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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Mask of Mirrors

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    after reading several average YA books back-to-back, i forgot just how deep and complex adult fantasy can be. it was so refreshing to read such nuanced writing. i mean, the narrative value of this story alone is high. i really enjoyed the storytelling, primarily the writing style, but also the vast web of connected characters and plot. i was actually getting a lot of ‘the lies of lock lamora’ vibes from this in terms of conning high society. to me, the sly characters and complex deceptions were t after reading several average YA books back-to-back, i forgot just how deep and complex adult fantasy can be. it was so refreshing to read such nuanced writing. i mean, the narrative value of this story alone is high. i really enjoyed the storytelling, primarily the writing style, but also the vast web of connected characters and plot. i was actually getting a lot of ‘the lies of lock lamora’ vibes from this in terms of conning high society. to me, the sly characters and complex deceptions were the highlight. the fantasy aspect i could have lived without, though. i mean, for reading 600+ pages, i cant even begin to describe the magic system. its not explained, there are no rules to figure out, its just something i had to accept and not think too much about. but that aside, this is surprisingly entertaining. ↠ 3.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

    I GOT AN ARC OF THIS!

  3. 5 out of 5

    ❀ Alex ❀ (The Scribe Owl)

    See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl! Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! 5/5 glowing stars! First of all, what a completely perfect book to start off 2021! There is no better way to start a year than a perfect rating! This was amazing. Imagine Six of Crows, but everyone's grown up, there's cons instead of heists, and everything is much, much darker. Well, I guess it doesn't sound as much like Six of Crows now, but it has the same vibe and ex See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl! Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! 5/5 glowing stars! First of all, what a completely perfect book to start off 2021! There is no better way to start a year than a perfect rating! This was amazing. Imagine Six of Crows, but everyone's grown up, there's cons instead of heists, and everything is much, much darker. Well, I guess it doesn't sound as much like Six of Crows now, but it has the same vibe and excellence! Ren is a con artist who has come to the city of opportunity with one goal: to con a noble family to secure her fortune and her sister's future. She never expected to actually become attached to the family, or the people around her. And she definitely didn't expect corrupt magic, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats, and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly to become tangled -- with Ren at their heart. A big make or break in a book is the characters. Are they interesting? Are they unique? Do they have any kind of character arc? I was on the lookout for all of those characteristics, and I'm happy to report that all of them were checked off! What I especially loved was that we got some gray area characters! Does doing the wrong thing for the right reason make it okay? What about doing the right thing for the wrong reason? We got that with basically our entire cast of characters. Our main character is literally a con artist! She walks that thin line and is an amazing MC. I have trouble finding a main character that I actually enjoy reading, so I'm glad I found one in her. My favorite character, Vargo, is an enterprising crime lord. What could possibly be cooler? He's also a bit of a grown-up, cutthroat Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows (yeah I know, sorry for all the SoC references but this book reminds me so much of it) who, if you know me at all, you'll know I LOVE him, just as I LOVE Vargo! Seriously, I can't wait for more in book two. The Mask of Mirrors brought in a super diverse cast! Not only in personality (though thank goodness it's diverse there too) but in every aspect! We got to see all different kinds of fantastic LGBTQ+ representation as well as an interesting kind of rep I haven't ever seen written about. Vargo, the best character in the book (in my humble opinion), seems to have nosophobia. Nosophobia is the fear of contracting an illness or developing a disease. Vargo is a normally unshakable person who takes great pride in his dignity. So to see him gone completely limp from fear, so much so that he had to be carried around another character's neck like a scarf, really just goes to show how much something like that can level your world, no matter how strong or powerful you are. The worldbuilding in this novel was so rich and consuming that it didn't feel at all like anything I've read! I know I keep saying that this book is unlike anything I've read and then I call it Six of Crows or something, but it really has so many unique elements that I just love. I was a little confused at the beginning with all the terms, but I, the idiot, didn't notice the glossary or character index at the end until I was an embarrassing amount of the way through the book (the end). I'm so glad it was included! When reading political high fantasy books, I get the names and terms mixed up too often. The Mask of Mirrors was written by M.A. Carrick, which is the pen name for two authors working together. When I read a book written by multiple authors, it's really a no go for me if I can tell the writing apart. But these two writers fit seamlessly, so much so that I would never have guessed there were two of them if I didn't read the author blurb! I've been looking at the reviews on Goodreads for a while now, trying to find why anyone could have rated it below five stars, and the complaint I see most is the pacing. Yes, the pacing can be a little slow at times. The book is nearly 700 pages! Do you expect it to zoom along the entire time? I actually enjoyed the slower pacing when it cropped up, though the pacing was pretty good for the most part, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't even think about it until I saw the reviews. I absolutely loved this book! It blew away all my expectations. I'm so grateful I got to read a copy, and I would 100% recommend it! I positively can't wait for the second book to be released, and I wonder what else these authors could create!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lucie V.

    I received a copy of this book via NetGalley (thank you Orbit Books). All thoughts and opinions are my own. Ren is an orphan (and ex-street rat) trying to con her way into a noble family to ensure a future for her younger sister and herself until she realizes that she got involved in something way bigger than a simple con. She is thrust into the middle of family feuds and political intrigues while trying to avoid suspicion and maintain her image of a wealthy young lady wanting to meet and conne I received a copy of this book via NetGalley (thank you Orbit Books). All thoughts and opinions are my own. Ren is an orphan (and ex-street rat) trying to con her way into a noble family to ensure a future for her younger sister and herself until she realizes that she got involved in something way bigger than a simple con. She is thrust into the middle of family feuds and political intrigues while trying to avoid suspicion and maintain her image of a wealthy young lady wanting to meet and connect with her aunt and cousins. I like that the intrigue is complex, we come to realize that Ren’s story is only a small piece of a big puzzle about economic gain and corrupt elite fighting for power. The setting is also well done, it reminded me of Venice with the small isles and the canals. The number of details in the setting is impressive, and it definitely is a strength of the book. The characters in this book are multifaceted and it gives them a depth and complexity that we do not encounter in every YA fantasy book. There are many morally grey characters in this book, and it seems like everyone has something to hide. They sneak around, spy, and manipulate with no shame. I must say though that even if the world and the characters are vibrant and colorful, the pace is quite slow. It takes a while for all the pieces to fall into place and for us to understand what the actual bigger plot is. There is magic in the book, but it is not much present at first, it is introduced slowly in the first part of the book. It gets a little confusing, I am not sure yet that I understand exactly how the magic works in Ren’s world. Since it plays a more important role in the second part of the book, I would have liked it to be better explained. It is also hard to keep track of all the secondary characters, their relations with each other, their various cultures, and their titles (plus all the new vocabulary specific to this world). There is a list of characters and a glossary at the end of the book, but it is harder to refer to it every time with an ebook, so it was challenging to hold onto the threads of every conflicts, alliances, names, titles, and backstory. The complexity and the details of the setting in a part of the reasons why I liked this book, but it’s also why I struggled with it. The second half of the book is more engaging, and more significant things happen, but it is still a long book with a complex setting a slow pace, it might not be the ideal book for just anyone.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    * I was sent this by the publisher but my review is my honest feelings on the book * This story is one I was pretty excited for as it's written by one of the authors I've really enjoyed previously, Marie Brennan. She co-authored it with Alyc Helms, and this was a perfect pairing, their styles melded really seamlessly together. The main characters of this book were a lot of fun, I really enjoyed getting to know them all bit by bit. Ren is the first and most major of the characters, she's a street r * I was sent this by the publisher but my review is my honest feelings on the book * This story is one I was pretty excited for as it's written by one of the authors I've really enjoyed previously, Marie Brennan. She co-authored it with Alyc Helms, and this was a perfect pairing, their styles melded really seamlessly together. The main characters of this book were a lot of fun, I really enjoyed getting to know them all bit by bit. Ren is the first and most major of the characters, she's a street rat child with a tough upbringing, but we meet her when she's escaped her past and is going to be running a con. Her plan, with the help of her 'sister' Tess who's also from the streets, is to infiltrate the noble Treamentis house and claim some of their fortune for herself. I really loved Ren's inventiveness and her relationship with Tess is heartwarming. Tess is also a lovely character too and very creative. Next up we have The Rook who is a vigilante character, kind of Robin Hood in style, helping the street rats of the world against the nobles. He's been around for hundreds of years and his identity is a mystery so it's quite a fun part of the book to really start to guess who the Rook could be. His mystery and intrigue is a lot of fun. Our next main character is Vargo, a former lower-class business-man trying to work his way up to the nobility. He's got some secrets and he's quite the enigma with his scheming too. Hard to read and very fascinating as the plot develops. The characters of Leato, Grey, Donaia and Guilia are also really fun and I liked getting to know more of them as time went on too. I think their individual stories were all tied into the main plot very well. The magic of this world is fascinating and vast. We have various types of imbued items, numinats which are almost like magical circles, nightmare/dream magic, gods and monsters. There's a lot of mystery about the magic and how it all works and is connected together, but I think it works well in the world which is build up and the character's use of it. The political landscape is quite something, there's various layers and levels to the structure. I loved seeing the different levels of the noble houses, the rebel groups, the children of the street and the Vigil which is the watch. There are lots of inner workings which play off of one another and that work with and against one another. This is a pretty long book and yet I flew through it in a few days. I really was engaged throughout and I found it a lot of fun right from the start. It's dark and twisty and full of suspense. A whole bunch of fun and I highly recommend it. Can't wait for the sequel! 4.5*s.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ayo Odun

