If you took parts of the Arabian Nights and remade them in an urban fantasy mold, one of the stories would come out something very similar to Sonya Bateman’s Master of None. Gavyn Donatti, a professional thief, is hired to steal a small item for a local crime boss, but somehow Gavyn manages to lose the item before handing it over to his employer, and this bit of bad luck ends up sending Gavyn on the run. He is saved along the way by a Djinn named “Ian.” When circumstances outside of their control lead them into a contentious partnership, they must learn to work together in order to save their loved ones and maybe the world.
I loved the concept of the book. I’ve not yet come across an urban fantasy that involves genies. There are plenty of things to like in Master of None: unique concept, humor, and interesting characters. Sonya Bateman does a nice job of making her characters believable with their own personalities. The genies themselves are very cool characters — not like any genie you’d expect. Their powers are limited and are not at all “wish” based. I would have liked to explore more of the Djinn world (we only get a small taste of it), but I’m guessing this will be explored in later books.
Sonya Bateman is also quite capable of writing intense action. The action scenes were probably the second most endearing thing to me besides the story concept itself. The action was realistic, intense, and almost never resolved in a way I expected. Complex and daring plans tended to end with mixed results, much like they would in the real world. There were plenty of moments in Master of None that had me anxious to turn the page.
“Wow sounds great Justin!, but why only 2.5 stars?” Funny you should ask, because I’m about to tell you. There were many moments in the story that felt awkward. First, the opening was very hard to swallow. I know one of the toughest things to do in urban fantasy is to make your magical world fit into reality, but since that’s what pretty much defines the genre, it’s important to pull it off smoothly — and Sonya Bateman doesn’t. Gavyn buys being tossed into a world that has genies just a little too quickly. I had to mentally set that aside in order to make the story work. There were also moments in the dialog that were out of place. Here’s an example in the form of a multiple choice question:
Q: The love of your life has just been witness to the aftermath of a loved one having been skinned alive. You’re in the car heading away from the scene. What do you do?
A. Offer consoling words of love and support
B. Vow revenge on the perpetrator
C. Get all hot with passion at the site of your lover’s resolve
D. All the above
Well, if you’re the main character in Master of None, you choose option D. Talk about awkward. “Hey babe, sorry about Jenny being skinned alive, I’ll kill the bastard who did this. My god, that perfume you’re wearing… it’s so hot!” Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it was still a moment that stuck with me throughout the whole story.
Secondly, the magic system was annoyingly inconsistent. At the beginning of the story, Ian is capable of making Gavyn’s needs appear. He gets thirsty, he somehow ends up with beer. He needs a smoke, all he has to do is check his pocket. Then you get towards the end and everybody is dying of thirst… suddenly genies are no longer able to generate anything useful. Beer and smokes are fine, but water is out of the question? That’s just poor planning on the author’s part. There were many of these little inconsistencies throughout the book. Taken individually they seem small, but added together I couldn’t overlook them.
Over all, I still recommend giving Master of None a try, especially if you’re getting tired of the monster hunter stories that currently saturate the urban fantasy market. Sonya Bateman‘s story has a lot of potential, and there’s a good chance she’ll hit it out of the park with the sequel because everything she needs for an amazing series is there. I’m anxious to see if she pulls it off in a second book.