Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5 stars Series: yes - first book in series
Fortune favors the bold. Magic favors the liars.
Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
If a book is described as a political fantasy, the chances are I’ll reach for it immediately. I’ve been looking forwards to this one for a while – deception, a con-artist in politics, a beautiful cover, and the start of a new series. What about that doesn’t tick all my boxes?
I wasn’t disappointed.
If you like luscious clothing in fantasy, then this is a book for you! The clothes are gorgeous, and as much part of the story as the characters and overt plot. They build the world, show the roles characters are playing, and add a flair to the story. For a book where most of the characters have at least one façade – if not half a dozen – their clothing is a subtle way to work out what they’re playing (as much as you are able to, for the sneakier characters!)
The world is limited to one city, built on islands with a bit of a Venetian feel, thanks to the masks, but with a darker side. The language didn’t feel “Italian-inspired”, which also helped to distance is from Venice, as did horses (and foot) being the primary method of transport, rather than boats. The magic is a mix of cards, imbuing, folklore, and sigils (numinata), which all worked well to highlight the different cultures and power imbalances.
This book is a complete chonker (over 600 pages!!), and I love those sorts of books. I’ve been reading a lot of very short books in 2021 so far, so being able to just sink my teeth into a world and its characters was so rewarding. I could stay with a world for longer, follow a complicated, ever shifting plot of intrigue that had the space to knot and snarl.
It is a very twisty book, full of scheming characters who you are never quite sure exactly what they want. I loved trying to guess motives and what characters would do next, as their political schemes wove around one another. With all the characters having facades of one sort of another, they were playing a balancing act of finding out others’ secrets to use as blackmail while protecting their own.
Plus, the question of “who is the Rook?” (a hooded, mysterious rebel of legend) hung over the book, and all the clues and misdirection’s there was so much fun. It made the reveal so satisfying. And, of course, the reveal came on the heels of a new piece of information that turned the plot upside down, leaving it on a very interesting premise for the next instalment!
THE MASK OF MIRRORS is the first in a new trilogy, so the sequel is immediately going on my TBR. Hopefully it’s an early 2022 release!
Read my reviews of other books by M. A. Carrick (Marie Brenan and Alyc Helms):
Rook and Rose (this series):
- THE LIAR’S KNOT (#2)
By Marie Brenan:
The Memoirs of Lady Trent: