Masters of Deception by JC Kang

Masters of Deception by JC Kang

Series: Legends of Tivara #1Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: September 13th 2018Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy
Publisher: Self-publishedAvailable: Amazon
Number of pages: 454Author’s website:


Quote of the Book

“Paladin training included only the basics of horseback riding. Sameer regretted that now. As he bounced up and down in the saddle. His knuckles blanched white from gripping the reins, and he sat as stiff as an embalmed corpse.”



Only a conman can save the world.

For a millennium, the Dragonstone atop a vibrant port city’s pyramid has prevented the Orc Gods from returning to the world and re-enslaving mankind.

Now, with the authorities and crime families teetering on the brink of war, only Cassius Larusso can recruit a team to keep the Dragonstone out of evil hands. A descendant of the Diviner who first banished the Orc Gods, he might be convinced to act— as long as it fills his coffers with gold, his stomach with delicious food, and his bed with a different type of delicacy.

Unfortunately, his choice of companions is limited to the poor souls who come seeking his sometimes fraudulent divinations:

A half-elf spy tracking an assassin.
A sorceress searching for a traitor.
A paladin pursuing his forbidden love.

If he can trick coax them into putting aside their own agendas and taking up his own, Cassius might be able to stave off a war, secure his city, and write his own destiny. If not, what begins as a back-alley battle may bring about the downfall of humanity.

In a game of deceptions, which side will you fight for?


Personal notes

I kept thinking what a cool movie this book would be because it was so visually beautiful –  the colors, clothing, food, and those cool as hell fight scenes! Agh! Especially the Paladin’s, with his slow-down, speed-up magic, it made me think of those great fight scenes, where they slow down and a fist or sword fly by their faces, or speed up and he appears beside the enemy. Really well done.


Song of the Book

All Your Lies by 10 Years. I had a heck of a time finding a song for this title. With so many POVs just focusing on one person’s motivations seem to leave too much of the rest of the story uncovered. This song fits a bit of everyone at different times but mostly it fits the underlying story as a whole, with its theme of lust, power, and greed.



Masters of Deception is twisty fast-paced storytelling at its best. The world feels alive, chaotic in color, sounds, food, people and culture. I never felt that there was a bubble that this story took place in and knew that if I was to leave the city, there would be a huge world beyond.

The cast is large and the story full of tricky maneuverings as a play for the top dog position of power in the city and beyond unfolds. You’re not sure who is screwing over who until practically the last chapter. I will not talk too much about the plot because I can’t say much more than I do without spoilers.

Cassius, diviner and a bit of a conman, though his divinations are a true gift he doesn’t hesitate to make a fair profit from. He makes a deal to delay the Aksumite women in the city, and in return for the favor, the Bovyan’s will do his people a service.

Brehane and Makeda (the aforementioned Akusumite women) travelling with their teacher Dawit, arrive in the city searching for Melas one of their members, who seems to be getting too involved with magic that is far beyond his capabilities.

And a series of events has Jie the half-elf sidetracked and helping Sameer the Paladin as he tries to find his missing love Sohini. Sameer’s desire to find Sohini has him pushing all of his teachings aside, acting rashly and getting himself into all sorts of trouble.

There are more but the story revolves around these people, their lives and secret plans, intersecting the others like a big waltz.

Considering how many people are in this story and all the POVs we get before things start clicking together into a twisty subterfuge of plots, I really only had trouble remembering the names of some of the secondary to the plot characters. Because the mpov’s were all so different, I was able to keep them fairly straight.

Out of them all though, Jie stood above the rest for me. The little half-elf was fun, got herself into and out binds and had just enough spunk to her to make me really like her. A lot of her scenes were the kind I like the best, exciting and at times quite tense with me worrying she would be caught as she was skulking around getting information.

Cassius was interesting and I enjoyed his POV for the magic fortune-telling with the stars because it was very neat and visually pretty (in my head).

Makena and Brehane were quarrelsome with one another, reminding me a little of the teenage years with my kids so they weren’t always my favorite. Later Brehane started to grow on me more, especially after she had some very human responses to battle that brought her rather stuck-up attitude down a peg or two, and made her a bit more relatable.

Sameer The Paladin had the coolest fight scenes.

For such a character heavy story this had a very complicated plot underneath. It reminded me of Oceans Eleven, not because there was a heist, but for that art of balancing groups of people, secret motivations, and character development through conversations and action as this big involved plot unfolds underneath. It takes some serious talent to balance all of that and keep things moving.
I had a few instances where I did wonder why they were doing certain things but as each group/person’s motivations became clearer, so did any on my confusion.

If you’re like me, and haven’t read any of the books in the Dragon Songs World, Masters of Deception works well on its own and is a good place to jump in and see if the rest of this world interests you.


Other notes

What a class A cover on this book!

This review was written by Jennifer (BunnyReads)