    This book looks pretty cool con artists? Crime lords? The skallywags of society coming together to save the day? Sign me up! EDIT: I’ve said my piece TL;DR this is an Adult book So please take this book off your YA shelves people.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Hendry

    Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ren has come to the city of Nadezra, along with her sister, with the intention of pulling off their biggest con yet. This con will set them up with money and security for the rest of their lives. After tricking her way into the noble House Traementis under the guise of a long lost relative, Ren will discover that she is not the only one wearing a mask. Meanwhile, children are going missing from Nadez Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Ren has come to the city of Nadezra, along with her sister, with the intention of pulling off their biggest con yet. This con will set them up with money and security for the rest of their lives. After tricking her way into the noble House Traementis under the guise of a long lost relative, Ren will discover that she is not the only one wearing a mask. Meanwhile, children are going missing from Nadezra's poorest streets. The search for these children will lead to a nightmare that lurks in the shadows, and to a past Ren has tried hard to forget. What I liked about this book This is a well written book with separate story lines running simultaneously and interwoven. The story lines are full of twists but are pulled together well. M.A Carrick has created a magic system unlike anything I have read before. It is very complex and is used differently depending on where the character originates from. I enjoyed Ren's ability to adapt to the character she was portraying. The cover is beautiful. What I didn't like There are a lot of characters and some of the names are quite similar. It was easy to get the characters mixed up. Some of the terms which are used throughout the book are very unique. As such, it took me a while to get my head around what was meant. There is a list of terms and their descriptions at the back of the book which helped but as I was reading the e-book it was irritating to go back and forth to check the list. The Mask of Mirrors has an interesting concept, good plot lines and some great characters. But for me it took a lot of effort to understand the terms being used in order to keep track of what was going on. 3.25 stars ✮✮✮✫ Find this review and others on my blog

