Today on the author blog Leland Lydecker reviews The Mask of Tamrel, the first book in Scott J Couturier’s Magistricide series.

It’s not often that I come across a book I unequivocally like, so keep in mind that this a rare statement when I say that The Mask of Tamrel is the best work of fantasy I’ve read in a long time. Couturier’s elegant and vividly descriptive writing pulled me in, and I quickly found myself hooked on the exquisitely crafted world of Thevin. 

Each scene is so richly detailed that you can almost see the colors, smell the scents and taste the food, yet the pace at which the story unfolds is anything but slow. Like a whiff of exotic scents, this tale wraps itself around the reader in a thoroughly pleasant way before digging its hooks into the psyche and revealing itself to be a cleverly disguised addictive substance that keeps the reader turning pages to find out what happens next.

“This is really good!” I found myself thinking. “This is unbelievably good!” I had to stop and check if The Mask of Tamrel wasn’t actually from one of the big publishing houses. I read the first half of the book in one night because I couldn’t put it down.

Couturier writes characters that are human and relatable in the best way: they’re characters that you can see a little of yourself in, and that you find yourself sympathizing with and cheering for without even realizing it. Main character Kelrob comports himself with amazing restraint and empathy in the face of the horrific behavior of his fellow magisters. Despite being physically unimposing, he possesses surprising courage, loyalty, and inner strength. These traits are not thrust at the reader like a dossier at the beginning of the story; rather, we slowly get to know Kelrob and come to realize that beneath his reserved and unassuming exterior, he’s really an incredibly likable person.

Jacobson’s character is just as adeptly crafted. He’s not the brutish, drunken sell-sword he appears at first glance; instead, like veterans we know in everyday life, he has been to war and come home with an unbearable burden of guilt and horror. Beneath his drunken exterior lies a complex human being: gentle, well-read, and capable of astounding kindness.

Even the tale’s namesake is a nuanced and almost sympathetic force rather than a one-dimensional evil. I found myself rather liking Tamrel. Who could fault a being who wants to set people free from a miserable existence?

It’s a rare book that draws me in the way The Mask of Tamrel did, and it’s an extremely rare and talented author that can craft characters that I grow to like more rather than less as the story goes on. It’s been years since I read a new book that made me really want to pick up the next in the series– not just because I wanted to know what happened, but because I enjoyed the world and the characters so much that I wanted to go back for more. This is the hallmark of a truly great author, and I can’t believe this gem of a novel hasn’t received more attention. If The Mask of Tamrel is any indication, author Scott J Couturier is destined for great things.

I greatly enjoyed this book, and there’s a good chance I’ll be reviewing the rest of the Magistricide series in the future. If you’d like to check out The Mask of Tamrel for yourself, it’s available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon  and Barnes & Noble. At the time of posting, the ebook version is free.

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