Reviews tagging Violence

Master of Poisons, by Andrea Hairston

6 reviews

boglord's review

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challenging dark tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5


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lauraglovestoread's review

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adventurous dark hopeful sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Master of Poisons is epic fantasy on a grand scale -- many locations, many years passing, multiple dimensions even -- inspired by African Traditional Religions + folklore and following Djola, the title Master Of Poisons, as he attempts to save his homeland from dangers that are simultaneously environmental, political, and magical.  I appreciate a lot about this book.  The characters are diverse (lots of LGBTQ+ representation here), and even many of the secondary characters are well developed as complex + nuanced.  The worldbuilding is fantastic -- Hairston's rich descriptions are vibrant and the setting feels entirely real -- and the writing beautiful.  I did struggle with the pace at times: I actually really enjoyed the elements of the story that some other reviewers have described as 'slow burn' as strong character development really held my attention, but some of the more 'fast action' parts almost felt so abrupt that I had to backtrack and re-read to find my footing and fully know what was going on.  All in all, a highly original fantasy with excellent characters and world-building; I'll be happy to read more of Hairston's work in the future.
Content warnings: violence, blood, slavery, kidnapping, torture, transphobic violence, mention of sexual violence

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em_reads_books's review

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challenging inspiring slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.25

I'm glad I came across <a href="https://locusmag.com/2020/12/katharine-coldiron-reviews-master-of-poisons-by-andrea-hairston/">this review</a>, because it echoes my thoughts perfectly (and validates my experience of thinking maybe I missed some explanations at the beginning). It's an incredible story with many breathtaking moments. And it was also exhausting to read and keep up with; it kept feeling like maaaaybe the next chapter will pause to clarify some things and let the reader collect their thoughts but that never happened.

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multiplyoctopi's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional reflective tense medium-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75


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foreverinastory's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.25

  Thank you to Macmillian Audio who provided me with an ALC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Full disclosure: I shouldn't have listened to this as fast as I did. I am very unfamiliar with the names and I wish I had taken the time to slow down so I could absorb them (mainly for side characters). That being said, I did not take any stars off for this as it is solely my own damn fault. But I do plan to reread this in the future either physically or in conjunction with the audiobook.

First off, this book is a stunning and epic high fantasy. Do not go into this book expecting anything different. This book is long and the world building is immense, but all of it is necessary. The plot is slow moving and covers very large swaths of time so be prepared.

Master of Poisons follows Djola and Awa. Djola is the Master of poisons until he is blamed for an attempted rebellion and poison sand corrupting his homeland. Exiled from the Arkhysian Empire, he must find answers in old alchemical texts with the aid of pirates. Awa is a young woman training to become a griot after being sold by her family--may be wrong in this but I think she is of a caste or supernatural being that is the object of oppression?? There's something here if I can't remember exactly because I remember her being the object of a lot of slurs.

This book is full of folklore and mythology similar to The Priory of the Orange Tree or Raybearer. It is a vibrant world full of magic, conflict and blooming relationships. There is also a large part of the world that is nonbinary. These characters are known as vesons and use the neopronoun vie. I definitely thought this book was the beginning of a series, but I am glad it was not. The ending was wild and I absolutely loved it. 

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2treads's review against another edition

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dark emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

"We're all fools, acting as if what we know is all there is to know." -Djola

With clear, straightforward, and not a word of wasted or overused prose, Hairston weaves a story of peoples battling encroaching poison deserts, excoriating sandstorms that snap and crackle and oppression and exploitation by the Empire. 

The dialogue is fast and crackles with wit and spirit, the characters are engaging and intriguing from the start, each with a verve all their own. There is a certain life and familiarity to what Hairston conveys with this story and it vividly comes to life in the mind. 

We are attuned to the degradation and depredations of the land and people, the desperation in trying to use blood magic to halt the collapse of life, instead of turning to ancient ways that could assuage the change.

A story depicting found families, lost families, and how we can either fall into despair or become ourselves in an environment that nurtures the spirit; while also highlighting the pitfalls of losing a position that we  had come to define ourselves by.

The women are leading in this story, from the witch doctor who refuses to be bullied into the politicking of the empire to the griot who holds true to the stories and rituals and knowledge of old to the young girl learning to define and discover who she is after being sold by her father

Each of these women is playing an integral role in keeping those they can safe while adapting to a changing landscape, ushered in by climate crises, and the elements that have turned against them.

What I found most enjoyable and endearing about this story is the sentience that Hairston highlighted in animals, the river, the trees, how involved she made them in the fabric of events. They have a voice and she gave them a presence that was clearly communicated to the reader.

This is very much a story about believing, fighting, searching, finding, loving, losing, falling, yet getting back up; it is filled with life, light, dark, magic, conjure, us, and it is brilliant. This is a powerful analogy of what greed to preserve the status quo has done and in doing to our home and the only way through is Change.

The writing style and flow can throw off the reading pace as it is sparse in certain places and descriptive in others, but I quite liked the prose as I felt it kept the story moving as a book this size can become a drag after a while.

A reckoning fire comes, but this is not your last breath, so change, change, change.

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