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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Janny Wurts’ The Master of Whitestorm is a stand-alone high fantasy that, like the author’s other work, differentiates itself from other fantasies published in the late 20th century that feature a medieval-style setting. The book has recently been produced in audio format by Audible and is read by British actor Simon Prebble, a highly decorated audiobook narrator and someone whose name I’m always happy to see in the credits. As expected, he does a wonderful job with The Master of Whitestorm and I recommend this audio version to anyone who wants to read or re-read this exciting and emotional story.
The story begins in the slave galley of a ship. Haldeth, whose wife and children were slaughtered by the Murghai, is now chained to the oar of one of their ships. As he slaves for his captors, he observes his benchmate, a man named Korendir who looks fierce but so far has never said a word — he just stoically rows. All the other slaves (and the Murghai) think Korendir is stupid or mute, but it turns out that he has spent his time studying and planning and suddenly, after years of slavery, Korendir announces to Haldeth that he plans to escape their captors. Haldeth reluctantly decides to throw in his lot with the enigmatic man and thus starts a lifelong friendship in which Haldeth will watch Korendir accomplish many other seemingly impossible feats and quests, mostly by outsmarting his opponents.
On the surface, The Master of Whitestorm is an episodic adventure story with a hero who will remind you of Hercules or Odysseus. He fights monsters, saves princesses, breaks curses, resists sirens, builds an invincible castle on a cliff, and outfoxes an elemental spirit. All of these exploits are exciting and there are many delightfully unique elements such as a city where everyone is cursed to be happy. There are some memorable characters such as a dwarf couple who contribute a bit of humor that helps to offset the grimness of the main characters. There is also a sweet romance.
But the story is more than just a series of exploits and quests. More than anything it’s a character study of both Korendir and Haldeth. We follow both characters for many years and it’s slowly revealed that Korendir is not as aloof and stoic as he seems. We learn that his courageous deeds are actually motivated by fear. In contrast, Haldeth, who observes Korendir’s reckless behavior, is also fearful. Both men struggle with the traumas of their past and their fears about an uncertain future. Korendir and Haldeth employ different coping strategies and their outcomes differ significantly.
The Master of Whitestorm is a satisfying self-contained story. Again, I highly recommend the audio version read by Simon Prebble.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
I was introduced to Janny Wurts by first reading The Curse of the Mistwraith and totally loving it, so was hooked. Being my compulsive self, I couldn't stop reading until I finished that series before working my way backward through her earlier works.
This book tells the story of Korendir, first introduced as a galley slave. He's a 'typical' Wurts hero in that he's tough, defended, smart, prickly (extremely), and underneath it all, a total cream puff. Having been introduced to this sort in the Mistwraith series, I was therefore patient with him and enjoyed the ride through his adventures early in the book. As events unfold, we finally learn the reasons for his behavior, and he becomes more human. This slow uncovering is also a Wurts hallmark, and one that I totally enjoy. While I was sure that would happen, other plot twists are less predictable and we are served up the climax with psychological depth and deep understanding - another Wurts characteristic, which is only one of the things I enjoy so much about her writing.
This is a standalone novel and a good introduction to the writing of Janny Wurts. The writing style is less complex than the style of the Mistwraith series, and so it's an easier read, for those who would like to dip their toe into the work of this outstanding author.
REREAD: I listened to the new audio edition of this book and couldn't believe how rich the narration of it is. Simon Prebble's voice and interpretation is magnificent. He pours emotion into his reading that is rare in other books I've listened to him read. I was sobbing at the end. Beautiful.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful