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, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didn’t turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because she’s lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?
Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits her—a future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.
Every time I finish a high fantasy book I ask myself why I don’t read more of them. I just love them so much! But I suppose that I don’t read them ALL the time because maybe the excitement they give me would start to fade? Maybe I’d start to like them less? Most of all, it’s because I have so many other things I want to read too. But really, I can’t seem to ever get enough fantasy. Starting a new fantasy series when I already have so many going maybe isn’t the best idea, but I’m really glad I did because I really enjoyed this one a lot.
Creative and unique; this new series delivered on all levels. Great world, great plot, great characters. Everything you could possibly want or need in a fantasy was here. And what I love about YA is that it delivers the epic fantasy I want/crave but it’s not usually as complicated as the adult ones that have a million characters and lands and customs and everything else to keep straight. While those might actually deliver on a more epic level, you have to have far more patience to stick with them. So YA is what I like to call High Fantasy Light. Still epic, but easier to read, not to mention much faster.
Mara comes from a good family. More privileged then many and with a happy childhood. She’s a bit naive in the start, totally clueless to some of the stuff going on in the world, she opens her eyes quickly as she’s thrust into a world she never realized existed. A place for the unmasked, but not only that but an unmasked army. She has to decide if she’s faithful to the Autarch and the things she’s believed her whole life, or if there’s more to it all and maybe the Autarch isn’t as great as she thought. Though Mara is naive at the start she grows up quickly. When push comes to shove she pushes back. Put through some horrendous ordeals she always fights to reach what is right. She sometimes falls down and reaches a point where she feels there may be no hope, but she doesn’t give up. While there were times when I wanted to yell at her, that her decisions may be noble, they also might be stupid. But she does it because it’s the right thing to do. If she didn’t do it then I wouldn’t look at her the same. She would be more weak or cowardly. So while perhaps stupid, it was also the brave thing to do. Of course, that depends on how you look at it.
The world was really terrific. I felt like we got enough details to really imagine it all and understand it, but it seems like it’s got to be only a small portion of what is to come. Rather then feel it is lacking at all in the world, it feels more like it’s just the beginning. The masks and the magic got some major explaining at the end (no info dumps) and while there’s no way I can predict what is going to happen, it has me excited to see what will come.
This was a book easy to read and hard to put down. I read it in large chunks, wanting to finish it to find out what happens. It was fast paced with no real stopping point and barely a rest to be found. While there was a bit of gore and violence, it wasn’t more then you’d expect in a story of this kind. It wasn’t full of constant battles, but it had a few scenes of fighting; mostly just Mara protecting herself.
I recommend this to YA readers and fans of high fantasy of all ages. Fast, intense and highly addicting!
Disclosure: I received this book for review purposes, all opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.