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Mask of Mirrors was beyond addicting to me. I will admit it did start off pretty well for me but then dragged a little here and there because I kept getting distracted by work and other things. Yet, once I just focused on this book - well, I flew through it. I was honestly completely invested in every single person in this book. I am still not okay with what went down. Seriously. This book had so many twists in it that I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Mask of Mirrors was beyond addicting to me. I will admit it did start off pretty well for me but then dragged a little here and there because I kept getting distracted by work and other things. Yet, once I just focused on this book - well, I flew through it. I was honestly completely invested in every single person in this book. I am still not okay with what went down. Seriously. This book had so many twists in it that my brain was having a hard time keeping up with it all. At one point, I didn't even realize that my detective cap wasn't on because I wasn't even trying to figure out who the Rook was. Or anything else. Other than that, I was definitely getting vibes from other books while reading this beautiful thing. Especially Six of Crows, which I love. Again, a lot happened throughout this book - especially towards the end - and I'm in complete shock right now. I need all the revenge that I was just promised and I can't wait to dive into book 2.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    The Mask of Mirrors is a politically-driven fantasy full of twists and turns that might appeal to fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Intricate world-building, two intersecting magic systems, and dangerous plots come together in this epic narrative. It is multi-pov, but the primary character is a lady con artist named Ren on a mission to worm her way into an elite family in the city of Nadezra. Other characters range from the privileged elite to crime lords of the underworld, and even a notorious v The Mask of Mirrors is a politically-driven fantasy full of twists and turns that might appeal to fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Intricate world-building, two intersecting magic systems, and dangerous plots come together in this epic narrative. It is multi-pov, but the primary character is a lady con artist named Ren on a mission to worm her way into an elite family in the city of Nadezra. Other characters range from the privileged elite to crime lords of the underworld, and even a notorious vigilante who's like a cross between Batman and Robin Hood. It includes casually queer characters as well in a society where homophobia doesn't exist. Which is fantastic. In terms of world and setting, this reads a lot like the Italian city states, but add magic and colonization. The local magic system involves the reading of cards akin to tarot, while that of the colonizing elite is a more academic form of magic using complex inscriptions. It's definitely interesting and quite well-developed. While this book takes place in a single city, we do learn some things about the wider world as well. In general, I enjoyed my time with this book, although I do think it's longer than it needs to be. The pacing of the plot and the revelations is relatively slow and there are a lot of different threads to follow involving a huge cast of interconnected characters. I imagine some readers will eat up all of the detail woven in, while others will run out of patience for how long it takes to get where it's going and the lack of clear sign-posting for where the plot is headed. That said, if this kind of book appeals to you, I think it's a pretty darn good version of what it is. Personally, I would have preferred a bit tighter pacing, but it was still well worth my time. I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    On my blog. Rep: bi mc, lesbian side character, trans side character Galley provided by publisher Before I start this review, I think I ought to be clear that this isn’t a bad book. It’s actually quite good, from an objective standpoint. But it’s also a book that pissed me off no end. The Mask of Mirrors follows Renata, who plans to infiltrate a noble house by pretending to be a long-lost cousin, for reasons which are currently lost to me but we shall assume involves wanting their money. Only, b On my blog. Rep: bi mc, lesbian side character, trans side character Galley provided by publisher Before I start this review, I think I ought to be clear that this isn’t a bad book. It’s actually quite good, from an objective standpoint. But it’s also a book that pissed me off no end. The Mask of Mirrors follows Renata, who plans to infiltrate a noble house by pretending to be a long-lost cousin, for reasons which are currently lost to me but we shall assume involves wanting their money. Only, by doing so, she finds herself entangled in some sort of conspiracy (although this takes a good 300+ pages to become clear. I’m summarising a plot that took nearly 700 pages in two lines but I promise you, it’s not as quick as it sounds). I may as well make this my first point then: the book moves at a snail’s pace. Nay, slower than a snail. A snail would outstrip this book’s plot in a footrace by a country mile. That’s how slow it moves. And, on one level, I expected this. It’s an adult fantasy, so I knew it’d move a bit slower and be a bit more in depth. However. There’s slow, and then there’s this. Things happened so incrementally they might not have happened at all. I got to the halfway mark, when something finally happened, and it just made it so clear how little had actually come before. I think you could cut out almost the entirety of the first half, that’s how little it adds to the plot. So the book is slower than usual, fine, but it also seems to have missed the memo on in depth worldbuilding. There’s a lot of description, but I don’t think I could tell you a whole lot about the world itself. There’s a ruling class and a ruled-over class (and the former seems to be sort of colonisers, in a sense? But that’s so barely touched upon it’s easy to forget). They seem to have different religions, although this is only mentioned right at the end of the entire book, and the ruled-over class wants to be free (again, only seen through a single character. There’s no continuous unrest or anything which might display that more obviously). It’s very… light touch worldbuilding, I would say. The sort that’s just told about as and when it becomes necessary. Case in point: the magic system. For the first half of the book, you might be convinced you’re reading a world that doesn’t have magic. But you would be wrong! When the plot requires there to be magic, there is magic. Much like almost every other aspect of the worldbuilding. When the plot requires it, it gets introduced (and barely explained). In all, it’s very much hand-waving look at this lovely description of the physical world. There’s no groundwork for anything that the plot relies on. As for when the plot itself finally gets moving, well, let’s just say none of the problems Ren encounters ever seem to bother her for long. It takes so little time for a solution to be found that it’s almost ridiculous. It feels like the authors were too busy patting themselves on the back for describing the world, they forgot to do anything else. There is, quite literally, a magic-using woman who, given a problem, knows exactly what the solution is. And Ren has an uncanny ability to hear exactly the information she needs to hear, at exactly the right time. I know that such plots must, out of necessity, contain some degree of happy coincidence, but the number of times it happened truly took the biscuit. Moving onto the characters, then. My favourite by far was Grey, and he is the only reason I might actually be tempted into continuing the series, but for the fact that he gets about a fifth the page time of anyone else (also that reveal at the end was so obvious). Vargo was also interesting enough but again suffered from having not that much page time. Leaving Ren. I’m not saying I hated Ren. At the start, she did interest me a fair bit. But after a while, I couldn’t really stand reading her POVs. It’s like, she’s a perfect character. Okay so she’s trying to swindle that noble house, but it’s pretty clear she won’t be able to early on, and thus she starts becoming perfect. She has no major flaws and there was nothing about her I could latch onto and like because of it. She was just… there. And her burgeoning romance with Leato? Who everyone thinks is her first cousin? No, thanks! The most positive feeling I had about this book was when that went nowhere. All of which meant that, by the time the ending came around, an ending which was supposed to be a holy crap kind of ending, I was just too frustrated to appreciate it. But then again, given the lack of groundwork for that ending in the first place, perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I hope this is an indicator of what's to come for fantasy in 2021 because I had so much fun with this book, absolutely loved it! Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Mask of Mirrors was one of the first 2021 fantasy releases that I read, and it is giving me some high hopes that this is going to be an amazing year of fantasy releases. This is the first book in a new fantasy series and it has completely captivated me with it's strong world-building, expansive and developed cast of c I hope this is an indicator of what's to come for fantasy in 2021 because I had so much fun with this book, absolutely loved it! Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Mask of Mirrors was one of the first 2021 fantasy releases that I read, and it is giving me some high hopes that this is going to be an amazing year of fantasy releases. This is the first book in a new fantasy series and it has completely captivated me with it's strong world-building, expansive and developed cast of characters, and overall compelling and richly layered plot. M.A. Carrick is the pseudonym for authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, and the super-author duo is just as amazing as you might expect they would be. This basic synopsis for this book highlights that it features a con artist attempting to pull off a rather enormous/hefty con, and while this is indeed the heart of this particular story, it is also one small part of a much bigger and more unpredictable plot that is full of political maneuverings, scheming, and so many secrets. Every component of this story is important, from the setting to the world-building to the pacing, but the characters were one of the most vital to the plot, and I am so pleased to say that I think the authors did remarkable work in developing such a strong cast of characters that not only contains quite a few characters to follow, but also managed to make each character feel fully developed, fleshed out, and each have an interesting and unique personality as well as backstory and current storyline. Renata, for all intents and purposes our 'main' protagonist, was a particularly exciting character to follow as we explore both the Ren and Renata versions of her identity (aka, the 'real' and 'con' versions of herself) and I loved how the authors chose to balance this aspect in a way that really showed how difficult and slippery it can be to play with two identities. In addition to Renata are a variety of other diverse secondary-main characters that we get perspectives from, such as Vargo, Tess, and and Captain Grey, among others. Vargo in particular was a character that stood out to me and is easily probably one of my favorites. He's a great example of the characters in this book in that he's been developed in such a multi-layered and nuanced grey-like manner that you never really know what he's going to do, but you also can't help but love his personality and find yourself eager to see what he's going to do next. I also appreciated the detail that went into developing characters, such as Vargo's repulsion to germs and illness, which seems to hint at a phobia of some sort and that I think really helps to develop his character even further in a variety of ways. The magic in this book also felt very fresh and exciting and even though we got to explore a lot of what is a part of the magic system, I am really excited for and hoping to experience and learn even more about it in future installments in this series. It's not an overwhelming sort of magic that is constantly around, it's more subtly pervasive and not always discussed, but is always a part of the story in some manner. This is also a very political fantasy, so that takes a good portion of the plot, with plenty of scheming to keep everyone (including the reader) on their toes. You can never really be entirely sure of what someone's intentions are, and everyone usually seems to have some sort of intention or motivation for any and all actions that undertake. As other reviews have noted, The Mask of Mirrors has a fairly slow pace to it, but I think that's somewhat to be expected in larger fantasy novels. To me, it was a good type of slow pace that allowed for the characters, world, setting, and magic system to be slowly built up and evolve in a way that didn't lend to excessive info-dumping, but instead let the reader slowly and delightfully immerse themselves into the world. It's like the person who chooses to very slowly get into a freezing cold pool by moving in slowly, letting themselves adjust tot he temperature, then continue on--slow, but a comfortable sort of slow. Also, I didn't really notice it because I found the characters and plot so intriguing and I think Carrick moves the story along just enough in a consistent fashion, and it is consistency that is often most important to me in any novel--and there are plenty of more fast-paced moments throughout that help baance everything out. Overall, it was an easy five stars from me! I genuinely cannot wait to continue this series and I anxiously await its publication, even though that may not be for a while.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    4.5/5 update: decided to round up to 5 cause its been 5 days and I miss this world so much and I already want to re-read it. Video Review (Spoiler Free): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vxz6... What a fun fantasy read! I loved the character relationships and how they developed throughout this story. I think even though it is a slow pace at the beginning I didn't mind because all I wanted to do was watch these quiet moments where characters are interacting with each other. Once the pace does pic 4.5/5 update: decided to round up to 5 cause its been 5 days and I miss this world so much and I already want to re-read it. Video Review (Spoiler Free): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vxz6... What a fun fantasy read! I loved the character relationships and how they developed throughout this story. I think even though it is a slow pace at the beginning I didn't mind because all I wanted to do was watch these quiet moments where characters are interacting with each other. Once the pace does pick up then the mystery and tension takes over and I couldn't put it down. My one complain is that the character relationships took more of a back seat than I wanted in the later end of the story when the pace picked up. The magic is also really interesting. I am always a fan of dream magic which plays a large roll in this story. There are lots of things still to learn but for a first book in a series I was really intrigued and happy with where it ended and the answers I did get to all the intriguing questions that this narrative gives you. Recommend this to anyone who likes multiple point of view adventure/political fantasy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    2.5 stars Con artists, nobility, and crime lords are the main factions in this novel, delivering a collectively intricate plot reminiscent of a fantastical Venetian opera. With ten houses of the nobility and their main characters raging political intrigue - over 20 additional characters will mix into this multifaceted, dynamic plot and keep the reader on their toes. Arenza Lenskaya, aka Ren, aka Renata Viraudax, was raised in the slums of Nadezra and is learning to gain acceptance into the House T 2.5 stars Con artists, nobility, and crime lords are the main factions in this novel, delivering a collectively intricate plot reminiscent of a fantastical Venetian opera. With ten houses of the nobility and their main characters raging political intrigue - over 20 additional characters will mix into this multifaceted, dynamic plot and keep the reader on their toes. Arenza Lenskaya, aka Ren, aka Renata Viraudax, was raised in the slums of Nadezra and is learning to gain acceptance into the House Traementis as their long-lost kin hoping for all the wealth and social benefits it will bring. The truth however is, she is a con artist and willing to form beneficial alliances in her alias to achieve what she seeks. What she does not know is that other forces are tugging from every side. While we follow Ren and her thoughts, she interchanges her name, depending on who she deals with and what she can benefit from the most. With changing garments, going to balls, and going as far as to change her skin color, we follow her upturning and plotting against and for nobility, while being partially open to rather shady business. In an ever-changing plot and povs, some of the other elements of the novel are introduced. While we meet Oskana Ryvcek, a legendary swordswoman, we are also learning of The Rook, a feared and charming outlaw. As Ren is thrown into the dangers of the different houses, magical forces sweep her off her feet and she has to sort out friends from foe. In this story that sounds absolutely intriguing and fabulous, I found myself lost at times for a lack of explanations or connections. A swift change between chapters, characters, and an upending conspiracy, was beyond my ability to fully follow. The parts that worked for me, which were moments that I actually understood the circumstantial connections (keep in mind, there were 52 characters – so listed in the back of the book plus a glossary guide of terms) that were quite enjoyable. I loved some of the darker magic in there and the feistiness of the characters. At a page count of almost 700 pages, and from what I gather took over 2 years to plot-out in regards to the regal houses, alliances, and characters, it was just a bit beyond my complete comfort or delight but certainly commendable. I am sure there are other readers that will absolutely love this book. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well for me. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. All opinions are my own. Thank you. More of my reviews here: Through Novel Time & Distance

