Master of Rods and Strings by Jason Markc Harris review

Master of Rods and Strings by Jason Marc Harris

Paul reviews Master of Rods and Strings, a novella by debut author Jason Marc Harris.

About the Book
Series: N/AGenre: Weird-Fiction, Horror
Date of Publishing: July 6th, 2021Trigger Warnings: Murder, Mutilation, Animal/Pet Death, Self-Harm, Puppets
Page count: 92Publisher: Vernacular Books
Book Blurb
Master of Rods and Strings by Jason Markc Harris

Jealous of the attention lavished upon the puppetry talents of his dear sister—and tormented by visions of her torture at the hands of the mysterious Uncle Pavan who recruited her for his arcane school—Elias is determined to learn the true nature of occult puppetry, no matter the hideous costs, in order to exact vengeance.

Quote of the Book

“My chest swelled in pride for Sonja, but also poignant jealousy and longing at not yet being able to join her. I missed her terribly, and craved “truly unique greatness” too.
But why did Father’s hands shake, and mother knit more furiously, while Uncle spoke?”

Song of the Book

Review

While not my usual genre, weird-fiction and horror are something that I really want to experiment with and read more of. Master of Rods and Strings was something I stumbled across on Twitter, and I immediately knew from the synopsis that it was something I’d want to read—who wouldn’t be intrigued by occult puppetry?

Master of Rods and Strings follows Elias from boy to man; as a child, he wants to become a master puppeteer but is overlooked by his Uncle Pavan, who instead favours Elias’ sister Sonja. The plot charts Elias’ revenge on his Uncle not only for overlooking his skills but also as a consequence of witnessing the harm caused to Sonja through Pavan’s perverse and dark artistry.

As a character, Elias is forceful, unflinching, and utterly compelling. His ambition and belief of greatness are absolute, so as he ascends professionally, there is an almost parallel descent in his morality. His motivations are understandable, his skill absolute, but his methods are grotesque, which creates a character you root for but feel guilty for doing so. Elias’ marionette, Virgil, while an equally terrifying character in its own right, acts as almost a physical manifestation of Elias’ psyche. A lost, broken thing, rescued and restored, soon becomes a twisted chimaera adorned with hooves, fangs, and claws.

Master of Rods and Strings isn’t overt in your face horror, it is far more delicate and insidious. The constant small unnerving moments are compounded by claustrophobic tension, so what starts as a light caress soon develops into a strangling grip.

The writing is flawless and beautiful. Being more literary fiction, there is a certain purpleness to the prose, but it flows wonderfully. Harris manages to create not only a vivid breathing ‘here’ but weaves around it an ominous and malignant ‘other’ leading to each and every scene being loaded with both the seen and the unseen.

For a novella that runs at just ninety-two pages, there is an incomprehensible amount of depth and plot, perfumed throughout with the occult and drenched in such eldritch esoterica. Master of Rods and Strings is a novella that can be devoured in a single sitting, but whose taste will linger long into the night.

Our Judgement
Let Their Deeds Be Noted - 4 Crowns

Paul is a man of few words but the owner of many, many books. While he is predominately a reader of sci-fi and fantasy, he has a passion for all things ancient and medieval, so historical fiction/non-fiction litter his chaotic shelves like potsherds at a dig site. Raised on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, he fell in love with fantasy at an extremely young age but soon began devouring science-fiction after his mother stole him a copy of 2010: Odyssey Two from a hospital library. In a previous life, he’s been a biomedical scientist and an immunological researcher, but these days is a civil servant who spends his days wishing he wasn’t. Paul lives on the gelid shores of North East England, where he lives with his glorious wife and two cat-shaped demons.

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