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Masks by E. C. Blake
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I was very curious behind the idea of this story. I found the context very original which drew me to read it.
I was not however, blown away. While the idea was still very original, the writing was not that great. There were a lot of modern slang and curse words put in that threw me off, like "weird." Who says weird in a fantasy novel?
The main character was far too childish to root for, and while she was only supposed to be 15, Herr dialogue and actions were more annoying then anything. In a society where everyone is deemed an adult at the age of fifteen, you would think they would be raised and groomed to be more adult in their thinking and actions by that age simply due to societal evolution.
I will say that the storyline kept me interested enough to continue reading. And the main character did grow during the course of the novel. I don't think enough time was spent on any side character at all, leaving me in the end not really caring about anyone. The main character is naive and frustrating and I don't know really anything about any of the side characters enough to be attached.
It was an okay book that I got through quickly, but not on the top of my fantasy lists. ( )
  Kiddboyblue | May 22, 2015 |
​​​​​​Tension building that will curl your toes and amazing world building!​

Read a guest appearance from the author E.C. Blake on writing Masks @ My Shelf Confessions

In Masks the reader will discover a unique magic system where the gifted that are able to work with magic are few and yet each person’s life seems to be ruled by it. This is because the ruler of this country is a of course someone very strong in the use of magic and by his decree all citizens at the age of 15 must don a mask that will essentially reveal any treasonous thoughts that they have.

What makes the magic system unique compared to others I have read is that magic must be gathered before it is used. So one of the gifted couldn’t just cast a spell or conjure something – they literally must have the physical magical element/resource before they are able to begin their work. That makes magic a physical resource, because even if you are one of the gifted what good would your gift be if you didn’t have the magic to put your gift to use? I haven’t seen magic treated in this way before and admit I really found it fascinating.

The main character Mara is the young daughter of the master mask maker and has wanted nothing more her whole life than to follow in her father’s footsteps. But on her 15th birthday, the day of her masking, her mask rejects her and she is cast out of the city and sent off to what is meant to be a lifetime of slavery.

Her journey is a long and enlightening one. Fraught with peril at every turn, Mara must learn what it really means to become an adult and hardships all people face under the weight of the masks – whether they wear one or not. I can tell there are some trying times ahead for Mara in the next book and likely an even stronger presence from the main villain the Autarch of Aygrima. This guy is one evil dictator, though we really didn’t see him much in Masks I think that will change in the upcoming books. Instead there were other villains to contend with in this first volume.

My only concern with the story is that the main character Mara may have fallen into the “safe zone.” This is in no way a criticism of this book, merely an observation and a thought that kept tickling my brain. What I mean by this is sometimes I see a trend in the books I read where an author will write in some very strong themes (I’m referring to traumatizing events) – and yet these things do not directly happen to the main character. There are close calls, near misses, the almost-but-didn’t-quite-happen scenes, you know what I mean. What I then see instead is that the awful things happen to a side character, one that I assume most readers are not as, or at all, attached to. Not that I want bad things to happen to anyone but I think that it loses a smidge or realism when a character doesn’t experience some of these things. It didn’t lessen the amazing story at all, it was just something that I noted while reading, only because I had encountered it in several other books recently as well.

I applaud the author for creating such a world and character that I am already aching to learn more about. Those that love reading about worlds other than our own and rich magical systems will surely want to give Masks a read. I am most certainly looking forward to ( )
  Pabkins | May 2, 2014 |
Yet another YA fantasy about a young person whose magic is Special, but it goes interesting and somewhat unusual places. Obviously the beginning of a series. ( )
  readinggeek451 | Apr 4, 2014 |
Mara knows nothing else then masks. Her father is the master maskmaker for the Autarch. Everyone who turns fifteen receives a mask. The mask is empowered with magic to show when the mask wearer is behaving badly. Then the watchers are there to take corrective action.

The big day is finally here. Mara is about to receive her mask. However during the making event, something happens and Mara find herself shunned. She finds friends with the Unmasked army. Which was believed to be a myth. Mara learns things about the masks and Autarch that will give her a new outlook on the life she lived.

