I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Masks of Aygrima #2
Published by DAW on Aug. 5, 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Source: the publisher
In Masks, Mara Holdfast's life changed forever. As the daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, she had a clearly defined future: a quiet, ordered life in the capital, making Masks with her father and doing work important to the ruling Autarch. But when her Mask, specially made by her own father, cracked and fell to pieces during her Masking ceremony, Mara was exiled from everything she once knew. Soon, she becomes part of an underground rebellion, rejecting the unjust rules of a Masked society and uncovering a horrifying plot of mind control over the entire population of the empire.
In a moment of crisis, Mara finds herself possessed of a volatile magical power that neither she nor any of her allies can truly control. In Shadow,Mara faces terrifying new challenges and dangers as she struggles to understand her unprecedented ability to use all types of magic—and to tear magic from the living bodies of those around her. With the arrival of Chell, a young man from across the sea, the world beyond the borders of the Autarchy of Aygrima begins to make itself felt. Then an act of brutality tips Mara dangerously close to madness…and in the midst of a desperate and bloody battle, she discovers just how horrifying her power can be….
After another round of ‘what should I read next?’ I picked up Shadows by E.C. Blake. This book is not under a Young Adult imprint, but it’s young adult in my opinion. It’s not that it’s dumbed down in any way, in fact the author doesn’t hold back, but the main character is 15 and for me it reads like a young adult book. Not that adult readers wouldn’t like it because that’s not the case at all. But it’s on the lighter side for fantasy (mostly in size) and it’s much easier to read (a bit less detail). But this book, to me, was EPIC. Once I started reading I couldn’t stop. I devoured it in two sittings and thought about it when I slept, or I should say, tried to sleep.
Let’s start with Mara, the main character. Mara is 15 and I was amazed at how well the author balanced this. Think about 15 year old’s and the poor choices they often make, the rash decisions, the high emotion, all of that. Add to that a girl that has power and is stuck in some impossible situations. Mara shouldn’t always make the right choices, how real would that be? But even though she made some poor ones I understood why. I got it. I was frustrated and angry, but that was the way it needed to be. Mara is not unlikable. And she’s not weak at all. She is in a situation that is basically between a rock and hard place. Over and over again. And the way Mara was felt real and right. She felt authentic. And I found myself always rooting for her.
The characters in the book are well fleshed out. Though I felt Keltan was a bit glossed over in this one as there’s a new character in play and he kind of stole the show. Don’t worry, any romantic conflicts are resolved in this book (and they didn’t have time to become anything in the first book) so while there’s some possibility of a love triangle initially it never becomes one.
This is a book where the characters are well done and the world building is fantastic as well. There was a lot more to learn in this book, there’s always more, right? Well it was nice to learn more, to see more and to experience more. Some was good, most was bad, but a lot was all about hope. About finding a way to move forward. Mistakes are made. People die (lots and lots of people die). The author does not hold back with the tough situations. There’s no hold on action or even gore (though the gore pieces are brief and necessary).
This book had me fully emotionally invested and at one point I found myself literally sitting on the edge of my seat, and I was sitting on the couch! It’s an intense ride but very well done and in my opinion this series doesn’t have nearly as much attention as it should have. This is the second book but it’s even better than the first, which is rare! And strangely enough I wasn’t lost at all, I remember the previous book quite well (which is rare since I tend to forget most things).
Raw, powerful, emotional and intense. Shadows is a book that captivated me from page one and had me literally on the edge of my seat. A year until the next book?! It’s going to be a long year, I need it NOW!