Lord of Secrets is many things. It’s a tale of oppression, a comedy with necromancers, a quest where nobody quite knows what they’re looking for, and an adventure where the good guy is a renegade wizard. Breanna Teintze’s novel has a unique tone and is most enjoyable from start to finish. Here are 5 reasons why you should read it.
1. The Magic.
Magic takes center stage in Lord of Secrets so for the novel to work, its magic system had to be a damn fine creation. Which it is. Magic in the novel is jealously guarded by The Guild. Our narrator, Gray, is a renegade who works without Guild sanction, making him a wanted man. It also makes him unfettered by tradition and uninterested in maintaining the status quo. This gives him the opportunity to be a liberal, decent human being uninterested in maintaining his own power base.
The magic itself is fascinating. For a start it’s evolving; just want can be done is unknown. It takes the form of written spells, not unlike those in The Painted Man, with wizards coating themselves in spells, so they can readily recite them. The verbal component that is also required makes the magic interesting. Whilst spells traditionally have “magic words,” in fantasy novels, they often just work when the caster needs them to. Here, being able to speak the words is vitally important. And one neat trick: if you know how to say the spell, you can read it from somebody else’s words and pinch their magic!
Finally, magic has a cost to it. This drawback gives spellcasting an edge. Wizards are powerful, but at what cost to themselves?
2. The Characters.
The cast of Lord of Secrets is an engaging bunch. Well, as engaging as a centuries-old undead psychopath can be. Central character Gray is wonderfully conflicted. He is trying to rescue his grandfather from the clutches of unscrupulous Guild wizards. He wants to be focused and self-serving, but doesn’t quite manage it. Especially after rescuing Brix, a temple slave, who has some mysterious abilities of her own.
The book is very much about the relationship between these two characters and whether they can trust one another. Trust is a central theme throughout the novel. Gray will later awaken an ancient power, after which he finds himself trusting what amounts to a pact with the devil, in the hope he can deliver his grandfather from captivity.
All of the major players in the book make you care about their exploits. You want to understand what makes them tick and why they interact the way they do.
3. The Story.
Whilst essentially a seek-and-rescue mission, there are lots of twists and turns during this comparatively short book (330 pages is quite slim for a fantasy tome). The great thing about Lord of Secrets is how the story unfolds. Other than the overreaching story arc, you’d be forgiven for failing to remember what the story was about. Instead, it’s a series of character interactions that reveal more information drawing you onto the next page. Yes, Gray is looking for his grandfather, but for much of the book, that’s in the background.
The story evolves through its characters’ interactions. We find out more about the world, why Gray is in the position he is in, and the terrible predicament of Brix, thanks to the interplay between them. Their outrage becomes our outrage, and Gray’s plight, almost accidental in nature, becomes our plight, as we read on to find out how he’s going to extricate himself. It’s clever and utterly compelling stuff.
4. The Humanity.
Because the narrative is driven by character interaction, this is a story with many human elements. The relationship between Gray and his grandfather, and by extension his parents. Brix’s relationship with Gray, her family, and her suffering at the hands of her owners. The other two main characters Gray travels with also have complex histories and motivations that intertwine with Gray’s, sometimes working in tandem and other times working at odds with his quest.
Relationships are complicated in Lord of Secrets and inclusive too. The depth of human emotion shown is impressive. The wit, humor, and Gray’s killer sarcasm, present throughout the book, just adds to the feeling that the characters are real human beings, rather than players in a story.
5. The Innovation.
Lord of Secrets is innovative fantasy fiction. The magic system and the author’s take on necromancy are fresh and original. The whole book feels like a new take on the traditional tropes of the fantasy genre. Nothing earth-shattering, just gentle modifications to classic archetypes, that make you see them in a whole new light.
Breanna Teintze has delivered an inventive empathetic fantasy novel filled by a host of great characters. The interplay between characters marks the novel as something special. This is a quest novel, where the quest isn’t the imperative, lending truth to the idea that it’s not the destination but the journey. An absorbing novel from start to finish, I can’t wait to see what Teintze does next.
If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other 5 Reasons to Read reviews.
If you want to pick up a copy of Lord of Secrets, you can do so here. (It’s currently only available from UK sellers.)
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book, in order to write this review.