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Posted November 27, 2013
Masks is the first book in the Masks of Aygrima series by E.C. B
Masks is the first book in the Masks of Aygrima series by E.C. Blake. This is one of those novels that defies being classified, but it's not the genre that's in question, it's the age group. The heroine Mara Holdfast is fifteen years old during the time of story which would lend it toward being a young adult fantasy novel, but that's not necessarily the case. It has some adult themes and situations that make it very appealing to adult fantasy readers as well. Young and old alike will find the world building and magical concepts intriguing and original. Blake's smooth writing style and use of internal dialogue is riveting in this book and readers will have a hard time putting it down.
The title of this book is Masks, and the concept of masking is very important to the characters of E.C. Blake's magical land of Aygrima. The Autarch is leader of Aygrima and following a rebellion that nearly destroyed the Aygrima society, he has come up with a away to keep it from every happening again. On each person's fifteenth birthday in Aygrima they receive a mask. This mask denotes their profession and magical abilities as well as their unwavering devotion to the Autarch . The problem is, not everyone passes the test. If the mask rejects a person, that person is a traitor and is cast out.
I thought this was a very original idea for a novel. The masks are ornate and beautiful but they can be deadly. Blake does an amazing job of bringing the world of Aygrima to life and the masking concept. This is a world of magic and Blake brings that to the forefront of the action. The people of Aygrima can usually see one or two colors of magic at most, but our heroine, Mara can see them all, which makes her extremely unique. Her father is the master maskmaker and she wants to follow in his footsteps but her masking fails. .
The use of magic in this novel is really interesting. Almost all the people of Aygrima have magic, but it isn't quite as easy to use it as one might think. They can't just cast a spell or wave a wand. Magic requires ingredients and resources and time to use. It almost makes magic like a commodity. Some people have a little ability, some people have a lot.
Mara is a typical teenager in my opinion. She has her own ideas about how life works and how things are, and trying to convince her otherwise, probably wouldn't work. But when her masking fails, she begins to see her world in a completely different light. What happens to those that are unmasked? Is it fair? It is right? Her internal dialogue throughout the book becomes a little tedious at times, but to be fair, she has been given a lot to digest here.
One of the things I found a bit lacking was the use of secondary characters. We get to know Mara very well, since the book is comprised of her experience and thoughts, but anyone else is kind of one dimensional. We don't find out anything beyond the surface about who they are and how they feel. I wanted to find a great connection with Mara, but was unable to. She's a great character and the story was fascinating, but she didn't grab me like some heroines do. That's not to say this wasn't a good book. It mostly definitely was, very creative and imaginative. I liked it a lot and I rooted for her to the very end. A great first novel by an interesting new face in the fantasy genre!
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Posted January 22, 2014
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