Masters of Death: Paranormal fantasy with Neil Gaiman vibes

Review by Sia Hills

As someone who would call themselves a ‘reader’, I have a love-hate relationship with some books. I can be completely besotted with one, and completely agitated with another. Unfortunately, for this particular read, it’s the latter. I’ve attempted to read Olivie Blake’s work before. The Atlas Six, for example. So when I was given the opportunity to read Masters of Death, I took up the challenge with some hesitation.  

Admittedly, I did enjoy the prelude. I liked that it set the tone for what was to come. However, as I continued, the issues I’d experienced in previous works appeared in this one.  

The story opens through the eyes of Death, a character with their own narrative, but the main two protagonists are Viola and Fox. Complex characters to be sure, with layers that the reader uncovers as they journey along with them. The story is very much relationship driven, with romantic and familial love being the most common theme woven through the prose. While I struggled to connect with each character at different parts, I enjoyed Fox very much and Viola was doubly fun. But the side characters fell a little flat. Still, the mystery element is what kept me immersed. And Death was a fun character. I wish there could be more POV’s from Death. 

In a nutshell, Masters of Death is the story of a vampire real estate agent who is struggling to sell a very haunted house. This leads her to seek out Fox to help her rid the house of its spooks, but it evolves into an unexpected side-quest. Chaos ensues. Now, as far as the storytelling goes, it was confusing at time, verbose at others, and there weren’t many scene transitions to indicate what was happening and when. Still, I enjoyed the concept. It was fun and quirky. And I love quirky. 

The story itself fits into the new adult genre, with elements of paranormal fantasy. Given the cast are supernatural creatures, and there are mentions of others being immortal, or I guess deities. The descriptions are more tell rather than show, while switching to show and tell in other areas. Additionally, the formatting of some of the dialogue was enough to take me out of the immersion. Which, as a reader, can be quite confusing. However, I do enjoy that others like that style of writing. So don’t let this put you off! 

The book ultimately felt like it was trying to do too much, while actually doing very little. What I did enjoy was the vibes. It gave me Neil Gaiman with a twist, and I did get a few laughs from the dry wit and lyrical context of dark comedy. It was passionate, and intriguing, but some of the delivery fell a little flat. The cast was diverse, and was written with care and safety, and that is what gave it its beauty.  

For me, Olive Blake’s Masters of Death is a 2.5 to 3 star read. While I did almost DNF a few times, I’m glad I pushed through. Even if I didn’t fully enjoy it, it was still an interesting read that was different to my usual style.  

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