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3.9 out of 5 stars
Master and Fool
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2003
J.V. Jones is a brilliant writer!! Her marvelous contrivance of both character and plot make her triology an irresistible read indeed. I was lured into her saga by the endearing Jack, loyal Tawl, and headstrong Melliandra. Readers come to know and love them, almost as if they were real. Jones' potency of plot is equally unforgettable; from the truly sinister Baralis and his incessant scheming, to the inward torments of the more benign characters, never is there a dull moment. Her Master and Fool ended the trilology with stark power, and readers are left to impatiently await the arrival of a new, equally abosorbing series. All I can say is BRAVO, Miss Jones, BRAVO!
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Okay, so if you were snooping around in the fantasy circles circa 1995, you are indubitably aware that this trilogy generated an enormous buzz. That in itself was surprising, since The Baker's Boy was Mrs. Jones' very first novel. In addition, it was published by Aspect (Warner Books), an imprint not particularly renowned for publishing bestsellers.
In any event, to a certain extent taking the market by storm, the series was an instant success. The three volumes were all national bestsellers, which is quite unusual. They all topped the Locus Bestseller List. Okay, so it's not the New York Times, but it is still quite an accomplishment for a new author.
Like a lot of people, I bought the books when they came out. Unlike many, I didn't read them yet. The hype was too strong, and I didn't want it to influence me when I read the series. Of course, I didn't really expect to wait nearly 9 years before reading them, either! For some reason, even though Mrs. Jones wrote 3 more novels since the publication of Master and Fool, she never did create waves the way The Book of Words trilogy initially did. Now was the time for me to see what the buzz had been about. . .
As is usually the case, the series did not live up to the expectations the buzz had created within me. Hence, I'm happy to have waited before reading the novels. Otherwise, I would probably have been VERY disappointed by this series. With the enormous number of books I've read over the years, I'm afraid that I have become definitely hard to please. . .
But although the trilogy suffers from several shortcomings, in all objectivity I must admit that it is still a relatively good read.
My main problem with the series is the fact that it appears to be aimed at a younger crowd. In my mind, it seems to be aimed at readers who are under 18. Being 30 (yes, I AM getting old!), I couldn't quite get into it. But I am persuaded that if I had read the series when I was 16 years of age, I would probably have loved it. There is a certain innocence inherent to the characters and their views of love, honor, obligation, etc, that makes the whole thing not ring true to my "adult" perspective.
The biggest shortcoming of the series, however, is the fact that the characters are far from being three-dimensional. As a matter of fact, they are not "real." The author fell into a popular trap, namely creating "cliché" characters: the innocent boy with immense potential, the beautiful and spoiled young woman who turns out to be stronger and more courageous than she believed herself to be, the evil mage, the power-hungry prince, etc. And some characters are just caricatures, case in point being the Archbishop Tavalisk. And yet, having said that about the characters, they are still a likeable bunch. Which, in the end, helps you enjoy the books.
Several plotlines had a lot of potential (the knights of Valdis, the Seers of Larn, Jake's parentage, etc), but they were not exploited to their fullest. Had they been, this series would have been much better. Mrs. Jones took the easy road instead. . .
In light of all this, I have to admit that I nevertheless like J. V. Jones' writing style. She has a witty way to write, which I truly enjoyed. I think that she must challenge herself a little more with her storylines, and explore a bit more those concepts that she creates. It would certainly give ner novels more depth, which in turn would make them more enjoyable.
I believe that J. V. Jones shows great promise and could be a bright voice in the fantasy genre. Hopefully her other novels will show just how much potential she truly possesses. . .:-)
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on September 27, 2001
This is the third and final volume of The Book of Words (after The Baker's Boy and A Man Betrayed).
In Bren, the duke has just been murdered on his wedding night. Thanks to Baralis, quickly the rumours spread, claiming that Tawl the duke's champion and former Knight of Valdis, is the assasin. He and Melli, now the duke's widow, have to flee and hide away, along with Maybor and a couple of guards.
About a month later, king Kylock, who is becoming more and more deranged by the day under the effects of Baralis's drugs, kills his bride on discovering she is not pure and will not be able to wash his sins away. What he and Baralis will soon find out is that the first marriage had been in fact consummated. Melli is pregnant and now, if the child turns out to be a boy, with Bren's only rightful heir.
Meanwhile, Jack is in Annis, learning to master his magical powers with the help of Stillfox. One day, on a sudden impulse he leaves the sorcerer's cottage, and on his way he meets with a guild of bakers who will fill him in on the event in Bren. Melli is in danger, he has to go and try to save her.
The Book of Words is a harrowing fantasy. In a land revaged by war, Marod's prophecy slowly unfolds with unexpected twists and turns, as Jack learns more and more about his past. With characters worth caring for, the detailed and sometimes colourful descriptions make it all believable. J.V. Jones is now swelling the ranks of my favourite authors.
