As The Master of Whitestorm starts off, Haldeth, a blacksmith turned galley slave, gets involved in an escape attempt by his bench mate, a mysterious and silent man who quickly proves to have surprising skills and hidden depths. After the two companions escape, they strike out together, and the mysterious man, whose name turns out to be Korendir, takes on a number of mercenary missions. It quickly becomes clear that Korendir is, to put it lightly, very focused on gathering enough money to build an impregnable fortress on the cliffs of Whitestorm…
This standalone novel is another excellent example of Janny Wurts‘ gorgeous prose style and entrancing story-telling. Initially an episodic story, consisting of a number of separate “missions” Korendir undertakes, the book gradually reveals an underlying thread that explains Korendir’s distinctive personality (think Lethal Weapon in a complex fantasy setting) and builds up to an impressive climax and a moving conclusion.
Like many other Janny Wurts novels, The Master of Whitestorm is an intense and concisely told story that requires the reader’s full attention. In this age of bloated fantasy tomes that could easily lose entire chapters without losing much plot, I’ve found that I always have to recalibrate when starting out on a Janny Wurts novel, because here every word counts. Re-reading will invariably reveal additional layers and details you may have missed on the first run-through — especially in this novel, which starts out as a number of seemingly disconnected episodes.
If the novel has one small weakness, it’s that episodic structure of its first half: upon a first reading, it came across as disjointed and lacking the narrative tension that I’d come to love and expect in the other Janny Wurts novels I’ve read. However, the second half of the novel ties everything together beautifully and will make you reconsider the earlier chapters — and Korendir — in an entirely different light. In either case, this may be just a personal preference: other readers reported loving Korendir’s early missions because they had an old-fashioned “adventure fantasy” feeling to them — and don’t get me wrong, they’re tremendously entertaining! Consider: Michael Moorcock‘s ELRIC OF MELNIBONÉ novels start out explaining why Elric is such a tortured soul, which puts the rest of his stories in perspective because we already understand Elric; by contrast, Korendir’s background is only explained after reading a number of his adventures, so the reader is somewhat in the dark early on, but the later revelation is very powerful.
The novel has several other aspects to admire, including a large, varied, and original fantasy world (which could easily contain more novels), a unique magic concept, and a beautiful romance. Simply put, The Master of Whitestorm is another excellent standalone novel by Janny Wurts.