The Masters by Ricardo Pinto (The Stone Dance of the Chameleon #1)

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. What we have discovered here is a hidden gem in the grimdark genre published over twenty years ago. Once written as a trilogy, Ricardo Pinto has decided to release a Second edition of the series with editorial changes and essentially reworking several passages to make the story flow better. This rewrite took the author a full year of work to become the completed Second edition series it is today. The results were the expanding of the series from three massive novels to seven smaller and condensed novels for the reader to devour. A Dark Epic Fantasy like no other and one of the most grim worlds and atmospheres I have ever come across in a fantasy volume. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The story takes place in a Mesoamerican world where the ruling class, The Masters, are treated as walking gods in human form. Their slaves are forbidden to look upon the faces of The Masters, which is why the rulers walk around in public wearing masks. Servants of the rulers have been blinded either by sewing of the eyelids shut or removal of the eyes all together in a surgery that could mean death and we haven’t even gotten to the bloody scenes yet.

We start off on an isolated island where Carnelian and his father Suth, both of them are Masters, reside over their people in exile and are unaware of the bigger disasters taking place on the mainland. One day they are greeted by a black ship on the horizon bringing forth three masked figures of The Chosen. These Masters implore Suth as well as his son to return with them to the main land as the God Emperor is dying and a new election needs to begin. The one problem is that the black ship is damaged and in order to repair it, the island is pillaged and all but destroyed because of the laws of the ruling class. With his home in ruins and his people destined to starve, Carnelian accompanies his father on his journey to the capital city of Osrakum in the middle of The Guarded Lands. I will stop the summary here to avoid spoilers but the grit and dread for this series have only just begun.

Carnelian is a kind hearted main character but very curious and aware of his surrounding environment. He constantly questions the devastating and tragic laws his people have to live under and his shocked reactions are truly valid because he has live in isolation and has grown up unaware. In order to combat the harsh reality’s of this world, Carnelian will have to learn quickly to become a true Master and play this political game. Allegiances will be tested and on the journey to the ancient city, the group has to fight off invaders and assassins’ while combating a plague that has infested the land. I told you this was grim.

Ricardo Pintos writing style is truly something to behold. He will bring you in so close that you could almost feel the dark world around you while keeping you at a distance in the same breath. The writing can be dense at times and will be riddle with history, worldbuilding, and secrets that will become relevant down the road, at least I hope so. Now, with all that being said I need the shed some light on the Second edition of this release. Of the original three books in the First edition, the novels had to be divided up amongst the new seven. So book one of the original trilogy is now books one and two of the Second edition. Book two of the original is now books three and four. Finally the concluding volume of the original is now books five, six, and seven.

The Master is essentially one half of a novel although written extremely well and the ending stops in a place where having book two in hand is a must. This is just something to keep in mind but this will in no way deter my rating of this wonder. If you a grimdark fantasy fan of Joe Abercrombie or Mark Lawrence, then you will feel like chill and shivers (pun intended) with this series. I don’t know how this series has gone unknown for twenty years but let that be the end of it!!! This series has so much potential and riveting characters and atmosphere that I don’t know which way is up. I have been told by my author friends that this series will rip my heart out and be served to the dogs on a silver plate. Well I’ll say this to everyone, BRING IT ON!



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