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The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, 1) de M.…
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The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, 1) (edició 2021)

de M. A. Carrick (Autor)

Sèrie: Rook & Rose (1)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1557140,977 (4.18)5
Títol:The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, 1)
Autors:M. A. Carrick (Autor)
Informació:Orbit (2021), 672 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Per llegir
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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The Mask of Mirrors de M. A. Carrick

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Es mostren 1-5 de 7 (següent | mostra-les totes)
This book has made it to my favorites list. The world-building was rich and detailed without any data-dumps that I could identify (pet peeve) ; instead, it was progressively revealed through character interaction (which can be a tad disorienting for some in the beginning until enough has been filled in to provide context for the rest of the story). The world location had a Venetian feel, with the intrigue of a noble court ruling over a conquered city that seems to be in decline. There is an undercurrent of rebellion from the original inhabitants, who seem to be modeled from Gypsy Roma and Traveller clan cultures. Stir in a seedy criminal element amongst the poor and oppressed majority and you have set the stage for all kinds of drama and intrigue. Proper names are a bit of a challenge with letter decorations not often seen in English; while it helps give the story an exotic flavor, it also slows down reading quite a bit and may put some readers off (I am actually not a fan of this technique, but it was close enough that I could skim over most of it and still figure out what it was referencing). I did actually enjoy the constant word play ... with the Vigil (police force), knots (gangs - slipknots are traitors) and pattern decks (tarot). Even the magic system was well thought out and fairly diverse with derivatives of oneiromancy (not my favorite), cartomancy, astromancy and numeromancy/geomancy (eg. Feng Shui) fairly prominent within the story (and not over the top powerful in most cases). Plus 1 star just for the fantastic world that I found here.

The central character (Ren) is a former pick pocket/gang banger just trying to survive along with her sister; and after betraying her capo, her best bet seems to to be a long con targeting the weakest of the noble houses. Now a creature of both worlds (noble and peasant), she proves to be ideally suited for the complex world building the authors do so well. With the gentry, you have the expected power politics. With common folk, you get tribal/social politics. Within each, Ren finds unexpected friends and allies, as she juggles identities like a secret agent. Throw in a mysterious Zorro-like figure and my mind was spinning after each new reveal trying to figure it all out (several time I though I had it ... but I was wrong). With all of the complex plots running through the story, it is amazing that most of them all pulled together in a satisfying finish ... bad guys foiled, good guys live to fight another day (and this is important ... there are a few things left unresolved, but there is not a cliff in sight ... and I still want to read the next book).

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#TheMaskOfMirrors #NetGalley ( )
  Kris.Larson | Sep 13, 2021 |
The first half of the story had me simultaneously cheering for Ren and being appalled by her. The tone was quite different by the end. I can't wait for the next book to come out. ( )
  pyanfarrrr | May 5, 2021 |
Everything about this book was utterly amazing, and I loved every minute of it. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

So why was it amazing?

Let's start with the cover. I have a problem where I do actually tend to judge books by their covers. I mean, doesn't everyone to an extent? That cover is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the reasons I was first interested in reading this one. The description on the back didn't do it justice, and from what I read, I thought it was going to be a completely different story.

Then, the characters. Wow. I loved them all. Ren, Tess, Leato, Vargo, Captain Grey Serrado... Most of these characters were morally grey with their own motives and desires, sometimes utilizing questionable means to achieve their ends. I love characters like that, ones that aren't inherently "good" or "bad" but have qualities of each - which makes them realistic and relatable. Vargo was possibly the most "despicable" - the one that came from an "unsavory" background and trying to make it in elite society - and even though he is still a crime boss, you can't help but root for him.

The world-building was intricate and very well done. There was an interview ( where the authors spoke about, among other things, how they worked together to write this story. I found it very interesting and insightful. In this same interview, they also talk about their inspiration for the book, and discuss the development of the language, culture, and world - for example, Liganti was more Latin/Italian based and put more stock in astrology, where Vraszenian culture was more based on Slavic languages and used pattern decks. The language was just one part of the world that was so intricately developed, and it really showed that the authors put a lot of work into their world. The authors also spent a lot of time describing fashions and fabrics, which I loved.

