Masks (The Masks of Aygrima, Book One) [NOOK Book]


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, ...
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Masks (The Masks of Aygrima, Book One)

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Encapsulating the best features of a good teen title, Masks is sure to resonate with readers. In Aygrima, the ability to use magic exists in a small part of the population, most notably in the absolute ruler Autarch, who is able to manipulate it in powerful ways. When young people turn 15, Masks are placed their faces, indicating their position and occupation in society. They must be worn in public for the rest of the individuals' lives and reveal any treasonous thoughts to the Watchers. When the Maskmaker's daughter, Mara, turns 15, she is hopeful that her Mask will make her an apprentice to her father, but the happy occasion becomes anything but when her Mask rejects her. Thrown out of the city and separated from her family, the teen is relegated to a terrible fate of working in the mines until she is rescued by some unlikely advocates who have formed an unMasked army. When Mara discovers that she has the power to to kill or to heal, she joins its forces. Her magical powers prove to be stronger than anyone anticipated, and Mara must learn how to master her gifts before hurting those she loves. With an intriguing setting and a suspenseful story line that will hook readers, Masks is the first of a promising new series.—Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC
Publishers Weekly
Blake (a pseudonym for science fiction author Edward Willet) launches an epic fantasy series set in a remote land where magic is a tangible resource manipulated by a select few. The despotic Autarch maintains strict control over his people with the enforced use of enchanted masks that can reveal traitorous thoughts. When 15-year-old Mara, magically gifted daughter of the Master Maskmaker, goes for her own Masking, the ceremony fails and she is immediately sentenced to the fate of all unMasked: life in a brutal labor camp. In transit, she’s rescued by the rebellious unMasked Army and dropped into intrigue and danger. As Mara struggles to survive, she discovers the true strength of her magic-manipulating Gift. The worldbuilding is solid, though a little too detail-focused at times, and Mara’s personal growth is a delight to follow. Sharp characterization, a fast-moving plot, and a steady unveiling of a bigger picture make this a welcome addition to the genre. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (Nov.)
"Blake brings his fantastic world to life through offbeat links between magic, nature, and human behavior in a caste-ridden society."
RT Book Reviews
"Masks grabs the reader’s attention on the first page and holds it until the last.... The characters are complex and relatable and grow throughout the story, and the storyline itself is fresh and never predictable. Masks is simply impossible to put down and will leave readers begging for the last two books in the trilogy."
Fantasy Faction
"Masks is a book that took me by complete surprise. Not since the likes of Lirael or Sabriel have I enjoyed a YA with a female protagonist to the extent I did Masks."
VOYA - Mark Flowers
This first novel in a projected series combines an intriguing premise, a compelling but meandering plot, and pedestrian prose to create just enough interest to look forward to the next volume. In Blake's well-developed fantasy world, all residents of Aygrima above the age of fifteen must wear masks that show their true thoughts—most importantly, treasonous ones—to special government Watchers. The magic that allows for these masks courses through all living things, but only a select few are able to see and use it, and then it is only a small spectrum of the full magic. But when Mara goes to learn what magic she can use, she finds that she can see every kind of magic. Then at her masking, Mara's mask breaks, a sure sign that she is a danger to the nation. She is whisked off to a labor camp for the unMasked, but before she can make it there, she is rescued by a band of freedom fighters who want to use her magic to overthrow the government. All this plot is a bit much, and Mara's status as The One is a tired fantasy trope, but Blake compensates with a nuanced and sensitive portrayal of a fifteen-year-old girl who just wants to fit into the world she has always known, and with a deeply interesting new imagining of the workings of magic. If Blake can manage to tone down some of the jarringly anachronistic dialog that mars the text, he may have a fabulous series on his hands. Reviewer: Mark Flowers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780698142800
  • Publisher: DAW
  • Publication date: 11/5/2013
  • Series: Masks of Aygrima , #1
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 98,485
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

E.C. Blake was born in New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment,” and the state’s nickname seems to have rubbed off: he started writing fantastical stories in elementary school and wrote his first fantasy novel in high school. He’s been a newspaper reporter and editorial cartoonist, a magazine editor, a writing instructor and a professional actor, and has written (under another name) more than 30 works of nonfiction, ranging from biographies to science books to history books, but his first love has always been fantasy. He now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, with his wife and a daughter whose favorite stories all involve “sword-fighting princesses.” Come to think of it, so do his. He can be found at
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Enter the Autarch, the Supreme Ruler of Aygrima, who in the firs

