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on 27 September 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 11 December 2000
I ploughed through the 688 pages of this book in a matter of days. Read the entire series in under two weeks; just couldn't put it down. J.V. Jones has this dark, violent way of writing fantasy that just gets me. She manages to bring new issues to the genera and still keep the classic theme of fantasy with magic, knights, wizards and kings, and she does it without the use of old clichés. The characters are just the greatest; I recommand this book to any fantasy-lover.
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on 6 September 2010
This review applies to the whole Book of Words series. Basically my conclusion was that the three book series was just too long and plodding. The story was fairly lightweight and could easily have been told in one, maybe two volumes. Had they been, it would have been a far more exciting set of books. Stretching the story out into three books just seemed to be a ploy for the author to make more money.

I was getting twitchy and saying "oh get on with it" by about half way through the second book, but by that time I was invested in the story and wanted to know what would happen at the end so I struggled my way to the end.

As for what happens at the end ... well, the author seems to hope she can stretch it into yet another series so she leaves several blatant loose ends hanging. Sorry Ms Jones - the story wasn't meaty enough to warrant three books, let alone a fourth.

Even by the end I still didn't really know who the 'fool' was who was the only one who knew the truth in the prophecy. Was it supposed to have been Baralis or the Archbishop of Rorn? And if not the latter - what on earth was the point of the Archbishop of Rorn as a character?
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Melliandra, Maybor and Tawl are in hiding in the city of Bren as the mad King Kylock expands his power across the north. As armies march and cities burn, Jack discovers how to control his power and learns that his road leads to the forbidding island of Larn.

Master and Fool is the final volume of J.V. Jones's Book of Words trilogy. As is traditional with these sort of things, epic climaxes are reached, daring deeds are undertaken and destinies are fulfilled. However, Jones undertakes these actions with unusual cynicism, showing there is a cost to victory and no triumph is unmarred by tragedy.

Jones's writing skills have improved from book to book in this series, with the somewhat jarring tonal shifts of the first volume (from tragedy to black comedy and back again) now smoothed other by more natural transitions. Unlike the second volume, which was prone to time-filling wheel-spinning, this third book is fairly jam-packed with plot development. In fact, it's rather too full and a long and epic journey that fills the middle part of the book whilst events are on hold back in Bren feels a bit implausible. It may have been better for Jones to have restructured this series and allowed this journey to begin in the second volume (sacrificing the more tedious and disposable Jack scenes at the farm if necessary). As it stands, whilst Jack and Tawl are off having an epic adventure we have to endure quite a few unpleasant scenes of Melliandra being tormented in prison, which get redundant quite quickly.

In fact, given Melliandra's character growth in the second volume, it's disappointing to see her relegated to the standard damsel in distress role here, whilst Jack and Tawl get to do the whole traditional hero's journey, male-bonding thing. In fact, given that the trilogy moves away from the standard epic fantasy template several times in its earlier volumes, it's rather disheartening that the author returns so quickly to the genre's standard tropes in the final volume. Even one of the more interesting devices, of using castle guards Bodger and Grift to offer commentary on what's going on around them, is marred by having the two guards join forces with our heroes and become more central characters, which feels like an indulgence. More satisfying by far is Tavalisk's lazy villainy and attempts to manipulate events from afar, which backfire on him most amusingly.

Whilst the ending is problematic - and one character arc is left rather blatantly unresolved for the sort-of sequel series Sword of Shadows to address - there are still positives to take from it. Jones's actual writing and characterisation are reasonable and things are wrapped up satisfyingly without being too neat. The trilogy as a whole is definitely one of the better examples of mid-1990s epic fantasy, even moreso for being an example of the darker direction the genre was headed in regardless of A Game of Thrones (the first two volumes of Book of Words came out before it).

Master and Fool (***½) is a solid - if flawed - conclusion to Jones's opening trilogy, but is only a hint of how much better she gets later on. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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on 20 November 2013
From her early days - not as nuanced and detailed as later work, but a comfortable read for all that. The Sword of Shadows series shows her progress and maturity as a writer, and for me, it's always nice to follow that progression through, without being a vicious critic. We all have to start somewhere, and encouragement is a necessity if we are to enjoy our favourite authors!
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on 20 February 2015
Again it stands about the fight between god and evil. Book one is the best scriven (in my opinion) but we are cached then allready how the story wil unfold and end. Well, book two and tree wil not come up to the expectations of the first, but good enough for the story to end. Imaginitiv and rich, nevertheless. After all a great reading.
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on 17 March 2015
I am at a loss for the right words. I am feeling joy at reading such a masterpiece and loss that it is now over. A mixture of elation and sadness are the emotions always evoked when reading J V Jones.
I lost myself in this trilogy and at this moment in my life I needed this escapism.
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on 11 March 2014
Good book to read in conjunction with the bakers boy and a man betrayed. However I don't feel it could be a read alone so therefore only 4 stars. It has a strong violence and sexual content as anyone whose read both the others will know.
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on 6 July 2013
I love her other series but this one is just as good, I am hooked! If you have never read any of her books I would recommend this trilogy
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on 8 February 2015
what a wonderful trilogy
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