One of my favorite parts of any book is when I learn why the book is titled as it is. While the title of the book (as the others in the series will be as well) is based on one of the pattern cards, the full series title doesn't make sense until the end; every time the Rook appeared, I wanted to know - who or what is the Rose? So you do find out in this one, and I'm excited for the role the Rose will play in the future books in this series.

The story itself kept me on the edge of my seat, especially the end. I like how the authors wrapped up the story enough, but left strands to pick up in the next book instead of having the story end in a HUGE cliffhanger where nothing is resolved. The one thing missing in this eARC was the lack of map and appendix; however, in the final copy of the book, there is a beautiful map along with a glossary and list of "Dramatis Personae", which are all super helpful and eally does a lot to enhance the reading experience.

Inclusivity is important, and in this queer-norm world, there were several LGBTQ+ characters. I love stories like this where these characters can just *exist* without it being a big deal.

I tried to think of one single thing I didn't like about this book, and I honestly couldn't think of a single thing -- well, unless you count that I can't read the rest of the series yet... -- it was that good. You can tell how much work and love and detail went into this book, and it made it all the more enjoyable to read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books (they're killing it lately!) for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. ( )
  Allison_Krajewski | Feb 8, 2021 |
I received this novel from Orbit Books, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

When I first became aware of The Mask of Mirrors I was intrigued because it promised to portray many of the elements I enjoy in a story, like a daring confidence game, many political maneuverings and an interesting social background. The book contains all of that and much more, delivering a story that went well beyond my initial expectations.

The city of Nadezra, formerly the center of the Vraszenian culture, has been for several generations under Liganti domination, the original inhabitants looked on by the conquerors as second-class citizens: in the past, the stipulation of the Accords created a sort of truce between the two factions, but social and political unrest are always ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. Ren, a former Vraszenian street urchin now graduated to successful con artist, has concocted a daring plan to insinuate herself in the powerful Traementis family posing as Renata Viraudax, the daughter of a relative who left Nadezra long ago: once accepted by these Liganti nobles she hopes to be able to enjoy all the comforts of wealth for herself and her adopted sister Tess, now posing as Renata’s maid.

Unfortunately, the Traementis are not as influential or wealthy as they used to be, and Ren finds herself enmeshed in ever-convoluted political schemes geared toward helping the Traementis regain their former status so that she can help herself in turn. This plot-within-plot game, however, turns out to be more than Ren could possibly handle, because it dovetails with someone’s malicious strategy to foment a Vraszenian insurrection whose short- and far-reaching consequences are worryingly unclear….

While I am reluctant to reveal more about the plot to avoid spoiling your pleasure in uncovering it as the story develops, I can enjoy much more freedom in the description of the fascinating background in which the novel is set, and of the wide range of characters peopling it: these two elements blend in a captivating whole, and if the pacing feels slightly on the slow side at the start of the book, I can assure you that once the avalanche starts its inexorable downward shift, it gains speed at a breakneck, breath-stealing pace until the conclusion.

Nadezra is a fascinating place: a city built on a series of islands connected by bridges and waterways, its Venice-like quality enhanced by the description of dark alleys and wide plazas, of canals hosting floating markets or covered by impenetrable fogs that conceal both beauty and misdeeds. It’s also a place of glaring contradictions where the mansions of the affluent give way to the poorest hovels or to the crumbling buildings from which crime lords direct their armies of young thugs. And where magic permeates many of the aspects of everyday life.

The two coexisting cultures engage in different kinds of magic: the Liganti employ numinatria, which requires channeling power through a form of numerology focused by special geometrical shapes, while the Vraszenian prefer a form of Tarot based on a deck of cards that show the pattern shaping any given individual’s life. Moreover, objects can be imbued, i.e. gifted with special properties that make them more effective in their everyday use. In this world magic is so pervasive as to be almost mundane at times, but it also plays a pivotal role in the story arc, and with literally mind-bending effects and consequences.