    Enter the Autarch, the Supreme Ruler of Aygrima, who in the first few pages uses magic to destroy a female opponent.  But destroying his enemies is not the ultimate goal; it is the goal from the moment opposition rears its rebellious head.  So how easy in this high tech, future society to create a specific mask for each man, woman and child, one that a “Watcher” can look at and immediately detect disloyalty or at least suspicion of betrayal.  
    And so it continues. We now enter the home of Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Master Maskmaker.  Mara has worked with her father and been allowed to learn the basic skills of fashioning each mask but will not be allowed to learn the Magic behind each mask until her own masking ceremony.  She is very excited about it until she sees a definitely suspicious pattern in her father and mother as her ceremony date on her birthday approaches. She knows that she has lied when tested for her ability to be one who has the “gift” of magic, a terrible crime that could be the undoing of her and her family. Add to that the foreshadowing when she visits the area near the town’s gates where criminals are crucified.  It’s not specifically defined why they are killed but every citizen knows it has to do with being a rebel or criminal against the all-powerful Autarch!  
    Be shocked on the long-awaited day when her masking ceremony turns into a total disaster; and but for a woman with the gift of healing Mara would be horrifically scarred for life.  Instead she is healed and taken away by the Watchers, first to a prison and then to those who will transport her to a mining camp for prisoners.  But her arrival there is forestalled by rescuers who have captured her for their own purposes.
    The goal is to stop the Autarch from continuing his Mask policy, as the latest, more-developed Masks are changing people’s personalities after they are masked, producing robotic, trance-like people who would never be able to even think about the possibility of rebelling.  There are many heroes within this story who will do all they can to ensure that the reign of Autarch is destroyed as soon as possible. The scenes are tense, life and death struggles all too frequently, and sometimes one isn’t quite sure who are more evil, the Autarch or his Watchers and guards.  There are children being used for the Autarch’s final solution to the Masks, with devastating consequences that leave any reader with half a heart furious!
    Masks seems to be the first of a series to come and is well-written science or paranormal fiction.  It’s credible, exciting, complex and mysterious enough to keep the reader avidly flipping the pages!  Great writing, E. C. Blake – highly recommended sci-fi fiction!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2014

    Absolutely Enjoyed

    I picked up Masks out of curiosity, I hadn't been reading much fantasy lately, but with this I found myself utterly drawn in. The political intrigue, the use of magic, the struggle to understand one's place and face injustice. It was well paced and engaging.

    Sometimes I felt that supporting characters were a little bland, but, it helps create more emphasis on the dynamic of the protagonist, who is masterfully done. She is relatable and honest and I can't wait for the next book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2014

    I won an uncorrected proof of this book. Maybe the final product

    I won an uncorrected proof of this book. Maybe the final product is better, but here is my opinion based on the copy I won.

    This story had so much going for it! I was depressed that it had so many problems.

    Let me start with what I enjoyed:

    I enjoy a story about people fighting oppression against impossible odds. Love the whole oppressive society that has been "masked" as utopia thing.

    I found the use of magic in this book very interesting and creative. The magic was like a character itself and the masks are a really cool concept.

    Mara was great in the beginning of the story! She had SUCH potential to be a very strong female character!

    Ok. Now on to the things I didn't enjoy:

    The author seemed to bend his rules with magic and the masks so that his characters can accomplish what he wants them to. Maybe he was trying to show the way people get brainwashed into believing that those who govern them have far more power than they actually do. It didn't feel that way while reading though. While reading, it just felt as if he was just changing the rules so that he could make what he wanted to happen, happen.

    Especially when you consider that he doesn't just do the work around thing with magic. There are many holes in the story fixed with a ridiculous last minute work-around. They are so obviously thrown in after he realized that something didn't make sense that it is cringe-worthy.

    Mara is a big disappointment. She starts off rebellious and strong willed. She had me thinking she was going to be a a really great female character. She is suppose to be super powerful and special. WHY can't the story just be about her discovering and developing her gift and finding courage to stand up for what is right?

    No way! What's really important is that she goes around being desired by boys and men! We couldn't possibly just have a young heroine that isn't a love interest to a boy or two. Nope. She needs boys fighting over her and lets be sure that most of the bad guys she encounters in the story are a pedophile/rapist or know a pedophile/rapist and are eager to hand her over to them! We all know a girl isn't worth anything unless a guy or two WANTS her, right? RIGHT? Would have been nice to see a young powerful girl written as just a person rather than an object of male desire, but I guess that is just too much to hope for.

    Kidnap, capture, rape, and the threat of rape are all way over used in this story. For me that is especially disturbing when considering the fact most of the girls are 15 and are written to be somewhat asexual (not interested in sex or boys yet.)

    Also, the author really does seem to have an obsession with bathroom facilities and people answering the call of nature. Is there a chapter that doesn't include someone having a wee?

    The very worst part for me though, is how this supposedly smart, gifted, daring girl in the beginning of the story, ends up being so constantly useless and cowardly, and makes such absolutely STUPID decisions.

    Also, the end really doesn't have a resolution. It's one of those obvious "leave you hanging so you'll buy my next book" kind of stories.

    Chapter 11 is the WORST! Multiple WASTED opportunities for escape. Multiple "Oh how handy I have this!" moments. Multiple "I am a cowardly stupid weak clumsy girl!" situations. (With TRIPPING! Yay!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    Hums Counting Stars by One Republic. <3

    Hums Counting Stars by One Republic. &lt;3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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