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Judith Merkle Riley
book cover

1999, November, Viking Press

Who recommends: Julie, Preeti, Catie, Lori, Margaret, Danielle
Who discommends: JW, Shelley

I just finished MASTER and I will say it was very very good. A vintage Riley. :) It's wry and sharp and tangy. It was exactly what I needed. <g>

Here's a little blurb:
It's Paris 1556 and our heroine is Sibille Artaud de la Roque a bluestocking who is charming and a little naive and has very large feet. She "acquires" the dreadful Master of All Desires, who is a 2000 year old shriveled magical head in a box.

He's evil and also grants wishes. He's also wanted by every dabbler of black magic, which includes the queen of France, Catherine de Medici. We also meet the legendary Nostradamus, an astrologer/magician.

This book was really delightful; full of very wry, dry humor. The characters are hilarious at times and yet the book is enthralling because of the history. I particularly liked the Master himself.

So, a good book and well worth the hardback price.--Julie (09 Dec 99)

When I first started to read the book I set it aside, partly because of pressure of other business and partly because I'd only recently finished reading Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond books which depict many of the same characters - of course slightly differently!

Picking it up again over the New Year I was quickly sucked back in. And it's wonderful. Rich in humour. Gripping story. And yet not lacking in beauty. I loved it and of course now want to re-read the others. -- Catie (04 Jan 00)

I've read about half of this now, and am finding it a struggle to stay interested. I think I'm going to give up on it. I like Sibille's first person narrative, and even find the Queen's plots to destroy her rival amusing, but there are just too many changing POVs, and some of them I'm finding boring. I don't find it difficult to keep up with what's going on, but I find it difficult to stay interested with so many shifting POVs. I've enjoyed all of JMR's previous books, so I suppose I'll give this one another try later.--JW (04 Jan 00)

I loved MASTER. I don't know how Riley manages to blend history, politics, romance, and dark magic in such a fun, clever, and feminist package.--Preeti (07 Jan 00)

I just finished Judith Merkle Riley's Master of All Desires (note: don't start a library book shortly before you go on vacation and then decide that you don't want to carry the hardcover book with you <g>). The story never would have worked as a romance novel; the characters just didn't quite have the right "romance" feel to them. And there's too much history, too. <g> What a refreshing change!--Lori (13 Feb 00)

My big disappointment was Judith Merkle Riley's MASTER OF ALL DESIRES. I am really a character driven reader and I could not find enough to like in any of the characters to take an interest in what was going on.

I usually love JMR, but not for this one. I am still looking forward to what ever she comes out with next and am going to keep MOAD on my shelves and try again later to make sure it is just not my mood. I do wish her third book in the Vision of Light trilogy was in English - sometime soon!--Shelley (06 Aug 01)

The third Vision of Light book is called THE WATER DEMON and currently only available in German or Spanish. I bought a German copy thinking that some day I may brush up my German and have a go...

Re THE MASTER OF ALL DESIRES, I liked it, though maybe not quite as much as earlier titles - it did take more work to get into. At the time I also found it distracting to find the same people I'd just read about in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond books portrayed very differently. I don't have a problem with this in general; writers must have the freedom to develop their own portrait and Riley was writing comedy and Dunnett melodrama. It was just reading the two very close together. Personally, I think MOAD is worth a little extra work - it's a funny and clever book.--Catie (07 Aug 01)

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