In such a fascinating background, the characters are equally intriguing, starting with Arenza or Ren, both as herself and in the assumed persona of Renata Viraudax: she is a consummate con artist with a harsh past, playing a dangerous scheme to ensure a comfortable future for herself and her adopted sister Tess. Ren is the perfect representative of Nadezran society, one where playing a part, saying a thing while thinking another, is the rule, and she manages this feat with consummate ability. It took me a little while to warm up to Ren (even though I enjoyed her character from page one) because of the callous way in which she acts, but as the story progressed I was able to see her frailties and insecurities, to learn the horrors of her past and to understand where she comes from, emotionally.

The perfect (and quite enjoyable) foil for Ren is represented by Derossi Vargo, a powerful mobster whose ambitions of cleaning up his act and joining respectable society make him an interesting, multi-layered character whose very unpredictability is his most fascinating quality. To call him ambiguous would be a massive understatement, and he maintains this ambiguity to the very end, where an important revelation enhanced my expectations for the next book in the series, particularly in respect of my deep curiosity about the identity and role of a certain Alsius - if you read the book, you know what I mean…

On the opposite side of the personality spectrum is Grey Serrado, a Vraszenian who joined the the city’s law enforcement ranks and is forced to walk a fine line between the pull of his origins and the need to bring order and justice to a city where both concepts are too often mistreated if not ignored: the tight rope of conflicting loyalties he’s forced to walk soon managed to earn my sympathy, and I hope he will be given more narrative space in the next installments, because I feel there is still an untapped potential there, one that the final section of the novel seems to point at.

And then there is the Rook, a mysterious, hooded and masked figure whose acts in defense of the poor and the weak have become legendary - and have been for some two hundred years, hinting at a series of people taking up that mantle over time.

These are the major players, but there are other figures I was able to appreciate, like Donaia Traementis, the iron lady at the head of the failing house, whose strength of character, even in the face of many adversities, is a delight to behold; or young Tess, Ren’s sidekick, accomplice and moral support, whose skills with needle and fabric offer many delightful descriptions of the gorgeous clothes that are such a great part of the story’s background. But the list does not end here, of course…

I had a great deal of fun with The Mask of Mirrors, its skillful blend of adventure, mystery and drawing-room verbal battles creating a rich, multi-layered story I enjoyed losing myself in: the seamless transitions from day-to-day life to vicious political battles, from high-end social gatherings to drug-induced, reality-bending nightmares, proved to be so compelling that it was hard to put the book down, and I hope that authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms - working here under the pen name of M.A. Carrick - will not make us wait too long for the next installment in this very promising series. ( )
1 vota SpaceandSorcery | Jan 29, 2021 |
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
What isn't it about, really? In The Princess Bride novel, the fictionalized William Goldman recounts how his father introduced the story to him:

“Does it have any sports in it?”

“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."

That would work as a decent start on a list of what this book is about (except the bit about Giants, maybe they'll be in the sequel), but just as a start. There's just no way to say what this book contains briefly. At times it felt like Carrick* took an "everything but the kitchen sink—and all right, we'll throw that in, too" approach.

* Yes, I know that Carrick actually equals two authors, but there's one name on the cover and it's just easier to play along with the conceit for the purposes of this post.

If you find yourself not particularly enjoying a storyline (either at all, or in a particular moment), that's fine, just wait a couple of pages and you'll be on to another that will quite possibly be to your liking.

Yeah, often this kind of thing feels unwieldy, clumsy, and hard to follow. But somehow—Carrick pulls it off. It's a grand-scale novel—focusing on several people, classes, and segments of the city, but feels very contained, very personal, and not all that difficult to take in at once.

