Book Review: The Hidden Masters of Marandur

The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell, The Pillars of Reality #2

Someone wants to kill Mari, a young Steam Mechanic in the Guild that controls all technology. She has learned that her world of Dematr is headed for a catastrophe that will destroy civilization, and that Mages really can alter reality for short periods. Someone also wants to kill Alain, a young Mage who has learned that Mechanics are not frauds as his Guild teaches, and that Mechanic Mari is the only person who can prevent the oncoming disaster.

Narrowly escaping death, the Mechanic and the Mage stay alive thanks to their combined skills, an alliance never before seen. But it becomes clear that both of their Guilds, the most powerful forces in the world, are trying to destroy them. Other powers, like the great Empire and a mysterious secret Order, also seek to kill or capture them, using every weapon from Imperial Legions to Mage-created trolls, dragons, and rocs.

Trying to survive and learn the truth about their world so they will know how to save it, Mari and Alain realize that the answers they seek may lie in the dead city of Marandur. But Marandur is guarded by the legions that have sealed it off from the rest of the world for more than a century. Mari and Alain's only hope may rest with the unseen Masters of Marandur.


In the beginning of this year I listened to the first audiobook in the The Pillars of Reality series of Jack Campbell. I was pleasantly surprised by the originality of the story. Jack Campbell is best known for his hard hitting science fiction space opera's, thus writing in the lines of more traditional epic fantasy is quite something different but Jack Campbell wrote it in a way that it will stick with you. When I was listening to this second installment I came to realize just how much I missed Mari the Mechanic and Alain the Mage. 

The Hidden Masters of Marandur picks up directly after the events of The Dragons of Dorcastle. In the first book you met both Mari and Alain, a Mechanic and a Mage, who previously lived very separate lives, but who now due to very unforeseen events have come very close. Something that shouldn't happen between Mechanics and Mages as they live their lives differently and not to speak of the facts that their respective guilds are sort of at war with each other, they cant stand one another. Call it what you will I think I can call it love at first sight. they have become inseparable, they learned from each other and now the protect one another. Anyway in the end of The Dragons of Dorcastle Alain and Mari were called back to their guild and set with new tasks, being separated once again. This is how the story begins. Mari is tasked with a new mission by her Mechanic Guild and the same happens to Alain by his Mage Guild. But much more is already brewing in the respective Guilds. Because they have certain thoughts about what has actually transpired in Dorcastle. So Alain finds himself once again alone on a mission, one that quickly turns into a mission impossible... because you know Dragons. Soon Mari jumps into the picture yes not out of the back of an caravan. Mari aids Alain and his new friends to the rescue unleashing some devastating Mechanic gadgets. After this it comes to show that Mari was missing Alain and that she used some very clever means to trace to where Alain was heading. During this reunion, both Mari and Alain come to the understanding that they are definite wildfires for their guild and both are sought to be killed, but Alain mentions something of a certain prophecy. A prophecy where Mari may play a crucial role in.

Not only are the Guild looking out to find Mari and Alain. Do you still recall some discoveries that were made in the first book? Pinned on the Dark Mechanics? Well you learn that there are more forces at play here, more importantly a force known as the Order. It was really a cool thing of Jack Campbell to make a confrontation with the Order as this added a completely different perspective to everything. But this is not everything where the emphasize is lain upon. In essence this story now turns into a race to find out what the current world is about and why the power is in the hands of the Mage and Mechanic Guild. When Mari meets up with an old acquaintance of her she uncovers more about what the world is, her talk with a professor who trained teachers her even more. Step by step Maria and Alain uncover more and more questions, yes not answers, but questions. The Mechanic Guild has built magnificent things, but things that were build over a hundred years ago haven't changed, why is this? They must have the brains to further their knowledge, to innovate, why is this called to a halt? There are many more questions like these and only one place to find the answers and that Marandur. A sealed off city that may hold the key to them. The journey to Marandur will see Mari and Alain through hostile lands that are ruled by the Imperials and that is not even mentioning getting into and out of Marandur alive. This quest is paved with troubles. One question that will be answered in the book is if Mari and Alain will be up for this task. 

If I would have to compare The Hidden Masters of Marandur with The Dragons of Dorcastle, I have to say that this sequel is amazing. I had some minor squabbles with the story of The Dragons of Dorcastle, but those are completely absent in this story. jack Campbell has nicely outdone himself with telling the story of The Hidden Masters of Marandur. When I look back on the first story I now see clearly the time that Jack Campbell had invested in setting up the characters and there history was just spot on. From the first moment in this second book he only moves forward. There was already something brewing between Mari and Alain in the first book that now becomes much more appararent. Also Mages are emotionless people where as Mechanics are arrogant people. Mari was really a catalyst in the change of Alain, and I really liked this transformation of him and in the end the interplay that both Mari and Alain have. I think they will be in more surprises of each other! Overall there is a great character development. I liked how Alain warmed up to everything and even started to make his own jokes and how both came to realize that the indoctrination of their Guild is mightily wrong, and how they are trying to persuade others as well. 

I don't know whether this series will be a trilogy but with the track that Jack Campbell is one three books just won't cut it. He has really outdone himself with this second book. Delving much deeper into the history of the Guild and the world of Dematr, raising a lot of questions that aren't answered just yet, so I think I am not the only one who will be saying bring on the third book now!

Once again I also have to give a hand to MacLeod Andrews, I was impressed with the narration he did in the first book, but he just as Jack Campbell did an even finer job with The Hidden Masters of Marandur. What I particularly liked was when the emotions ran high between Mari and Alain. Their "fights" and discussions were really brought to life. It was great to see that they weren't always on one line or that they had different expectations of different events. MacLeod Andrews' narration just added that little extra to make it sound just as real people fight in the real world. You just as I will be taken by it. Not only the discussions and fights though, there are small jokes or quirky remarks that are narrated with the same passion. A great job. No Macleaod Andrews did an amazing job.
 


 

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