  14. 4 out of 5

    Holly (The Grimdragon)

    “Vargo didn’t often live in his body. He’d grown up thinking bodies were for pain–inflicting; receiving–a belief that lingered even though pain was rarely a concern for him anymore. These days, he mostly thought of his body as a tool. He spent the majority of his time in his head, where he was unassailable, calculating how everything around him could be used. But he recognized the appeal of the physical. And sometimes he wanted the slap of flesh against flesh, the grind of hips and the slickness “Vargo didn’t often live in his body. He’d grown up thinking bodies were for pain–inflicting; receiving–a belief that lingered even though pain was rarely a concern for him anymore. These days, he mostly thought of his body as a tool. He spent the majority of his time in his head, where he was unassailable, calculating how everything around him could be used. But he recognized the appeal of the physical. And sometimes he wanted the slap of flesh against flesh, the grind of hips and the slickness of sweat, the fuck and yes and almost there of it all.” The Mask of Mirrors is the debut novel from M.A. Carrick. Sort of. You see, M.A. Carrick is actually the joint pen name of Marie Brennan & Alyc Helms. They are both authors that I’ve heard a lot about, in fact I own the entire Memoirs of Lady Trent series.. which I will begin cramming into my skull meat sometime this year. HOLD ME TO IT!! This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year & HOLY SHIT! Whatever preconceived thoughts I had about this book were achieved & completely surpassed! It’s also one of the most stunning covers (illustrated by Nekro, designed by Lauren Panepinto) I’ve seen of late. Oof. The Rook and Rose trilogy starts off with this captivating story that follows a con artist named Ren aka Renata Viraudax aka Arenza Lenskaya. Ren is deceptively planning a con, one that she is determined to see through for the long haul. She has assumed a fake identity as a noblewoman in Nadežra, the City of Dreams. Her goal? To infiltrate a noble house, House Traementis, and secure a better future for her & her sister. As Ren becomes more deeply embedded in the politics of the nobles, she realizes that she isn’t the only one pretending to be something she’s not. Joining the thief as part of a clever cast of characters is her sister Tess, a talented dressmaker; Derossi Vargo, her kingpin landlord; Grey Serrado, Nadežra’s police force captain; and the Rook, an enigmatic outlaw who was once Ren’s childhood hero. That’s a good chunk of POV’s as it is, however, there are a fuckton more character names to remember, which I did struggle with in the beginning. However, there is both a Dramatis Personae & a glossary included in the back, which is certainly helpful. There are a lot of parts to a story of this magnitude & this being book one, the authors are clearly setting up the world in detail for the remaining installments. Although the pace is slower in the first half, it does pick up drastically. The foundation has been set & I can only imagine that the rest of the series will be just as good, if not better! “Trust is the thread that binds us…and the rope that hangs us.” Tarot readings, magical makeup, sleepless hallucinations, revelations, deception & consequences. The Mask of Mirrors felt like a combination of The Goblin Emperor & Locke Lamora, while staying wholly original. There were also some delightful “Padme’s Handmaidens” vibes, not only because of certain plot points, but mostly because of the gorgeous descriptions of garments. As someone who is far more comfortable in a Star Wars shirt & pantless (FUCK PANTS), fashion isn’t really my thing. Like.. at all. Yet, writer me was in complete awe at the level of attention paid to fabric & intricate costumes of the time, which only added to my enjoyment of this complex fantasy world! I’ve barely scratched the surface of this slowly burning mystery, truly! It’s set in a queernorm world, with dynamic characterization, stunning prose & twisty turns. Simply put, The Mask of Mirrors is escapism in amongst the chaos. Without a doubt, The Mask of Mirrors is already a contender for my favorite book of the year! Get thee to wherever books are sold & procure yourself a copy! (Massive thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy!) **The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Omg this book was so good!! It took me a while to read it and get through those 672 pages but I'm not mad about it because I got even more attached to these characters and the plot. The Mask of Mirrors follows Ren, a con-artist who murdered the leader of her knot after she killed Ren's brother. With her sister Tess, Ren runs away to try another job, one that could let her be part of the nobility if she succeeds and be able to enjoy the benefits of such a position. But for that, she'll have to be Omg this book was so good!! It took me a while to read it and get through those 672 pages but I'm not mad about it because I got even more attached to these characters and the plot. The Mask of Mirrors follows Ren, a con-artist who murdered the leader of her knot after she killed Ren's brother. With her sister Tess, Ren runs away to try another job, one that could let her be part of the nobility if she succeeds and be able to enjoy the benefits of such a position. But for that, she'll have to be really smart and put on the mask of Renata, a distant relation trying to reconnect with her family. She was never meant to care for Leato, Guina or their mother but eventually, she did and so did I. We also have an evil house that needs to be stopped and the mystery of a cloaked man "The Rook" to figure out. Overall, this was a very interesting (even if can be slow at times) and so worth the read. I cried for some characters and the ending left me shocked (view spoiler)[(about Vargo, I was fooled just like Ren. As for Grey, I expected it but it was either him or Vargo) (hide spoiler)] . It's not often that authors/books manage to fool me like that especially in Fantasy instead of Thrillers, but wow, I loved everything about it and I cannot wait for book two!! (Thank you for letting me read and review an ARC via Netgalley)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    As much as I wanted to love The Mask of Mirrors, and as much as I really liked pieces of it, I'm afraid it has to go down as my first disappointment of the year. Make no mistake, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing as M.A. Carrick, have written a beautiful book, full of sumptuous details, complete with fascinating characters, but there's just so much of it all that it becomes overwhelming. Every character who crosses the page has a name, and never just one, but first names, last names, family n As much as I wanted to love The Mask of Mirrors, and as much as I really liked pieces of it, I'm afraid it has to go down as my first disappointment of the year. Make no mistake, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing as M.A. Carrick, have written a beautiful book, full of sumptuous details, complete with fascinating characters, but there's just so much of it all that it becomes overwhelming. Every character who crosses the page has a name, and never just one, but first names, last names, family names, nicknames, and secret names, not to mention titles, and there's no pattern to how they're used. With so many characters coming and going, I kept losing track of who was who, whether we'd met them before, and if they were important. Places are the same, with seemingly every building, alley, and plaza getting a proper name, a slang name, and a directional name. Maybe with an easily accessible glossary in the finished physical copy this might become an easier read, but as an ebook it was more frustrating than entertaining. On top of that confusion, I found the pacing of this very slow, with the characters themselves having no apparent sense of urgency. Maybe if things had happened quicker, maybe if there'd been pivotal events to which we could attach characters, this might have been an easier read, but by the time anything did happen, I was already frustrated that one thread seemed to have been neglected, and lost track of how the new one connected to anything. It's a shame because The Mask of Mirrors has a lot of potential. When it works, when it's shining brightest, it reminded me of authors like Guy Gavriel Kay and Sebastien de Castell, but those positives were outshined by the struggle of reading. I didn't hate it. In fact, I'd love to give it another try when I can sit down, flip back-and-forth in a paperback, and maybe make a few notes in the margins, but the reading experience here was sorely lacking. https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    4.5 stars. I straight up loved this book from M.A. Carrick (a collaboration of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms) from the opening pages through to its many-pages later conclusion. The world is complicated, with Nadežra, the country where the story’s action takes place, containing numerous cultures and peoples, with descendants of the conquering Liganti in power, represented by several wealthy families with wide-ranging mercantile and martial interests. The original people, the Vraszenians, form the l 4.5 stars. I straight up loved this book from M.A. Carrick (a collaboration of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms) from the opening pages through to its many-pages later conclusion. The world is complicated, with Nadežra, the country where the story’s action takes place, containing numerous cultures and peoples, with descendants of the conquering Liganti in power, represented by several wealthy families with wide-ranging mercantile and martial interests. The original people, the Vraszenians, form the large, impoverished underclass, who are treated poorly by the noble and gentry families. There are different magic systems at work in the story: -the carefully codified numinatri (based on astrology and math, I think.) practiced by the wealthy, -a type of magic of objects that enhances features for things such as swords, fabric, makeup, and, -the Vraszenians Pattern magic, which is kind of similar to Tarot, and is not held in great regard by the nobility, though the card readers, szorza, are consulted by all in the land. Enter Ren, a con artist. She is half Vrazenian, and rejected by the Vrazenian people because of her parentage. After her mother died when she was a child, she fell in with a Fagin-like con artist, Ondrajka, who had a “knot” of children running a variety of cons. Ren and her younger sworn-sister Tess escape and run away after Ondrakja kills their sworn-brother Sedge. Years later, Ren and Tess are back, with Ren posing as a young noblewoman, Renata Viraudax, from a far-off country and Tess as her maid. Ren is there to con and ingratiate her way into the arms of one of the noble families, specifically the Traementis, who, unknown to Ren, have few allies and dwindling wealth. She chose the Traementis because she worked as a maid for Letilia, the runaway and wayward daughter of the family, and who is sister to the current head of the family. Ren quickly charms the noble families, as well as the grown Traementis brother-sister Leato and Giuna. And Ren attracts the notice of two individuals: local crime lord Vargo, who is trying to become a legitimate businessman, and the Rook, a legendary figure long working against the noble families. Ren is a consummate liar who quickly finds that her various cons are becoming ever more complicated, and to her great chagrin that she’s beginning to care for the Traementis. At the same time, Ren is likeable, and the various trauma of her past are explored by the authors, and help to humanize her, making her sympathetic and the her reasons for her actions, however flawed, understandable. Tess is just plain wonderful, and her genius and trendsetting dress designs are crucial in selling the lie of Renata Viraudax, even while the pair can barely afford to eat or heat the house they’re renting. So, there’s a LOT going on in the plot, with Ren's many lies layered on top of other lies, and many competing interests amongst the nobility, as well as simmering tensions between them and the Vrazenians. And many, many supporting characters (thank goodness for the Dramatis Personae!) The character interactions are well handled, and there are multiple mysteries and intrigues at work. The plot takes a while to really get going because there is a lot of groundwork necessary to show us -the world and the many interests at work, -how with each step Renata makes up the social scene, the effects are felt for the two sworn-sisters, and -how the political and social situation in Nadežra is deeply complicated and ready to blow. Couple this with several mysteries, amongst them dying street children, a new drug killing people, a factory fire that resulted in deaths, and more, and I could not put this book down. I loved it and I was thoroughly entertained, and I wish the next book were already in my hands.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    Ooh, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms writing an awesome-sounding epic fantasy under a pen name re: 'It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and we’re only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has normalized que Ooh, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms writing an awesome-sounding epic fantasy under a pen name re: 'It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and we’re only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has normalized queerness and weird dream shit because we love that stuff, yo. It has noble politics and street gangs and deception...' Source

