“The Gateway,” Master of Malice Book 3 by Cas Peace

“The Gateway” is the final episode in the nine-book “Artesans of Albia” saga that has taken us from the flights of High Fantasy to the depths of Horror, and the finish does not disappoint. Cas Peace has a masterful command of the expression of emotion, and in this book she runs us through the whole gamut, from unspeakable dread to triumphant tears.

“The Gateway” is also the finish of the third trilogy, “Master of Malice,” which centres on the evil Baron Reen, the ultimate enemy of all Artesans because his avowed goal is to wipe them from the universe. The fact that he is an Artesan of incredible natural talent makes the task of the heroine more difficult. So the tension is ramped up to almost-unbearable levels as Sullyan challenges her archenemy on his own ground.

As we might expect in the finale of a magical horror story, this third series has left the epic fantasy realm of warfare and gallantry and entered the more terrifying sphere of magical evil. Murder, rape, and the stealing of souls through horrendous torture are the order of the day. This is not a story for the weak of heart.

The setting of the final battle is the spirit realm of the dead; an apt ending to a series that spanned many worlds. Like Orpheus, Sullyan is required to go to the gates of the underworld to sing home the souls of her followers sent there prematurely by Reen, and only an act of supreme sacrifice can enable their return.

If I were pressed, I would have to say that this is my second favourite book of the series. I feel that “Full Circle,” the ending of the “Circle of Conspiracy” trilogy, showed a better range of the sweep of Epic Fantasy. In this book, the subplot involving Aeyron and the Andaryan court is less well integrated into the main plotline. Also, the unrelieved horror of the centre section of the book takes us past the point where we can react with further feeling. I suppose I prefer emotion applied with a rapier, not a broadsword.

However, “The Gateway” is the fitting culmination to a work of epic proportions of which the author can be rightfully proud and which I highly recommend to all Fantasy and Horror fans.

I received a copy of the manuscript from Loving The Book in order to write this review.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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