I really am enjoying the world that the author has built for this series. I can not wait to continue on this journey with Mara. This series kind of reminds me of the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder. Which is a fan of mine. This is a book that all ages will have fun reading. The action is mild but again this is the first book. Again I have to say however that the author did a great job with the first book. It is hard to find the right balance between giving away too much in either details or not enough that you lose the reader. It was just right. In addition, that even though there was not a lot of action happening, this book is a quick read. I went to take a break and I was already half way done with the book.

Mara has so much depth about her. She is intriguing. She is truly gifted. I can't wait to see more of her gift as she learns more about it and how to use it. She will then be a force to watch out for. ( )
  Cherylk | Feb 23, 2014 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: For years, every adult has been required to wear a mask when outside of their house in order to prevent another rebellion. When 15-year-old Mara’s Masking fails, her life is changed forever…

Opening Sentence: From atop a nameless mountain, the Autarch of Aygrima watched another of his villages burn.

The Review:

Young adult books can sometimes be hit or miss with me, depending on how I feel about the protagonist. Luckily, this book was a big hit. From the first page, it had me hooked. While it wasn’t a five star read, it was still a thrilling ride from beginning to end.

When the Autarch began his rule over the land of Aygrima, he instituted a new rule: once a child reaches the age of 15, they are considered an adult. On their 15th birthday, children attend a masking ceremony, where they are fitted for their mask, which they will wear from that point on anytime they are outside of their house. The masks have the capability of revealing the wearer’s innermost thoughts, so the Autarch will always know if someone is plotting against him. In this way, the Autarch can assure that there will never be another rebellion like the one that occurred right before he came to power.

Mara has wanted to be a Maskmaker like her father ever since she was a small child. When she takes her first test at the age of 6 to see if she’s Gifted, she’s overjoyed to learn that she can see magic, which means there’s a chance she can see the type of magic that would allow her to be a Maskmaker. She becomes concerned, however, at her next test years later when, instead of only seeing one color of magic, she still sees a multitude of colors. Scared, she only mentions one color to her tester so that no one knows. Now, it is time for her masking, and her every dream is about to come true. Then, something horrible happens: her Masking fails. Now, she’s consigned to a life as an Unmasked in the mines, never to see her family again. What went wrong? Will Mara’s continued ability to see magic despite her Unmasking aid her in her new life? Will she ever find a way out of the mines?

What I love about Mara is that she’s very believable as a 15-year-old without the air of immaturity that is sometimes seen in other young adult novels. She’s very unsure of herself at first, but as the book continues, you can see her begin to become more confident, getting an idea of the adult she could be one day. I also like that she’s not perfect. Throughout the book, you can see her occasionally be tempted by the concept of the power she could one day have, whether it’s right to use it or not. This is a very believable reaction to me, which made me connect to her a little bit more than I would if she always made the right decisions.

My one complaint would be that some of the side characters aren’t too well developed yet. There’s a love triangle, but we don’t see enough of either guy to really side with one or the other. Both guys seem like nice, good guys, but they don’t go much deeper than that. Hopefully, the second book will let us see more of them.

It should be mentioned that while this is technically a young adult book because of Mara’s age, there is some very serious subject matter here, including repeated references to rape. It’s not for the faint of heart, but those who are looking for a serious fantasy read set in an interesting and well developed world are in for a treat. I’m very much looking forward to book 2!

Notable Scene:

The earth shuddered, again and yet again…and then all was still.

The Autarch, breathing heavily, fell to his knees on the snow- and blood-covered rocks. It’s over, he thought. She’s gone. Fierce satisfaction swelled within him. I promised you, Lady Arilla. I promised you pain and fire.

And I always keep my promises.

After a long moment, the Autarch climbed heavily to his feet. Without a backward glance at the sprawled bodies of his erstwhile bodyguards, he began trudging back to Starbright. Perhaps he would come across one of the spooked horses of his slain escort. Perhaps not.

It did not matter.

The last threat to his power had been eliminated. He was young, he was powerful, he was the Autarch of Aygrima, and he had nothing to fear: not here, and not back in Tamita, the city where his throne awaited him.

With Arilla out of the way, no one remains who can threaten me. And once I return to Tamita, I will proclaim the Masking. From that moment on, no one will ever threaten me again. I will not die like my father.

Holding that thought in his mind like a good-luck charm, the Autarch of Aygrima trudged southward.

I will not die!

FTC Advisory: DAW/Penguin provided me with a copy of Masks. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Jan 31, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0756407591, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:48 -0400)

Explores "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"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)

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