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brigid

    Check out this review and more at The Alliterates The intricate clothing, szorsas reading a noble’s future, and a dark hood seeking justice in a world of corrupt politics had me obsessed and cutting my teeth on the pages. The pages turned. One hundred. Two hundred. Then every word felt like a brick that I needed to lift. Everything became exhausting despite my initial enthusiasm. That hope for a glittering debut disappeared along with any desire to read. The Mask of Mirrors recalls that golden ag Check out this review and more at The Alliterates The intricate clothing, szorsas reading a noble’s future, and a dark hood seeking justice in a world of corrupt politics had me obsessed and cutting my teeth on the pages. The pages turned. One hundred. Two hundred. Then every word felt like a brick that I needed to lift. Everything became exhausting despite my initial enthusiasm. That hope for a glittering debut disappeared along with any desire to read. The Mask of Mirrors recalls that golden age era of fantasy with its intricate world and those soft and quiet moments that hook your heart onto a character. Like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy, this series paints a world of violent politics and corruption. It slowly weaves a story and focuses on the details of politics, bit by bit and inch by inch. As a reader, I love slowly built fantasy worlds. They are, to me, the SFF genre’s version of the slow burn. These are the worlds that allow me to know characters on such a level that the emotional climax creates a larger impact greater than shorter fantasy books are able to do. I adore the grand arcs of Jacqueline Carey’s world, something particularly due to the detail she put into her worldbuilding and characterization. This book reminds me of those fantasy books but still something entirely of its own. Taking inspiration from various cultures, it takes on the conflict between cultures as well as class structures within the dominant society. It builds a world where queer people are normalized. They are the leaders of houses, fencing masters, good people, evil people, or sometimes all. Yet what seems complex and highly detailed quickly turns into an informational manual. The Mask of Mirrors is structured to be rich and complex in its world building but not too much of it really manages to be all that convincing. It is more of a description novel than it is a making of a world type of novel. There is more description of clothing than there is an actual sense of the world and its magic. We’re described things, about clothing, about gods, about religious practices. All these things could very well be written about in a folklore book. These descriptions and their reliance on ‘aboutness’ doesn’t get me to see the world or even feel it. What exactly is this world beyond the rooms the characters plot, sew, and converse in? The world is not experienced through the people but like mini facts throughout the novel, providing me with information but doing very little to allow me to experience the world and its magic. The Mask of Mirrors is more like the authors put in thought on the informational aspect of their world but did not push themselves to question how much should be left in the novel and how to sparse it out so it is not quite so packed without giving readers room to breathe. There’s detail and then there’s extraneous detail the pile of which is likened to that dragon hoarding all that gold in The Hobbit. The Mask of Mirrors is dense the full way through. It is fully without breaks. That is the inherent problem of this book. It does not allow readers to breathe and enjoy the characters without being slammed in the head with a dictionary. Throughout most of the story, I get the sense that I am to be pulled by the characters and their varied perspectives, each performing their own cons or their own sense for justice lost to them in this corrupt and terrible world. Normally, I’d want to see these characters with chips on their shoulders and vengeance in their futures. I rally for it. Frequently do I love to read that in a story. I am looking for the strings to hold onto some sort of emotion or sense of feeling towards these characters. Some, like Varos, are more interesting. Even with him I have difficulty finding myself clamoring for more and instead I am stuck with ambivalence or just your general numbness after being disappointed by a book. There is more work done on descriptions than there is character work and there is the problem. The worst thing I could feel towards a book is ambivalence and I’m sorry that is the case here. I feel no hatred towards the writing, the characters, or really anything else in this book. All I know is what I feel, and underline that word please, is a lack of emotions or even a care for much of what was going on in the book. What seemed like an interesting story for the first 100 pages quickly became a tedious thing to pick up. When I am deliberately avoiding picking up a book we’ve got major problems. I was distant from any emotions that I was supposed to have and that’s the biggest disappointment here. I wanted to feel things and no matter how much I tried to lift this book up I could not earn enjoyment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bertie (LuminosityLibrary)

    The Mask of Mirrors is filled with political intrigue, deception, and a wonderfully detailed world. It should have been everything I love in a book. However, with so many characters, places, and conflicts, I found it difficult to hold onto the threads. Nothing felt explained enough, I kept losing track of the plots and characters, and after finishing I couldn't say much of what happened in the plot or world. I often read detailed fantasy with large casts, so I was surprised to have felt this way The Mask of Mirrors is filled with political intrigue, deception, and a wonderfully detailed world. It should have been everything I love in a book. However, with so many characters, places, and conflicts, I found it difficult to hold onto the threads. Nothing felt explained enough, I kept losing track of the plots and characters, and after finishing I couldn't say much of what happened in the plot or world. I often read detailed fantasy with large casts, so I was surprised to have felt this way. I want to start with the positives of this book because it was filled with intriguing mysteries that I thoroughly enjoyed. Firstly, I appreciate how rich the world is. You can tell that the authors know every detail of the setting they've constructed. The city feels alive, bubbling with different groups, rivalries, conflicts, and alliances. Morally grey characters are the best, and no one can convince me otherwise. I loved that this book was stuffed full of them. I love that every character has something to hide. They sneak around behind their families back, manipulate people into doing their bidding, and hold their enemies close. The political intrigue aspect was by far my favourite part of the book, and it remains the reason why I want to continue with this series. The complexity of the book is one of the reasons I enjoyed it, but it was also why I struggled. Every single thing in this book is named with a proper noun. The places they visit, every minor character, every faction, every family, all of it had specific names. I couldn't keep track of what I was supposed to be remembering and what was irrelevant, especially when you mix in characters being referred to as either their first name, family name, title, or secret identity. There were so many named characters I'd struggle to remember them usually, let alone when they each have three or four names. Sometimes large events would happen, and I'd be so caught up trying to understand what was going on I'd miss major parts. I managed to completely miss a character death because I couldn't figure out what was happening. I enjoy books that thrust you straight into the world to figure it out for yourself, but you shouldn't have to be completely blind. It was as if I was being given loads of information, but no reason to care about any of it. Constant density stopped me from being able to recognise what was important and what was just background noise. It was only at the very end that I began to understand how the world functioned, and by that point, I was tired of trying. Overall, this book had a lot of my favourite features, but the complexity wasn't handled in a way that was easy to understand. Regardless, I'll be picking up the next book as I can't help but be intrigued by what's going to happen next. Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review If you enjoy fantasy and sci-fi you should check out my Blog! You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bookish Selkie

    Once a street child, now returning to the city for her revenge, Ren begins to con a very wealthy and noble family. At least, that’s the plan. As she learns the family secrets, Ren finds her beliefs and ideas challenged. With danger approaching from all sides, Ren must choose how far she will go to run the con. This is the type of story where I don’t wish to say too much, I’d rather just hand you the book itself! Reminiscent of Tamora Pierce, the world-building is beautifully crafted and compelli Once a street child, now returning to the city for her revenge, Ren begins to con a very wealthy and noble family. At least, that’s the plan. As she learns the family secrets, Ren finds her beliefs and ideas challenged. With danger approaching from all sides, Ren must choose how far she will go to run the con. This is the type of story where I don’t wish to say too much, I’d rather just hand you the book itself! Reminiscent of Tamora Pierce, the world-building is beautifully crafted and compelling. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but rather for readers who want to be taken on a journey with shadowy lairs, fickle magic, and long-running heists. I finished this book over a period of two days because I always felt so eager to return to the world! The Mask of Mirrors surprised and captivated me in equal measure. I’m also fascinated by tarot, so I thought the pattern-reading that the authors created was ingenious. The story-telling is rich and layered, containing careful details and intriguing characters. I love when world-building is inclusive and features positive LGBTQ rep. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a reread and plan to purchase a finished copy! I can’t wait to see how the story continues! If you enjoy complex world-building, morally gray characters, and dark mysteries to unravel, you need to check out The Mask of Mirrors. The Mask of Mirrors releases on January 19, 2021. Thank you to M.A. Carrick, Orbit Books, and Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adah Udechukwu

