Recent Reading: the Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick

… And by “recent,” I mean I actually started The Mask of Mirrors in late December and finished it this morning.

A whole month to read one book! A book I actually liked a lot! That’s undoubtedly a first for me.

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose Book 1)

Three things slowed me (way, way) down with this story: I was busy working on my own stuff; my personal life became complicated for a week or two; and every single time I hit a high-tension scene, I put this book down for days or sometimes weeks while I read something soothing.

I mean, you know what else I read during January? Parts of The Touchstone trilogy (for the umpteenth time), and The Book of Firsts (for the third time.) Also the entire Jumper series, in reverse order because the last book is the least tense. The first couple are not as low-tension, but I’ve read them before, so that was all right. Also that long Bujold fanfic where everything goes right for everyone. Plus some more of my really long book about Ceratopsian dinosaurs. It’s hard to be more soothing than technical papers about dinosaurs.

I’ve picked up some of your suggested titles for low-stress novels too, by the way, and thank you for those suggestions!

Meanwhile, all the time, I kept coming back to The Mask of Mirrors.

Basic conclusion:

This is a great book! I enjoyed it very much and I also admire it a whole lot.

Worldbuilding: I regret very much not dividing time in the Tuyo series into Sun hours and Earth hours, because that would sure have fit the world, but I didn’t think of it. Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms thought of it. They thought of a whooooole lot of amazing worldbuilding details and put them together into a world that feels coherent and real, but not very familiar. Two different types of magic, long complicated backstory, fraught political situation, and a thousand snazzy details.

This is the first story I’ve ever read where there are Tarot cards, except all the cards are different from real-world cards, with different names, different symbols, different meanings, and drawing on a very different source of magic. And that’s just the one type of magic! The other type is completely unrelated!

Seriously, the worldbuilding is wonderful, and wonderfully complex, and I loved it. But this is one aspect of the story that slowed me down, because obviously a world like this is harder to get into than, say, the setting of a contemporary romance. If I hadn’t been distracted by other things, this wouldn’t have slowed me down at all, and regardless, I enjoyed the worldbuilding very much.

How about the characters? You may remember the list; something like this: The enigmatic crime lord, the mysterious vigilante, the feckless heir, the guard captain with deep integrity. And of course the protagonist, who is a con artist.

I loved them all, including the Feckless Heir, which is for me by far the least attractive type of character on that list. I loved Ren, the protagonist; and her sister Tess, and her brother Sedge (minor spoiler: he’s not dead despite the prologue). (There are MUCH more important spoilers I am not revealing, believe me.) I also liked the members of the noble house on whom Ren is pulling her con. (She likes them too, which complicates the con, until other complicating factors overwhelm that one.) There are lots of sympathetic characters and although there are villains, there are not, thank heaven, any villain points of view.

And wow, do the major villains go down hard at the end. So that was satisfying.

From about the middle of the story on to the end, many fast-paced, high-tension things happen, so that all the important point of view characters basically wind up working … not together, but toward the same end — saving the city and their people.

The ending of the first book does leave the enigmatic crime lord (Vargo) at odds with the mysterious vigilante (The Rook), and with Ren, and also, in a way, with the guard captain (Serrado). This is unfortunate. I’m pretty sure (not one hundred percent sure) that they are in fact all on the same side and will all end up pulling together . I mean, here’s the teaser for the second book:

A clever con artist, a legendary vigilante, and a dashing crime lord must fight to free their city from the clutches of a dark and ancient magic

And that sure implies they’re not only on the same side, but ought to figure that out eventually.

The plotting: Wow, did the authors surprise me with a couple of plot twists. Not all those plot twists were welcome. I put the book down for some time after one of them. But keep in mind, my tolerance for tension is low low low right now. I don’t think this would have happened ordinarily.

The pacing: Starts rather slow, picks up gradually, turns breakneck.

The names of people and places: Complicated and difficult to remember, especially reading the story so slowly and with many breaks, so let me just mention that there is a glossary and dramatis personae in the back.

Second book: I picked it up immediately, and I will start it soon, maybe even today. I’m curious to see whether I read it in a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or whether it might possibly take me all of February to get through it.

I know some of you have read this book and possibly the sequel! Comments, please, though preferably spoiler-free. Thumbs up or thumbs down on the second book? I hope you all give it a thumbs up, since I did already buy it.

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