Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima—the one land blessed with magical resources—cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.
In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.
At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks—which denote both status and profession—whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.
Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.
But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong…
Tension building that will curl your toes and amazing world building!
In Masks the reader will discover a unique magic system where the gifted that are able to work with magic are few and yet each person’s life seems to be ruled by it. This is because the ruler of this country is a of course someone very strong in the use of magic and by his decree all citizens at the age of 15 must don a mask that will essentially reveal any treasonous thoughts that they have.
What makes the magic system unique compared to others I have read is that magic must be gathered before it is used. So one of the gifted couldn’t just cast a spell or conjure something – they literally must have the physical magical element/resource before they are able to begin their work. That makes magic a physical resource, because even if you are one of the gifted what good would your gift be if you didn’t have the magic to put your gift to use? I haven’t seen magic treated in this way before and admit I really found it fascinating.
The main character Mara is the young daughter of the master mask maker and has wanted nothing more her whole life than to follow in her father’s footsteps. But on her 15th birthday, the day of her masking, her mask rejects her and she is cast out of the city and sent off to what is meant to be a lifetime of slavery.
Her journey is a long and enlightening one. Fraught with peril at every turn, Mara must learn what it really means to become an adult and hardships all people face under the weight of the masks – whether they wear one or not. I can tell there are some trying times ahead for Mara in the next book and likely an even stronger presence from the main villain the Autarch of Aygrima. This guy is one evil dictator, though we really didn’t see him much in Masks I think that will change in the upcoming books. Instead there were other villains to contend with in this first volume.
BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILER:
My only concern with the story is that the main character Mara may have fallen into the “safe zone.” This is in no way a criticism of this book, merely an observation and a thought that kept tickling my brain. What I mean by this is sometimes I see a trend in the books I read where an author will write in some very strong themes (I’m referring to traumatizing events) – and yet these things do not directly happen to the main character. There are close calls, near misses, the almost-but-didn’t-quite-happen scenes, you know what I mean. What I then see instead is that the awful things happen to a side character, one that I assume most readers are not as, or at all, attached to. Not that I want bad things to happen to anyone but I think that it loses a smidge or realism when a character doesn’t experience some of these things. It didn’t lessen the amazing story at all, it was just something that I noted while reading, only because I had encountered it in several other books recently as well.
I applaud the author for creating such a world and character that I am already aching to learn more about. Those that love reading about worlds other than our own and rich magical systems will surely want to give Masks a read. I am most certainly looking forward to reading more.
Be sure to read E.C. Blake’s guest post with us on Writing Masks