    The Mask of Mirrors was good but not good enough. The length of the novel was it's undoing. It wasn't amusing at all. I felt that the novel was kinda dragged out. The Mask of Mirrors was good but not good enough. The length of the novel was it's undoing. It wasn't amusing at all. I felt that the novel was kinda dragged out.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This was a really fun fantasy intrigue set in what felt like an alt-historical Venice and starring SO MANY fantastic women on various sides of shifting allegiances, disguises and secrets. I loved the richness and complexity of the setting, the magic, and the details (including utterly gorgeous dressmaking descriptions) and I really enjoyed all of the characters. Honestly, the only reason it's not a 5-star read for me is that I wished (subjectively and only because it's my own personal reading pr This was a really fun fantasy intrigue set in what felt like an alt-historical Venice and starring SO MANY fantastic women on various sides of shifting allegiances, disguises and secrets. I loved the richness and complexity of the setting, the magic, and the details (including utterly gorgeous dressmaking descriptions) and I really enjoyed all of the characters. Honestly, the only reason it's not a 5-star read for me is that I wished (subjectively and only because it's my own personal reading preference) that there was more romance! But I bet other readers will feel very differently about that part, and I still enjoyed it a LOT. This is a fun start to a series and I was really happy to read it! Thanks so much to Orbit UK for my copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vigasia

    Very complex and well-created world with lot of cunning and power machinations. But it's not for everyone. For me it was much too slow at times, and I felt like the novel dragged. I can understand why people love it though. Very complex and well-created world with lot of cunning and power machinations. But it's not for everyone. For me it was much too slow at times, and I felt like the novel dragged. I can understand why people love it though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharade

    4.5 A delightful and exciting opening act to this new series, the half star docked for a personal small disappointment. It's an exhilarating story with the perfect trifecta of world-characters-plot. 4.5 A delightful and exciting opening act to this new series, the half star docked for a personal small disappointment. It's an exhilarating story with the perfect trifecta of world-characters-plot.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aly

