fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Master of Whitestorm Janny WurtsThe Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts

As The Master of Whitestorm starts off, Haldeth, a blacksmith turned galley slave, gets involved in an escape attempt by his bench mate, a mysterious and silent man who quickly proves to have surprising skills and hidden depths. After the two companions escape, they strike out together, and the mysterious man, whose name turns out to be Korendir, takes on a number of mercenary missions. It quickly becomes clear that Korendir is, to put it lightly, very focused on gathering enough money to build an impregnable fortress on the cliffs of Whitestorm…

This standalone novel is another excellent example of Janny Wurts‘ gorgeous prose style and entrancing story-telling. Initially an episodic story, consisting of a number of separate “missions” Korendir undertakes, the book gradually reveals an underlying thread that explains Korendir’s distinctive personality (think Lethal Weapon in a complex fantasy setting) and builds up to an impressive climax and a moving conclusion.

Like many other Janny Wurts novels, The Master of Whitestorm is an intense and concisely told story that requires the reader’s full attention. In this age of bloated fantasy tomes that could easily lose entire chapters without losing much plot, I’ve found that I always have to recalibrate when starting out on a Janny Wurts novel, because here every word counts. Re-reading will invariably reveal additional layers and details you may have missed on the first run-through — especially in this novel, which starts out as a number of seemingly disconnected episodes.

If the novel has one small weakness, it’s that episodic structure of its first half: upon a first reading, it came across as disjointed and lacking the narrative tension that I’d come to love and expect in the other Janny Wurts novels I’ve read. However, the second half of the novel ties everything together beautifully and will make you reconsider the earlier chapters — and Korendir — in an entirely different light. In either case, this may be just a personal preference: other readers reported loving Korendir’s early missions because they had an old-fashioned “adventure fantasy” feeling to them — and don’t get me wrong, they’re tremendously entertaining! Consider: Michael Moorcock‘s ELRIC OF MELNIBONÉ novels start out explaining why Elric is such a tortured soul, which puts the rest of his stories in perspective because we already understand Elric; by contrast, Korendir’s background is only explained after reading a number of his adventures, so the reader is somewhat in the dark early on, but the later revelation is very powerful.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe novel has several other aspects to admire, including a large, varied, and original fantasy world (which could easily contain more novels), a unique magic concept, and a beautiful romance. Simply put, The Master of Whitestorm is another excellent standalone novel by Janny Wurts.

~Stefan Raets

book review Master of Whitestorm Janny WurtsI love the characters that Janny Wurts builds because they are always flawed. The obsession and drive that Korendir feels are tangible, and as you come to know his past, it makes more and more sense.

The Master of Whitestorm is exciting and has plenty of adventure. Ms Wurts deftly walks the line between spending too much time in trivial details and giving you a clear understanding of how the magic system works. Great read, and if you are a Janny Wurts fan, The Master of Whitestorm is a must!

~John Hulet

The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts epic fantasy audiobook reviewJanny Wurts’ The Master of Whitestorm is a stand-alone high fantasy that, like the author’s other work, differentiates itself from other fantasies published in the late 20th century that feature a medieval-style setting. The book has recently been produced in audio format by Audible and is read by British actor Simon Prebble, a highly decorated audiobook narrator and someone whose name I’m always happy to see in the credits. As expected, he does a wonderful job with The Master of Whitestorm and I recommend this audio version to anyone who wants to read or re-read this exciting and emotional story.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe story begins in the slave galley of a ship. Haldeth, whose wife and children were slaughtered by the Murghai, is now chained to the oar of one of their ships. As he slaves for his captors, he observes his benchmate, a man named Korendir who looks fierce but so far has never said a word — he just stoically rows. All the other slaves (and the Murghai) think Korendir is stupid or mute, but it turns out that he has spent his time studying and planning and suddenly, after years of slavery, Korendir announces to Haldeth that he plans to escape their captors. Haldeth reluctantly decides to throw in his lot with the enigmatic man and thus starts a lifelong friendship in which Haldeth will watch Korendir accomplish many other seemingly impossible feats and quests, mostly by outsmarting his opponents.

On the surface, The Master of Whitestorm is an episodic adventure story with a hero who will remind you of Hercules or Odysseus. He fights monsters, saves princesses, breaks curses, resists sirens, builds an invincible castle on a cliff, and outfoxes an elemental spirit. All of these exploits are exciting and there are many delightfully unique elements such as a city where everyone is cursed to be happy. There are some memorable characters such as a dwarf couple who contribute a bit of humor that helps to offset the grimness of the main characters. There is also a sweet romance.

But the story is more than just a series of exploits and quests. More than anything it’s a character study of both Korendir and Haldeth. We follow both characters for many years and it’s slowly revealed that Korendir is not as aloof and stoic as he seems. We learn that his courageous deeds are actually motivated by fear. In contrast, Haldeth, who observes Korendir’s reckless behavior, is also fearful. Both men struggle with the traumas of their past and their fears about an uncertain future. Korendir and Haldeth employ different coping strategies and their outcomes differ significantly.

The Master of Whitestorm is a satisfying self-contained story. Again, I highly recommend the audio version read by Simon Prebble.

~Kat Hooper

The Master of Whitestorm — (1992) Publisher: After escaping from the slave-galleys of the bloodthirsty Murghai, Korendir, a man whose past is shrouded in mystery, sets off on a series of extraordinary quests: to battle the sorceress Anthei; to challenge the elemental Cyondide and win the lost hoard of the dragon Sharkash; to free the people of Northengard from the wereleopards that are decimating their population… Always Korendir’s goal is treasure: but never for its own sake. A driven man, Korendir determines to build a fortress at Whitestorm, impregnable against all comers, be they human or supernatural, to protect himself — its Master — from the dark secret of his ancestry.


  • Stefan Raets

    STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping.

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  • John Hulet

    JOHN HULET is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years. We still hear from him every once in a while.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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