I joked while reading this that I didn't know how I was going to be able to talk about this novel in less than 10,000 words. And I really think it's true if I wanted to do a complete job. But no one wants me to do that. So I'll set "complete" aside and go for "almost adequate" instead. The best way to do that is to start our discussion with the initial plotline:

Years ago, Ren and Tess were low-level thieves, working for a Fagin-esque character. The sisters split from that group in a fairly dramatic fashion and left the city of Nadežra. Now, they're back to make their fortune. Ren poses as Renata Viraudux, an estranged family member of one of the city's noble families, with Tess at her side as Renata's maid.

The plan is to endear themselves to the Traementis family and to be officially listed as one of them. She can then plunder their accounts and set the two of them up for a comfortable life. Ren had a good period of time working as the maid of the woman she's now pretending is her mother, so she knows her, she knows stories about her family—so she's able to pull off the con pretty well (at least at first).

But there's a catch..the Traementis family is on the verge of falling apart. Tragedy has whittled the family away to Donaia (the family's head and the sister-in-law of Letilia, Renata's supposed mother) and her two children, Leato and Giuna. And the family's material wealth has been chipped away even more. There's enough to barely sustain their lifestyle, and Donaia isn't sure how long she can continue doing that. Some nobility suspects this to be true, but no one other than Donaia knows it—Renata is very ignorant about the status of her targets. Which almost makes her doomed before she begins.

Do note that "almost," because Ren is as clever and resourceful as you could want for this situation. Once she discovers the family's situation, she's not going to let a simple thing like the verge of bankruptcy stop her.

There are times when I almost wanted Ren to get caught—protagonist or not, she has it coming and you will frequently like Leato and Giuna a lot more than her (also, it'd be a lot of fun to see Ren try to get out of it). But overall, you get sucked into her cause and find yourself rooting for her.

In many ways, this story is the heart of the novel. But the more I thought about it as I read—this story is really just an excuse to get Ren involved in everything else going on in Nadežra, and it could practically be eliminated without doing a lot of damage to the book. It is, however, a load-bearing plotline and can't be removed without doing structural damage (it just feels like it). That may seem like a criticism, but it's not intended to be one—I find myself oddly drawn to the idea that there's enough other things of interest and weight going on that you could excise the Primary Plotline and still have a novel worth reading.

Nadežra, like all good fictional cities, has a masked vigilante running around. The Rook has been a presence for a couple of centuries, defending the helpless, punishing the wicked—particularly if they're part Of the nobility. The Rook is sort of a Batman/Zorro-esque figure, stepping out of the shadows (or on the rooftops). We meet him first as he comes to duel with an arrogant twit over an offense straight out of Cyrano de Bergerac, and who can resist that? He remains a favorite part of the novel for me, dropping in at pivotal moments, but not becoming a focus for long.

Ren quickly becomes fixated on him and in discovering his identity. It is fun watching her try and try to either discover or figure out his identity.

Derossi Vargo, how do I discuss him? Think Lando Calrissian meets Michael Corleone. Vargo has spent years building and building his power base and at the time that Ren comes to the city, he's at the top of the criminal portion of the city. He's so powerful now that he's itching to shed that side of him and embrace being a legitimate businessman. He just needs the chance.

Renata sees this and forms an alliance with him. He aids her in some of her schemes to prop up the Traementis family's standings and success and she, in turn, will help him with his schemes. Neither fully trusts the other, but they can be of mutual benefit to one another, and that's enough for them. The relationship builds from this point—but both Ren and Vargo are careful enough with their secrets, their plans, and their ambitions to truly let the other see what's going on—but they have that in common and can respect that.

Vargo is charming and suave, and it's easy for the reader or other characters to get swept up in that to the extent that they forget how he got to the position he's in. There's a cunning and ruthless criminal underneath his finery and smooth words. At the end of the day, Vargo is about Vargo's success, and if you're in his way—you need to watch yourself.

Now, while I had moments where I thought it'd be good to have Ren captured by the authorities, I never thought that for a moment about her sister, Tess. And Tess is the best argument for keeping Ren free and clear—I just couldn't stomach her being injured or imprisoned herself (and either would happen if Ren fell). She's one of those characters that readers immediately fall in love with and want to treat as a little sister. Woe betide any author who hurts her, I can't imagine readers of this series letting anyone get away with that.

