Danger & Romance: The Hidden Masters of Marandur | Review + Author Interview

The Hidden Masters of Marandur: The Pillars of Reality, Book 2 - Jack Campbell, MacLeod Andrews, Audible Studios

Mari & Alain's second adventure continues the genre-blending fun with dragons, rocket launchers, and more friends.


"Someone wants to kill Mari, a young steam mechanic in the guild that controls all technology. She has learned that her world of Dematr is headed for a catastrophe that will destroy civilization and that mages really can alter reality for short periods. Someone also wants to kill Alain, a young mage who has learned that mechanics are not frauds, as his guild teaches, and that mechanic Mari is the only person who can prevent the oncoming disaster.


Narrowly escaping death, the mechanic and the mage stay alive thanks to their combined skills, an alliance never before seen. But it becomes clear that both of their guilds, the most powerful forces in the world, are trying to destroy them. Other powers, like the great empire and a mysterious secret order, also seek to kill or capture them using every weapon from imperial legions to mage-created trolls, dragons, and rocs."


Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $7.48.

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.

Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible



The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 12 hrs 54 min



This is Book #2 of 4 (so far) in "The Pillars of Reality" series. Books #5 & #6 will be released at Audible on 7/1 & 8/1/16 respectively, which will complete the series. Other formats will be released approximately 90 days afterwards.


**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**



I just finished reading Book #4, and this is still my current favorite series. I will repeat what I said in my review of the first book, "forget this review, just go read the book."



Mari: At the end of the last book, she decided that she would change the entire world if necessary in order to make it right and allow her to be with Alain. In this book she is trying to gather more information on how the world got to be the way it is, since she believes is doing research before taking on a problem. She is also grappling with the effects her abandonment issues have on her relationship with Alain.


Alain: He begins this book struggling to deal with the loneliness he now feels after having had Mari to talk to previously. Once they are reunited he has to juggle his determination to protect The Daughter and his own efforts to become truly human again.


Mari & Alain: At the end of the last book, Mari told Alain that she loved him, and he answered "Yes" when she asked if he had feelings for her (he really struggles to express love, since Mages were severely punished for such behavior). The relationship continues to grow in this book in a, mostly, healthy and satisfying manner. Mari does display some serious jealousy that has proved irritating to many readers. It didn't bother me, because she recognized her feelings and tried to deal with them.


I have seen complaints about how Mari is the one who controls their physical relationship. I think that it is absolutely every individuals right to set their own limits. Since, in this relationship, she is the one who wants to "wait" then she is the one choosing where the limits are. Now it is true that she does so in her usual bossy manner, which is what I think they were bothered by, since it might seem like she is telling him what he has to do.  But Alain has proven himself more than capable of speaking up if he doesn't agree.


This is the book where we begin to truly introduce some of the wonderful supporting characters that inhabit this world. Important ones include: General Flyn, who I liked despite my concerns expressed below. / Calu, a mechanic friend of Mari's who was briefly mentioned in the first book and whose interest in Theoretical Physics brings out some very intriguing connections between science and the mages magic. / Mage Asha, an extremely beautiful former fellow acolyte of Alain's / Professor S'san, the one who pushed Mari hard so she would reach Master Mechanic status before the rules were changed to set a minimum age. / Mechanic Alli, Mari's best friend and a favorite of mine, is mentioned again.



In the first book, Alain & Mari were always in the same place even when they were not always together.  However at the end of that book they each came to the conclusion that the only way to protect the other was to separate, since being seen together could get them killed by either guild. This book starts out with them halfway across the world from each other.


Note: The parts with Mari alone are never my favorite parts. Not because of her; but because, for some reason, I dislike the Senior Mechanics more than the Mage Elders.


The majority of the book is spent in the territory of The Empire, the largest political power in the world. Their aggression is held in check only by the Guilds, who don't want anyone challenging their control. They are very organized and orderly and have many of the same public institutions as we do, but they are also very controlling.


Trains are officially becoming "a thing." In the first book, she convinced Alain to travel on one and they almost crash due to a sabotaged bridge. Despite his reluctance, they again choose to travel on a train and meet with an adventure.


We get to meet another dragon and a Roc (giant bird), and Mari uses some seriously cool ordinance.


The book ends with some hope that they may finally learn something about their world and how it became so screwed up.



  • Alain really needs to learn "social skills."

Mari shifted position, grimacing. "Blazes, my butt hurts. I think horses were designed as instruments of torture. And my thighs. You can't imagine how my thighs feel."


"I have tried to imagine how they feel," Alain offered.


