The Mask of Mirrors – M.A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick
Series: Rook & Rose #1
Published by Orbit on January 21, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
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four-stars

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.
The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a dazzling and darkly magical fantasy adventure by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing together as M. A. Carrick.

The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick caught my attention first due to its cover–and after reading the novel, the title couldn’t be more perfect. Some of my favorite stories involve masks, so of course a flamboyant mask with gold and feathers drew me in. And wait a minute, is that also a knife, too?! Interest = officially piqued; let’s see what you’ve got, M.A. Carrick. It took a few chapters to engross me in the novel, but by the time I finished, I was hooked. I don’t dabble often in the fantasy genre, and The Mask of Mirrors does fit that description in some manner. Overall, M.A. Carrick’s novel is entirely unique, with wonderful storytelling during a Victorian-like era. A number of likeable characters, a truly twisted plot…while The Mask of Mirrors is good, it is not for the faint of heart. It is definitely an adult novel.

Firstly, the language. Swearing doesn’t bother me for the most part. But in a made-up world, I’d hope the characters would have a different curse word than the f-bomb. I’m a firm believer that swearing has its place–in life and in novels–even if I don’t swear myself. There were times Carrick dropped the bad language in characters’ internal and vocal dialogue without really needing to. If only for the amount of swearing, I’d classify The Mask of Mirrors as adult fiction. There’s also a sex scene between two men, and the authors also hinted at transgender characters. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not prevalent, but their inclusion at all seemed forced. Like Carrick believed they had to be somewhere in The Mask of Mirrors for the novel to be politically correct and socially acceptable.

Carrick’s novel is very dark. Almost disturbingly so. Demonic creatures. Powerful pentagrams. Addictive, delusion-causing drugs. Seriously, this novel is no joke. It’s deep, intense, and vividly portrayed. I had chills at times, and I squirmed in discomfort. Like most fantasy novels, Carrick produces a distinctive language for The Mask of Mirrors.  And I didn’t know what most of the words meant; I had to figure them out contextually. When I did, my discomfort levels increased because everything started making sense. As I read an eBook, I didn’t know there was a glossary till after I’d finished reading…would’ve been useful beforehand. That and the character list, also at the end of the novel. Some of the characters’ names are very similar, and Carrick would go chapters without mentioning someone. So when “Character ABC” randomly showed up, I couldn’t remember who they were.

Humor colors the novel, which The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick needs. It also has multiple subplots that combine together into a magnificent story unlike any I have ever read. The book concludes, while also setting up the second book of the series perfectly. I can’t wait to jump into the city of Nadežra again, even though certain qualities of Carrick’s novel creeped me out. If you can handle the darkness and satanic/demonic qualities in The Mask of Mirrors, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Now, if you excuse me, The Liar’s Knot awaits me, and I must answer its call.

four-stars