She's Ren's accomplice, for sure, but she's not in her sister's league when it comes to criminal behavior. She's sweet, she's not out to get rich—she just wants enough to be able to have enough money that she could design and make dresses—maybe do a little cooking. There's a hint of a romance for her, and I found myself more invested in her happiness in that than I have been in other romances that form the central plot in several other books lately.

Tess has no magic abilities (that we know of), but she might as well have some when it comes to fabrics. She single-handedly keeps Ren at the forefront of Nadežran fashion, usually using scraps and bargain fabrics from the market. Her reactions to other people's fine tailoring are a delight (she practically swoons the first time she encounters Vargo over the cut of his jacket). Frequently this is the only source of comic relief in some pretty dark places of the novel.

One of the aspects of this novel, this world, that I appreciated most is a Tarot-like practice. The cards are called a Pattern Deck. Much like Tarot, the cards are cut and dealt out, then interpreted (and there's both an art and a skill involved in that). There are people who read patterns (szoras), some of whom have the gift to truly do this and some are hucksters just making money off gullible patrons. I think it's that fact that sold me on the novel. How often in Fantasy novels do you get that? A magic system that's true, that really works, and yet many/most of its practitioners don't have the necessary ability, yet continue to practice?

As you read this and come across references to cultures and historical events/people, you almost get the impression that Carrick has a two or three-volume set of books on the history and culture of Nadežra to draw from. Not that the text approaches an info dump ever (even when you wouldn't mind a little one), and Carrick is very sparing with the details drawn from my theoretical three volumes.

The world, the various religions, and magic systems, the system of nobility and government the cultures that make up the populace of Nadežra . . . it's all so well and richly developed that it has to impress the reader. I love a good bit of worldbuilding as much as the next guy, and it doesn't get much better than this.

Time does not permit me to keep going (and, let's be honest, this is already getting obnoxiously long), so let's try to wrap it up (if only so I can go over my notes and see what all I forgot to mention).

This is an impressive novel. At one point I was going to try to discuss the greater themes this work dealt with. But I think it would be almost as Sisyphean as trying to list the plots in this brief of a post. For a long time, I was going to talk about the futility of vengeance. But I'm not that certain it's correct (maybe by the end of the series, I'll have an idea what they're trying to say about revenge). There's a great deal said about family, loyalty, being trapped by history (personal and cultural), perception, know what? I'm falling into that trap I'd tried to avoid. There's a lot to chew on while reading beyond the story and characters—and you'll easily keep mulling on the novel and whatever themes you were more interested in from it for days.

Carrick has a wonderful style, there are some very cleverly assembled sentences here—and the way the story is told is clever and impressive, also. There were times when I didn't care all that much about the characters being focused on or a storyline, but I couldn't stop reading, I had to know what was going to happen next. I'm not sure how that's possible to have no (conscious) investment or interest in people or what's happening to them, but an intense desire to know what's next for them. But Carrick does it—and does it in such a way that pretty soon I was interested in at least the story or characters again (usually both).

The plots (individually considered) are complex and layered, meticulously assembled and paced well throughout the novel's progress. Then Carrick takes them and weaves them together in an intricate and smart way to make these plotlines a rich tapestry. The skill necessary for this, and the effect this has is stunning. I am a little concerned that when the sequel is published I won't be able to remember enough of this to be able to dive in—and that's the worst thing I can say about the book.

I can't quite bring myself to give this all 5 stars, but I don't feel too bad, when I cross-post this to platforms that won't let me get away with half-stars I'll end up rounding up. It's entertaining, it's impressive, it's richly and wonderfully told, it's complex and filled with complex and developed characters. It's as difficult to succinctly evaluate the book as it is to describe it.

I guess I should just say: read The Mask and the Mirror, it's absolutely worth your time and you'll thank me for it. You'll also see why I'm having trouble crystallizing my thoughts. ( )
  hcnewton | Jan 25, 2021 |
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