Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Review: MASTER OF IRON by Tricia Levenseller


Rating: 2/5 stars

Even though I read Blade of Secrets only five months ago, I'd already forgotten how it ended when I went to start Master of Iron. Luckily, the first chapter gives a good recap of where our characters are at in their journey, as this book begins right where the first one ended. 

Bladesmith Ziva, mercenary Kellyn, and scholar Petrik are on their way to a magical healer to save Ziva's sister Temra, who is gravely injured. Also along for the ride is their captive, the villainous warlord Kymora. Some things happen and then most of the book is spent with Ziva and Kellyn alone together. 

Ziva is so dense. It actually frustrated me how often something is so obvious and Ziva is acting like an idiot about it. For example, it is beyond clear that Kellyn likes her, and he even says so, and then when someone hits on him and he says he's spoken for, Ziva asks herself why he said that, who he's with, when did he have a chance to meet this person, what is she doing there if he likes someone else, etc. This type of conversation happens multiple times throughout the story. It just read as really immature to me because obviously, Kellyn likes Ziva and she's as dense as a brick about it. And then a girl will look at Kellyn and Ziva will ask herself why she's suddenly feeling jealous. Because you like him, you idiot! Duh! People don't ask themselves those questions about potential romantic partners in adult novels because they're usually written with more common sense, and as an adult, I was continually frustrated by it. 

Unfortunately, the romance in this book didn't really work for me. It was so immature. I cannot count the number of times Ziva refers to Kellyn as stupid, dumb, idiotic, or a big oaf. She doesn't ever have anything nice to say about him. I know this was all supposed to be said in love or in good humor, but I never saw it that way. Ziva is constantly insulting him every time she talks to him or thinks about him. And maybe that's her way of not accepting her own feelings toward him, but I just wished she would be nice to him. She's irritated when he risks his life for her, she's mad she has to risk her life to save him, she often complains about him in her inner monologues, and all of it just frustrated me. Yes, they do kiss a lot, and yes, there's a happy ending, but I didn't like their chemistry in between those moments. Kellyn's cool but Ziva really got on my nerves. 

Like I said in my review of Blade of Secrets, this duology reads young to me. I think it's just Tricia Levenseller's writing style, but I feel like this is a book for tweens, even though the protagonist is an adult. The drama, the romance, Ziva's internal monologues--it's all written in a way that is not relatable to me as an adult, and many scenes and conversations are very eye-roll-inducing. I do think younger teens will enjoy this story a lot more than I did. Unfortunately, I spent a good portion of the book wanting it to be over. It wasn't a bad story, but I know I'm not the intended audience here, and I wanted to be reading something with more depth and more mature characters than what we get in Master of Iron. Plus the writing is very modern for a story that's a medieval fantasy. One time Ziva and Temra are actually talking about going to the store for groceries. Um . . . no. There were many other examples of overly modern writing that felt very out of place in this narrative, and it bothered me. 

Ziva has social anxiety, and I remember loving this aspect about the first novel as I, too, have social anxiety, and it was nice to relate to a character on that front. But somehow, in this book, I found myself dissatisfied with how her anxiety was portrayed. At times it felt overly exaggerated, and at other times it felt unrealistically underrepresented. For example, Ziva always has the right comeback at the right time and she verbally stands up for both herself and her friends. This is not something that someone with social anxiety should feel comfortable doing or even be able to do on a regular basis. 

Speaking from personal experience, whenever I am faced with confrontation or aggression from someone who is not in my immediate family or one of my closest friends, I clam up. I have so many things I'd like to say but my heart is racing and I can't say any of them so I just sit there, terrified of opening my mouth, unable to defend myself no matter how much I want to. It's humiliating, frustrating, and embarrassing. So I find it unbelievable that Ziva does not often have this problem of being unable to speak up for herself during times of conflict, despite exhibiting other traits of social anxiety that would make me believe otherwise. 

Thinking back on Blade of Secrets, I believe Ziva was like this in that book too as I remember her always having the right thing to say and being kind of bad-A. So that makes me sad, that only her inner monologue is relatable and representative of what it's like to have anxiety, while her outer actions seem to be like any other strong, female protagonist that is so common in literature these days. 

This book is very fast-paced, sometimes moving so quickly that I didn't have time to care about the story's events before something else started happening. But on the other hand, the overall story felt too slow-paced for me, the characters being in one place for far too long and spending too much time on side tasks before getting back to the main storyline. I had this problem with the first book too; I struggled to gauge the passage of time in the narrative. 

Overall, I struggled to read Master of Iron. I liked Blade of Secrets better, but its sequel had too many pieces that didn't work for me and made me not enjoy the story as much as I had hoped to, although I will say that I did enjoy the ending. I think the idea of a female bladesmith who is able to imbue her blades with magic and who has social anxiety is an awesome idea for a story, and while there were some good parts that I enjoyed, I ultimately just think that this duology reads too young and immature for my tastes and that Tricia Levenseller's writing style doesn't work for me. I do, however, encourage you to check this series out if it sounds like something you'd enjoy. 

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