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on May 4, 1999
As is typical of the latest books published under the classification of fantasy this book is more of a fantasy in the alternative history set than a true swords and sorcery book. As is now days typical, Jones gives her character Jack magical powers (probably just in order to classify this book as a fantasy novel so it won't have to compete with true dramatic novels to which it couldn't hold a candle) and then fails abysmally to develop them. Emotional development aside, the premise that any young man becoming aware that he has fantastic powers available to him and then refusing to consider developing them is ridiculous. Once again as is typical of the current genre there is a great focus on the emotional development of magically weak characters. The emotional development of characters like Jack who have true power is not in keeping with how they would realistically develop. Once again the issue of dealing with the true effect of real power on someones personality is sidestepped by stunting the growth of that power by the author. As a result the series ends up being a pseudo Middle age alternative history (if that's possible). If you want good believable character development of a powerful character read Robert Jordans development of Rand in the first five Wheel of Time novels. If you want ridiculous unlikely character development of a powerful character read Jordans books sections on Nynaeve. If you want something that fails to reach any heights or depths in that respect then read the Book of Words series. If you're looking for good swords and sorcery type fantasy (for post adolescents with some real character development of their own) don't read these novels.
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on December 12, 1997
As a whole, this was a fantastic series. It was fresh, absorbing, and filled with excitement. I would rate the series and this book as well, as a 10 if it wasn't for the last 80 pages of the book (and the ending to the series.) Quite simply, this was the worst ending I think I've ever read. It almost seemed as if the author just got tired of writing or being creative and decided to end it. As a whole, the series was filled with dark overtones and a overbearing sense of awaiting doom. Without ruining the ending, I'll just say that it is pure cheese. It left me feeling angry and cheated. Having loved the series so much, I was so so tempted to write up an alternate ending of the way things SHOULD have ended. But in the end, I just wanted to forget about the whole sad affair. I was looking forward to Jones' new books, but after this piece of crap ending, I no longer am. It might seem as if I'm being overdramatic, but after getting so involved with a great story, it is such a major letdown to have about 10 pure-luck coincidences occur within 50 pages to pull out a perfect, happy, everything-works-out-for-good-in-the-end ending when it deserved so much more. Maybe after I cool off for a bit I'll feel better...
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on November 19, 1998
While I liked the first two books by Jones, I was very disappointed by the third book. While there is clearly an unconsummated marriage in the end of Book 2 and a hinted prophecy that Melli's hymen would only be broken by Jack, this is all ditched in the revisionist opening of the third book. Such glaring plot discontinuities suggest to me that the author either forgot what she had previously written or couldn't figure out how to work towards her prophecy and ditched all in order to conveniently wrap the series up. I am also disappointed by the corresponding shift in focus to Tawl at the expense of Jack. Jack seems to have dropped out of most of the plot development all of a sudden when he and Melli were the focus of the first two books. Now he's on his own when most of the action seems to revolve around Tawl and Melli. Hey! Editor! What were you thinking!?
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on June 15, 2000
The 3 stars are for the series as a whole. As a long-time reader of fantasy, I've read most of the top names in the indusry: Jordan, Goodkind, Brooks, Etc. I've also read some real bombs. And although J.V. Jones' "Book of Words" trilogy isn't the best fantasy I've ever read, it's not as bad as some people have made it out to be. It does have some intriguing characters (notably Maybor, Baralis, and Tavalisk) and a a fairly interesting plot. What I didn't really care for is how the main characters were constantly put on the defensive(especially Melli). The fact that they were constantly chased/captured/separated began to wear thin by the third book. Also, I would have liked to have seen the magic abilities Jack and Baralis used fleshed out a little more. Overall, not a bad effort for a first-time writer, but could have been better.
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on October 3, 2000
All I can say is it's a disappointment. For those of you who have read the other two and come to appreciate Ms Jones' strength of character-development, and not so strong plot linkage, this book clinches it. Nabber, Tawl, Jack, Melli, Baralis and Kylock - we get to know them all in sizzling detail and J.V does a great job of it too, giving her characters a real persona, but the plot is jagged and meandering. There are a few too many breathtakingly lucky situations also. On the whole J.V. Jones stands out for her strength in developing characters and making you relate well to them. She writes from both a male's and a female's perspective well and the tear-jerking moments in this book are very well done. The plot lets it down though. 3 stars for this book, and the series as a whole.
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on October 3, 2000
All I can say is it's a disappointment. For those of you who have read the other two and come to appreciate Ms Jones' strength of character-development, and not so strong plot linkage, this book clinches it. Nabber, Tawl, Jack, Melli, Baralis and Kylock - we get to know them all in sizzling detail and J.V does a great job of it too, giving her characters a real persona, but the plot is jagged and meandering. There are a few too many breathtakingly lucky situations also. On the whole J.V. Jones stands out for her strength in developing characters and making you relate well to them. She writes from both a male's and a female's perspective well and the tear-jerking moments in this book are very well done. The plot lets it down though. 3 stars for this book, and the series as a whole.
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on September 4, 2002
For those of you true fantasy lovers, this is high fantasy at its best. I rarely give 5 stars to anyone, so 4 stars is not a knock in any way. Many modern fantasy authors believe more is better, but many times more is simply rambling on about how many buttons grace the dress a character has or or the exact type of candle sticks in a room. J. V. Jones introduces us to a group of characters we grow to love and care about, without all the rambling of many. She also know sthe correct amount of danger and violence to add without over doing the action. A fine writer and may she go on to finish many more series.Three books was a perfect amount for this series. Always leave your audience waiting for more, not burnt out with what you have to offer.
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