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Title: The Mask of Mirrors
Author: M.A. Carrick
Publisher: Orbit Books
Genre: Fantasy |LGBTQ+|High Fantasy|Mystery|Political
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
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Five years as a maid under Letilia’s thumb, listening to her complain about her dreadful family and how much she dreamed of life in Seteris, the promised land she’d never managed to reach. So when Ren and Tess found themselves back in Nadežra, Ren had been resolved.
No whoring, no killing.
Instead, she set her sights on a higher target:
use what she’d learned to gain acceptance into House Traementis as their long-lost kin…
with all the wealth and social benefit it brought.
The Mask of Mirrors Synopsis
Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…
Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.
The Mask of Mirrors Review
Right off the bat this book reminded me of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo mixed with House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas. This is one of those books where you will either LOVE it or HATE it. My rating is somewhere in between. This is a MONSTER book. It took me two days to read with dedicated reading. If you are looking for a non-complicated light fantasy read, this is not it. I cannot stress this enough. This novel is complicated and the threads weave everywhere.
This novel takes place in a fantasy city named Nadežra. I would say it takes place in a time period equivalent to our 19th century. There is high nobility, minor nobility and a lower class, but no tech. Messages are through runners and paper and there are Masquerade Balls There is different cultures and peoples who are distinctly different from each other. This aspect runs through the whole book. Ren, while trying to get into the House Traementis, has found herself in the web of political drama and trying to navigate her way through it without blowing her cover. On top of the political drama, there is the magic system which could do with a lot more explaining (rather than showing). I am still not entirely sure how it works. A masked vigilante who pits himself, or herself, against the nobility and a mysterious drug that is causing mayhem in the lower class This book is complicated and not easy to follow with lots of details. It’s one of those books were you have to be paying attention to and cannot skip anything, lest you miss something. So, don’t be reading this while having a person talk to you, or having the tv in the background; you WILL miss something important.
Other than the complication of the details of the plot, the characters are well written. Ren is fascinating, but i find at times she gets caught up in her con and forgets her family. She is cunning and clever. She uses the skills her mother had taught her through the Pattern Cards (like Tarot cards) and life on the wrong side of the track to her advantage, and she thinks she is cleverer than everyone else. Her sworn sister, Tess, is often forgotten in the moment and I feel that Ren sometimes takes advantage of Tess. Tess is sweet, caring, and unsuspecting, but will on the other hand destroy anyone who messes with her family. Vargo is an interesting character. I have not figured out his motivation or magic yet. But he and Ren will no doubt be linked throughout the rest of the series Grey is a hawk. A member of the city’s police force. He is definitely not someone to mess around with and has been set on Ren by House Traementis to see if she is the real deal, or not.
I rated this four stars and not five stars because while it keep me interested I feel like there was A LOT of details and it was hard to track who was doing what and when and where in the city. I loved the book but at some parts I struggled through, especially with all the details and world building and plots within plots. The character’s POV switched and you were thrown right into another scheme or plot, but their stories all wove together nicely. The events felt far apart, but enough details were spilling out of the book that it felt like you were racing to catch up to what the characters knew. The ending battle was a great finish to the book. However, the last parts of the book, including the reveal of who The Rook was, felt anti-climatic after the battle scene with all our characters in it. Overall, If you liked House of Earth and Blood and Six of Crows, you will like this book. I will definitely be picking up the second book in this series to see where all those threads go and to see if Ren ever figures out who The Rook is.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Orbit Books for sending me a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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About M.A. Carrick
M.A. Carrick is the joint pen name of Marie Brennan (author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent) and Alyc Helms (author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic). The two met in 2000 on an archaeological dig in Wales and Ireland — including a stint in the town of Carrickmacross — and have built their friendship through two decades of anthropology, writing, and gaming. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She recently misapplied her professors’ hard work to Turning Darkness Into Light, a sequel to the Hugo Award-nominated series The Memoirs of Lady Trent.
Alyc Helms prefers tea (especially a really smoky Lapsang Souchong) over all other beverages. They studied folklore and anthropology what feels like a lifetime ago, and they dabble in corsetry and costuming, dance Scottish Highland and Irish Ceili at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, and game in all forms of media. They sometimes refer to their work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is a fancy way to say that they are obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes. They are a freelance RPG writer for Green Ronin, a graduate of Clarion West 2012, and have published short fiction in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
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