“The Scarecrow:” Master of Malice Book 1

Once again I must preface my review of one of the Artesans of Albia series with the disclaimer that this book cannot be reviewed in isolation. It marks the start of a new trilogy, but it also continues the conflicts and characters set up in the previous books of the series. It also makes a small part of the story arc of the whole trilogy that it begins.

So, while it needs to stand on its own as an artistic work, each book in this trilogy will be an integral part of the whole series, and contain only its part of the whole. Hence my divided feelings about this specific novel.

Every book needs its dark part. Every story line includes a section where the antagonist seems to be winning, where everything looks extremely dark for the protagonists. “The Scarecrow” is that part of the trilogy. The whole book is extremely dark. Except for one playful scene at the beginning, this novel takes us deep into the depraved mind of the villain, as his schemes come to fruition against the unsuspecting heroes.

And this is the strength of the book. The Scarecrow is a very nasty being. I hesitate to call him a person. I always thought Baron Reen was a bit underrated as the villain of the last trilogy. He was usually hidden, and his evil was always done through underlings. Personally, he was a bit of a vain fop, which was part of his clever disguise.

In the new installment, the gloves are off. Through some unknown and terrible process, Reen has become a totally evil but physically devastated being, existing only in darkness because of his ruined eyes, leaching off the emotions and physical energy of his minions and victims. His ability to delude the former queen, Sofira, into loving such a deformed monster demonstrates the depth of his power. By clever contrast, the hesitance and concern of Sofira’s father provides the reader with an alternate point of view that further denotes the depths of the villain’s depravity.

It is difficult to discuss the positive side of the story, because the heroes spend most of their time failing to recognize the power of their adversary and making his task easier through their own weaknesses. So there is little uplifting or positive in this section of the series.

This book, as the beginning of a new trilogy, does not contain the scope and political complexity of the previous volumes, and as such could serve as a possible entry point into the series for those who have not started at the beginning. If they are thrilled by the exposition of evil.

Recommended for fans of Dark Fantasy. A four-star book playing its essential part in a five-star series. A must-read for all fans of the Artesans of Albia.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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