Monday, April 21, 2008

Master of None by Lee Benoit

TITLE: Master of None
AUTHOR: Lee Benoit
PUBLISHER: Torquere Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 22k)
GENRE: Gay fantasy romance
COST: $2.49

The death of a lover drives Adiun to take a risk – to leave behind the home he’s known his whole life to go off in search of Devi, the lover who was taken from him the previous autumn. With only the basic skills he’s gathered as a member of his village, he travels to the nearest city where he hooks up with a troupe of acrobats. They take Adiun in, helping him as he searches brothels and those in the slave trade for signs of his love. Along the way, he finally grows up…

Master of None is a story of quiet desolation. Not a romance in the conventional sense, this is more a tale of growth and self-exploration, wrapped up in a let’s-find-my-longlost-boyfriend package. Nearly ¾’s of the story is spent following Adiun on his quest to find Devi, during which time he learns about the outside world, makes new friends, and breaks another heart. This is Adiun’s story. Devi is more of an afterthought.

Adiun starts out the story desperate to find Devi. He’s of little importance to the survival of his village, with no children and no formal role to play, so his venture into the outside world borders on an innocent risk. He’s got nothing to lose, but no idea of what really to do. It isn’t until he hooks up with the group of performers that he starts to find a path, and his growth from that point on explodes. There’s a sweet charm to him as he struggles to fit in, but where the story shines is his growing friendship with Jurn, the juggler. There are others in the troupe who prove more beneficial in aiding Adiun’s quest, but Jurn is the one that riveted me. I spent a good portion of the story hoping the author would surprise me and that Adiun would end up with Jurn, that it would ultimately be about growing up and moving on. I loved the idea that their relationship could deepen into something more, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Adiun loves Devi. End of story.

Perhaps I would have been less disappointed with how it developed if I knew more about Devi. Because he isn’t introduced until nearly the end of the story, I only get Adiun’s adoration for the young man, not any kind of realistic portrait. I’m much more emotionally invested in Jurn at that point, which is perhaps the reason why I wanted him to get Adiun instead. In fact, I spent the last quarter of the story missing Jurn, as Adiun tries to come to grips with the fact that Devi is a different person than the one he knew. Another of the troupe ends up taking over the friendship role in that section, and only the fact that Adiun completes his arc and takes on the mantle of leader keeps me invested in the rest of the story.

Don’t get me wrong. I really liked this story. Adiun was a wonderful protagonist, suitably flawed without feeling phony. I had little problem sinking into the fantasy world the author created, and even less difficulty following the myriad characters around. But what makes the story so good is Adiun and his sense of loss coloring his every move. I ached with him, in spite of never really knowing Devi. I might not have believed the romance of the ending, but I sure as hell believed in him.


9/10 – Smooth, intelligent prose that manages to convey a great deal in such a short piece

Hero #1

9/10 – The path from innocent to leader is rich and sympathetic.

Hero #2

3/10 – His absence throughout most of the story makes it too hard to get a realistic feel for him.

Entertainment value

8/10 – I’ll admit I would have enjoyed this a lot more if the author had taken a different route with the last fourth of the story, but my appreciation for Adiun makes up for that.

World building

9/10 – In spite of the story’s brevity, the author paints a fantasy world in careful enough detail to make it clear and believable.



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