Book review: MASKS by E. C. Blake
by T. E. J. Johnson
E.C.Blake’s MASKS pulls readers into the masked land of Aygrima.
Wait what? I hear you say.
Yes. The masked land of Aygrima. The ruler of the land the Autarch masks his citizens once they are fifteen. The Masks denote people’s status and profession and the masking serves a secondary purpose; it weeds out those that carry evil in their heart. If you fail a masking your fancy mask cracks and worse – smashes your face in. I mean literally smashes your face in. You do not want to fail a masking.
The unmasked get sent to work in a brutal concentration camp mining the precious magic that powers the land.
Meet Mara Holdfast. She is our protagonist and her father is the most gifted mask-maker in the land. She is sure to have a bright future following in his footsteps until… Mara fails her masking.
“The mask squirmed and wriggled like a basket full of snakes, faster and faster, harder and harder. Mara gasped, then screamed, as she felt the skin above her cheekbones rip, the skin of her forehead split, her nose break. She fell to her knees, eyes squeezed shut, scrabbling at the Mask, tearing at it with her fingernails, but it wouldn’t come off, it was going to kill her – ”
And so the adventure begins.
There was a lot I really enjoyed reading MASKS. The lands of Aygrima are a cohesive well-developed world. There are some neat historical hooks for the series, such as the tales of the Lady of Blood and Fire, and how the Aygrima used to have trade-relations with another, sea-faring nation, until the boats just stopped coming.
I absolutely loved how Blake described the Masked citizens of Aygrima, you can totally *see* their amazing masks, and how it would change people’s communication as you read.
Mara holds an incredible power, a shocking, violent power – and I think this is the most exciting aspect of Masks. Seeing Mara develop her use of magic. Like precious metal, magic is mined for the gifted to use, and Mara is very, very gifted.
The kind of gifted that she could accidentally blow your head clean off.
The novel is fast paced and Mara gets herself in and out of a million-tangles as she falls from a high-born Aygriman citizen, to concentration-camp prisoner to unmasked rebel.
I would thoroughly recommend this novel; it is a great page-turner and a fantastic start to an exciting new series.
I’ve already bought SHADOWS, and am just about to turn over Page 1. (Remember that sea-faring nation that just stopped showing up? Check out this cover! ) So there shall be a review to follow with that soon!
Happy reading my friends.