Someone wants to kill Mari, a young steam mechanic in the guild that controls all technology. She has learned that her world of Dematr is headed for a catastrophe that will destroy civilization and that mages really can alter reality for short periods. Someone also wants to kill Alain, a young mage who has learned that mechanics are not frauds, as his guild teaches, and that mechanic Mari is the only person who can prevent the oncoming disaster.

Narrowly escaping death, the mechanic and the mage stay alive thanks to their combined skills, an alliance never before seen. But it becomes clear that both of their guilds, the most powerful forces in the world, are trying to destroy them. Other powers, like the great empire and a mysterious secret order, also seek to kill or capture them using every weapon from imperial legions to mage-created trolls, dragons, and rocs.

Trying to survive and learn the truth about their world so they will know how to save it, Mari and Alain realize the answers they seek may lie in the dead city of Marandur. But Marandur is guarded by the legions that have sealed it off from the rest of the world for more than a century. Mari and Alain's only hope may rest with the unseen masters of Marandur.

Review:
The title implies that Marandur will be a main setting or at least a big deal. It does have major implications for the story, but it takes up less than a quarter of page-time at the end of the book. It was strange placement, not very exciting, and felt more like setup for the next book.

Meanwhile, romance is the star of this book. Unfortunately, the emphasis placed on the romance really detracted from the story. Instead of being a fantasy adventure where they're running for their lives--with a dash of romance on the side--I felt like I was in a YA romance novel with a dash of fantasy and adventure on the side. There is so much to work with here! So many questions, so many conflicts! But the author keeps hitting the reader over the head with Mari's identity as the daughter of this prophecy and how much she and Alain love each other. It slowed the pacing, tension and interest level dramatically whenever they weren't in the midst of (literally) running for their lives.

I had issues with repeated phrases/sentences/paragraphs in Dragons of Dorcastle. This book has the same problem, possibly worse; and this time, it was usually the repetition of useless sentiment, emotion, feeling, romance, etc. I can only take so many conversations about feelings between these two, especially now that Alain is more a regular guy and less a mage. He still has the powers, but he's talking and behaving and feeling more like a "perfect boyfriend" who lives only for Mari, always does what Mari wants, and seems to have zero flaws and/or thoughts unrelated to Mari. Basically, he's Edward Cullen. It's less interesting, less humorous, and kind of boring.

I still think they should have drawn out the potential romance over several books before having anything concrete happen. Trading "I love you's" in the first book is never a good sign. It's like if Tony and Ziva had gotten together in their first NCIS episode. The tension and wondering and potential would be over, it would be boring, and no one would watch, or write fanfiction.

I'm still curious about the world and which direction the author intends to take with its origins, but I don't know if that's enough to keep me going at this point. Maybe the oft repeated phrases and copious amounts of sentimentality are less noticeable in the audio version? But I tend to pick up on that regardless of format, so unless something changes in a major way in the next book, Houston, we have a problem. Unless you love romance, forbidden love, us against the world, I'd die for you, etc. with a dash of fantasy adventure on the side. In which case, read on! This is perfect for you. :)

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