    Okay, this book was really good! It's so detailed, with a lot of worldbuilding and character development. There are all these families with various members, street gangs, countries with different beliefs and power structures. The authors really put a lot of time into making this book as fleshed out as possible and I enjoyed it. The main character is Ren, a thieving orphan who is doing the biggest con of her life to become part of a wealthy family. It was so much fun to watch her become different Okay, this book was really good! It's so detailed, with a lot of worldbuilding and character development. There are all these families with various members, street gangs, countries with different beliefs and power structures. The authors really put a lot of time into making this book as fleshed out as possible and I enjoyed it. The main character is Ren, a thieving orphan who is doing the biggest con of her life to become part of a wealthy family. It was so much fun to watch her become different people; Renata, the wealthy Seterin who is the long lost cousin to House Traementis, or Arenza, the Vraszen fortune teller. Ren is a great con artist and she fits in so seamlessly with everyone. We see her change as she makes friends with the people she's fooling and at times feels bad about lying. She also loves Tess, a girl she grew up with in the gang and would give her life for her. They have a great sibling bond. Grey is a Vigil captain who came up from nothing and is trying to straddle two worlds. He wants to help everyone and keep his city safe, but with his position in the police it can get tricky. He's a truly good person and I really felt for him every time he was stretched too thin and just needed help. I can't wait to see more of him in the next book! The plot was a bit confusing at times, with so many characters and subplots happening. My main issue is with the names, they're very difficult to pronounce and I wish there were a guide to help. One example of a crazy name is Egliadas Fintenus. There are also names with consonants pushed together that I had to stop and think about every time they came up and that put me out of the story. The ending was intense and we learned some big secrets. I am already looking forward to a sequel, with revenge and romance! I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    5/5 - AHHHHH VARGO!!!! My man!!! Why is competence so sexy. I really really loved this. Excellent mix up of heist and epic save-the-city with all the glitter and charm of a corrupt aristocracy belying a gritty criminal underbelly. Loved the use of fashion and would love to know what reference boars the authors were using to come up with these outfits. Worldbuilding was top tier, with conflicts between ethnic groups, complexity of both nobility and criminal groups really making the city come aliv 5/5 - AHHHHH VARGO!!!! My man!!! Why is competence so sexy. I really really loved this. Excellent mix up of heist and epic save-the-city with all the glitter and charm of a corrupt aristocracy belying a gritty criminal underbelly. Loved the use of fashion and would love to know what reference boars the authors were using to come up with these outfits. Worldbuilding was top tier, with conflicts between ethnic groups, complexity of both nobility and criminal groups really making the city come alive.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    Oh, friends. I’ve been sitting on The Mask of Mirrors for a week after finishing because I needed some time to collect my thoughts. I think the best adjective I can apply to this novel is ‘acquired taste’. Those who will love it will LOVE it, but for 75% of the book, my own feelings were lukewarm at best. The good news? The steam this novel picks up in the end makes me incredibly curious to pick up the next book in the series despite my conflicted feelings about the series opener. The core premis Oh, friends. I’ve been sitting on The Mask of Mirrors for a week after finishing because I needed some time to collect my thoughts. I think the best adjective I can apply to this novel is ‘acquired taste’. Those who will love it will LOVE it, but for 75% of the book, my own feelings were lukewarm at best. The good news? The steam this novel picks up in the end makes me incredibly curious to pick up the next book in the series despite my conflicted feelings about the series opener. The core premise of The Mask of Mirrors matches what it says on the tin. Child thief turned adult conwoman Renata Viraudax has teamed up with her sister-of-the-heart Tess to pull her most ambitious scheme yet: tricking her way into a noble house of Nadezra and swindling the entirety of their fortune from them. Ren shines as the protagonist of the novel and was one of the primary reasons I kept reading. I love a morally grey protagonist, and Ren slides right past grey into a deep charcoal with her actions in the novel. It’s a pleasure to watch her schemes and machinations unfold, to witness the many plates she has to keep spinning to keep up her ruse. Of particular enjoyment to me was that she doesn’t rely on violence or killing to accomplish her goals; all too often protagonists of darker themed stories use it as a first resort, and it was entertaining and adrenaline inducing to watch her navigate challenges without the skills of a master assassin to boot. The other two characters we get the most POV chapters from, Vargo the reformed crime lord and Captain Grey Serrado, a ranking member of Nadezra’s guard, are also compelling. However, this novel has FIFTY characters of enough prominence to be named in the Dramatis Personae list (yes, I counted), and I think the quality suffers a bit for trying to give too many characters POV chapters with not enough depth. It probably would have helped if I realized such a list existed prior to halfway through the novel. There’s also a six page glossary which may also be of use to you, since the worldbuilding in this is… intricate at best, dense and confusing at worst. Imagine a Ketterdam from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse amped up with a multitude of characters and factions, injected with heavier themes, and laced with more political intrigue than you can shake a stick at. I’m a lifelong fantasy reader, but I really struggled with the worldbuilding in this one; it feels like every one of the many elements has a proper noun but no explanation to go with it, so the reader is left to muddle through and pray it starts making more sense eventually. Combined with the slow pacing and the lack of Cool Magic Stuff (TM) that typically holds my personal interest in fantasy books until the last quarter of the novel, I will freely admit it was a challenge. Clocking in at nearly 700 pages, this novel feels as though it could be 100 pages shorter, easily. This attention to detail did work in some areas for me, though. I’m also a writer and The Mask of Mirrors made its way to my craft reference list for the sheer amount of detailed, beautiful, visually arresting descriptions of clothing worked throughout. Seriously. If you’re a sucker for a good fantasy outfit, you’ll find a lot to enjoy. The magic system, once we finally get to the meat of it, is delightful and intriguing. The in-world version of tarot called ‘pattern’ was also a delight to me; a pre-order incentive for book two with renditions of some of the pattern cards would get me to preorder it, not gonna lie. My final note is on LGBTQ+ representation. I’ll start by quoting Alyc Helms, one of the two authors comprising the M.A. Carrick team: “Without getting too spoilery, LGBT+ is normalized in this setting, meaning there are same-sex relationships, romances, and marriages among main, secondary, and tertiary characters. In addition, both of the main cultures in the novel have complex understandings of gender that go beyond the binary, and one of the secondary characters is a trans man.” Having read the book, I can confirm all of this is correct, and this is enough for me to categorize and recommend the book on an LGBTQ+ basis since the universe is indisputably queernorm. However, as far as I can tell (and if you’ve made it this far, you know I did struggle to keep everything straight in this novel), only one of our main POV characters appears to be queer at this point in the series. That could obviously change, but if your definition of LGBTQ+ requires the majority of main characters to be LGBTQ+, this might not fit the bill for you. Overall, though I had my challenges in making it through The Mask of Mirrors, there was still a lot I really enjoyed about it. It feels like this was the setup to what promises to be a phenomenal second novel—seriously, I was screaming at my Kindle when I finished the book, because the hook for the second book is so, SO good. If you enjoy an intricate, slow paced fantasy story with several morally grey protagonists and bursting with worldbuilding detail in a queernorm universe, The Mask of Mirrors is definitely worth a shot. Thank you to Orbit and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I expect I’m going we’re going to be seeing a great deal of chatter about *The Mask of Mirrors* in the next few weeks and months, and for good reason. This was *excellent*. The main character is pulling a con that Locke Lamora would be proud of. We’ve got underworld kingpins, a Zorro like figure, traumatic childhoods, tarot readings, flirtations, and talented dressmakers. It’s all a delight. The book is set in the city of Nadežra, which has a great deal of both Venice and New Orleans in its blood I expect I’m going we’re going to be seeing a great deal of chatter about *The Mask of Mirrors* in the next few weeks and months, and for good reason. This was *excellent*. The main character is pulling a con that Locke Lamora would be proud of. We’ve got underworld kingpins, a Zorro like figure, traumatic childhoods, tarot readings, flirtations, and talented dressmakers. It’s all a delight. The book is set in the city of Nadežra, which has a great deal of both Venice and New Orleans in its blood. It is the holy city of a people that remind me a great deal of the Roma, but long since conquered by foreigners, and subsequently liberated - sort of. In the centuries since, those descended from the conquerors have maintained their position as the ruling aristocracy, but tension with the original people has been ever present. Enter Ren: an orphan who fled the city as a child, returned as “Alta Renata Viraudax,” supposedly from an estranged branch of one of the city’s noble houses. In the name of family rapprochement, “Alta Renata” is trying to charm her way into the good graces (and, incidentally, pocketbooks) of her supposed family. But, naturally, things don’t go entirely according to plan. For starters, Ren is no cheerfully amoral Locke Lamora. She’s been well trained to be a con artist, but she’s much more concerned about the safety and security of her sister and herself than tweaking the noses of the rich. Years of feuding with other noble houses have left her targets distinctly short of cousins, and when they welcome Renata warmly into their hearts it’s pretty obvious Ren isn’t going to be able to rob them and go on her way. And so Ren has to navigate her way through the city’s nobility with nothing but her wits, charm, and her sister’s talents as a dressmaker. She becomes another piece in the city’s politics, used and manipulated by the various noble houses and other, even less savory, players like slum-lord-gone-”respectable”-landlord who happens to own the townhouse Alta Renata is renting. Throw in the long-simmering tensions between the nobility and the repressed ethnic minority and a few encounters with the Rook - a dashing, Zorro like figure, champion of the downtrodden and thorn in the heel of the nobility - and you’ve got a hell of a story. I’ve mostly talked about Ren, and she’s certainly the star, but this is an ensemble book with a variety of POV characters. Her supposed cousins from the noble Traemantis family; her sister Tess; an officer of the city Watch, risen high for one of the repressed minority; and her charming underworld kingpin landlord are all prominent, with assorted others providing other perspectives as needed. I’ve never read anything by Alyc Helms, so I really don’t have a basis of comparison for her. Marie Brennan, though, I know. I was kind of “meh” on *A Natural History of Dragons*, but thought *Driftwood* was a masterpiece. This has more of the feel of *Driftwood* than the Lady Trent books, I’m happy to say. I’ve seen comparisons to *The Goblin Emperor* as well, which fits. There’s also a very strong colonialist element to the story. And the cover is beautiful, which never hurts. Big thanks to Orbit for the ARC of this. It comes out on Tuesday.

  30. 4 out of 5

    A.M.

    I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. After a slightly rocky start (the prologue feels too similar to the opening scene of The Name of the Wind), I am quickly sucked into this rich, immersive historical YA fantasy, and struggle to put it down. The story follows Ren, an orphan who decides to con her way into a life of wealth and privilege but soon realises she may have bitten off more than she can chew. As she navigates many layers of politics, family feuds and soci I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. After a slightly rocky start (the prologue feels too similar to the opening scene of The Name of the Wind), I am quickly sucked into this rich, immersive historical YA fantasy, and struggle to put it down. The story follows Ren, an orphan who decides to con her way into a life of wealth and privilege but soon realises she may have bitten off more than she can chew. As she navigates many layers of politics, family feuds and societal expectations alongside her loyal sister Tess, Ren discovers that her masquerade is only one of many. I love shades of grey characters, and in this A MASK OF MIRRORS doesn't disappoint. Ren's development from self-interest to self-sacrifice makes her a character you can cheer for. But what keeps me reading is that Ren's story is just one piece of a larger puzzle centering on the city's colonial history and corrupt elite. Other notable characters include criminal underlord Vargo, who is more than Ren's match in beauty and manipulation; Captain Grey Serrado, torn between his duties and morals; and the mysterious masked avenger The Rook. The Venice-style setting has been done before, but there's originality in the worldbuilding: the magic takes a backseat at first, but develops into a blend of dreamscapes, tarot, geometric runes and mind-altering drugs. That said, this isn't a fantasy for the uninitiated. In addition to a lot of terminology unique to the world, there are more side characters than I can keep track of. Furthermore, the varying religions, cultures and magic systems could be better explained, particularly as they play an important role in the second half of the book. As a personal preference, I would have loved a romantic subplot to add another dimension of complexity to Ren's masquerade. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there'll be more romance in the sequel - which, yes, I'll definitely be reading! Read this if you like the sound of multi-character complex fantasies with the culture clash of The City of Brass in the setting of Caraval.

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