I was introduced to E.C. Blake’sMasks through a short sampler of SciFi stories. The first chapter looked promising – our protagonist, teenager Mara Holdfast, lives in Aygrima, where all adults must wear masks based on the type of magic and jobs they have. Mara is the head Maskmaker’s daughter and when she goes to her masking ceremony, something goes horribly wrong and her mask rejects her.
Interesting idea, the only novel I’ve seen masks in recently is Ironskin– which seems to be everywhere. So I got the book.
In ensuing chapters, you are introduced to other unmasked youths. Some have failed their masking because of character flaws, principally a brute named Grute, and others have chosen to go unmasked, see love interest Keltan. Apparently, there is a whole Secret City of the unmasked. People who have realized that masks can change the wearer and masks may be giving the Autarch (ruler) too much power.
The book follows Mara as she learns more about the secrets behind the mask, the source of magic in the kingdom and the conspiracy behind her failed masking. We some impressive magic, a really diverse cast of characters and of course a love triangle with Mara, Keltan and Hyram, a boy who grew up outside the world of the masks. While some of the plot and magical conventions are ones we’ve seen many times, the story is exciting and the idea of the masks feels quite original. If you want to read a magical YA adventure with a strong female protagonist, give it a try.