Mari stared back at him blankly for a moment, then broke into laughter. "Alain, you don't just say something like that to a girl. Everybody knows men are thinking it, but they're not supposed to say it."

  • Mari's recognition that they haven't really known each other that long, and are in mortal danger, so maybe now isn't the time to make big decisions about their future.


  • A scene in which Mari is traumatized & despairing and unable to make good choices for herself, and so Alain makes the choice he knows is consistent with her true desires.



I have serious doubts about the morality of the raids being conducted by General Flyn and his soldiers (i.e. I think they are immoral). The rationale is that they keep their soldiers practiced and their enemy off balance. But, even with their no-kill policy, it is not really the enemy government that suffers. The border farmers are the ones that have to deal with the losses.


I also have concerns about books in which characters regularly "sleep together" when they want, and plan, to not have sex yet. It is made clear in this particular book that Mari doesn't do that until she is confident in their self-control, but waiting is important to her and I personally think that it's unwise to promote the idea that such a practice isn't likely to lead to unplanned activities.

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: Throughout this series, it is made clear that most Mages & Mechanics don’t concern themselves with “consent” when it come to physical relations with Commons. We don’t get any details of particular incidents though, and neither of our main characters is comfortable with the practice. (repeated from the first review)



Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = Yes. He actually does a really good job with this, since he has to invent accents for people from different fictional regions. / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good. Like the 1st book, he does well with both the emotional Mari and the "just learning to express some emotions, but mostly flat" Alain / Speed = Good, was able to listen on normal speed rather than my usual 1.25.



The Hidden Masters of Marandur (Pillars of Reality #2) by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 12 hrs 54 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend some other books where the characters take their time getting to know each other across more than one book?
  • Do you accept certain behaviors in books that you would never accept in the real world?
  • Do you prefer to read books that stick to one audience or genre, or do you thinks books should be rule free? (See the author's thought's below)


  • If you are a first time visitor, how did you discover my blog?
  • I recently debuted my redesigned blog. What do you think?

Got My Book Signature


By Author

The Dragons of Dorcastle

The Dragons of Dorcastle

[Review + Author Ivu]

By Narrator





The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial



Nice Dragons Finish Last

Nice Dragons Finish Last

[Review + Narrator Ivu]


Bonus Author Interview (Part 2)


Tell us something about your lead characters that we don't already know.

I can't!  Spoilers!

Has becoming a "YA" author changed anything for you?

I've always tried to write stories that work for most ages.  I never target adult or YA, I just try to tell the story in a way that is entertaining for as many people as possible.  Andre Norton remains one of my favorite authors, and that was how she would write.  YA as a marketing category isn't that old, after all, and a lot of what is now considered YA were once regarded as adult novels.  Mainly, though, I don't want to have to force my story to conform to arbitrary "rules" about what YA can and can't have and what adult novels can and can't have.  I don't think readers of any ages are looking for rules about what their stories are allowed to have, rules that try to fence in imagination and adventure and characters who usually want to break rules.  If Schrödinger's cat can be different things at the same time, why can't books? 

What is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?

There isn't any one hardest thing.  About two hundred years ago Clausewitz wrote "Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult."  I think that actually applies to anything.  As in this case, everything is very simple about writing, but the simplest thing is difficult.  All you need is an idea!  Simple.  But getting the right idea is difficult, and figuring out how to use it is difficult.  Then you write the novel!  Simple.  But sitting down every day and keeping the story interesting and focused and getting past blocks and all the rest is difficult.


I spent more than a decade wanting to try to do a "long retreat" series in space, something like the classic March of the 10,000 by Xenophon, but I couldn't think of a good way to do it.  I spent nearly as long trying to think of a story to go with a modern version of the "sleeping hero" myth (like King Arthur) that is common in many cultures, wanting to explore how a real person who had become the subject of such a myth would handle it if they awoke to find themselves expected to live up to that myth.  One day it finally occurred to me that I could combine those two ideas into one story, and that they would fit together perfectly.  That became the core of my most successful book to date - Dauntless.  Simple!  Easy!  And it took me over ten years to figure it out.  Hard!


Everything about writing is easy, but the easy stuff is the hardest to do. 

For more information: http://www.jack-campbell.com/


Share/Save Post:

(If you don’t see anything in this section, your browser may be blocking share buttons)


Join me on my Audiobook Journey?

Amazon | Audible | Bloglovin' | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | RSS | Twitter


Never Miss a Post

Delivered by FeedBurner

This review will be linked up with the following (hover for descriptions):