Some books make you ache from the beauty inside. They take you somewhere unearthly where there is equal parts cruelty and wonder. You know that it is a place where you would surely perish but the experience would be worth it.
Night’s Master is a fantasy book in a very loose sense of the world. Sure, there is a Flat Earth where man goes about their business with uncaring Gods above and very-caring Demons below, but this is not a Tolkien-inspired world with their endless gibberish names for everything and multiple fantasy species. This is a fantasy world closer to the Arabian Nights with greedy kings, arrogant wise men, and heart-broken women. There is no learning curve here because it is about people and all of their faults.
Another thing in common with the Arabian Nights is the structure of the book. It is comprised of three main stories, and those stories are made of smaller stories. The end of one story chains directly into the start of another. Instead of cliffhangers pulling you along, you are drawn to the next story to find out what happened to the widow, prized necklace or forgotten child of the previous story. The end of the book chains back to a theme of the beginning of the book; which creates a wonderful cycle of fiction.
The stories are told like fables, with an executive-summary approach. Years pass in a sentence and entire interactions are summarized briefly. That might irritate some readers but for me, I appreciated the brevity. Other stories would tell of a beautiful necklace but in this book, it is THE most beautiful necklace and capable of causing spouses to murder each other in order to posses it. A wicked Queen is not merely evil, but so terrible that she will never be forgotten. The realm of Demons is described with such wonder that I refuse to spoil it for you here.
The most magical part of this book is Azhram, Prince of Demons. A darkly handsome being with vast powers, he amuses himself with humanity. He can be kind or cruel on a whim, and the best you can hope for from him is indifference. He is the prime instigator of the book, either taking center stage in a story or being the cause of some terrible or wondrous thing that is happening to others. In no way is he a hero, or even an anti-hero, but there is something refreshing about a primal force that does not seek any sort of redemption.
Of course, being wicked means that he does things that are highly problematic. He adopts a human baby and has him as a lover when he turns 16. A crippled women is graphically raped. Injustices are visited on many people. The fantasy fable approach to the stories lessened the impact for me, but I completely understand if others are unable to enjoy these stories.
Which is a shame, as I truly feel that Night’s Master might be one of the most wondrous fantasy novels ever written. It is the first book in a five book series and I am greatly looking forward to them.