Masks: The Masks of Aygrima: Book One

Overview

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 ...

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Masks: The Masks of Aygrima: Book One

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Overview

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

Publishers Weekly
09/30/2013
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.)
Locus
"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
School Library Journal
01/01/2014
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756409470
  • Publisher: DAW
  • Publication date: 11/4/2014
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 556,926

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 ecblake.com.

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 ecblake.com.

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