E. C. Blake - Author

Hardcover | $19.95 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780756407599 | 304 pages | 05 Nov 2013 | DAW | 8.26 x 5.51in | 18 - AND UP
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Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrimathe one land blessed with magical resourcescut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarchs Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.

In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.

At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Maskswhich denote both status and professionwhenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.

Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarchs Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Maras Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.

But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didnt turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because shes lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?

Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits hera future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.
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The next morning Mara stumbled down to breakfast, yawning and stretching, once again wearing the staid blue skirt and white blouse her mother preferred, though she hadn’t gone so far as to put on shoes. To her delight, her father stood at the counter, his back to her.

“Daddy!” She ran up behind him and threw her arms around him. “Eat breakfast with me!”

She felt him stiffen, freezing in the middle of whatever he was doing. She squeezed him tighter.

“Let go of me, sweetie,” he said, his voice a little hoarse.

She gave him a final squeeze, then let go and stepped back. He turned around, a steaming mug of black-bean tea in his hand, and she almost gasped: unshaven, with dark shadows under his eyes, he looked like he hadn’t slept in days. “I wish I could, Mara, but I’ve got too much work to do.” He didn’t seem to want to meet her eyes: his gaze slid past her, and he started toward the stairs.

“My Mask, right?” Mara called after him.

He stopped, one foot on the stairs. “That’s right,” he said after a moment.

“What does it look like?” Mara knew that by tradition no one knew what their Mask looked like until the moment it was presented to them, but she was desperate to keep her father talking to her, starved for the sound of his voice. “Is it beautiful?”

From where she stood, she could just see the mug of tea in his right hand. It trembled. “It is what it is,” he said at last, still without looking at her. Then he resumed climbing the stairs. A moment later she heard his workshop door close—and lock.

Mara blinked back tears. At least when I’m Masked, I’ll have my father back.

She went to the sideboard, where her mother, who seemed to be out, had left cheese and bread and a couple of hard-boiled eggs. She took an egg, a chunk of cheese, and a slice of bread back to the table, poured oil into a small bowl, dipped the bread into it, and chewed on her breakfast while also chewing over the conversation with the boy in the cellar the night before. By morning light, his fears about the Masks seemed silly, and so did hers. So Sala had been a bit standoffish. So what? People changed. Sala really did have more responsibilities now. She was officially an adult, and adults were different than children, weren’t they? It wasn’t a bad thing. It was just the way things were.

Before you know it, she’ll be married, she thought. Before you know it, so will I. And then we’ll have children of our own . . .

Again she pushed that uncomfortable thought aside. Time enough to worry about that later.

Much later.

The important thing was that when they were both Masked, she and Sala could be friends again. As for all that stuff about the Masks changing people . . . nonsense, and she knew it. Her father was making her Mask, and he would never make something that would harm her. He might be a bit preoccupied right now, but she knew he loved her. She had a lifetime of memories of cuddles, of storytelling and laughter, of running to Daddy for comfort when she’d skinned her knee or been stung by a bee, to prove it. Whatever he makes for me will be beautiful.

As for “Keltan,” well, he was . . . delusional, that was the word. All that crazy talk about the unMasked Army. The unMasked Army is a myth! She felt sorry for the boy, risking his life for nothing. And she would keep her word and not tell anyone she’d met him. He might be crazy, but she didn’t think that would matter to the Watchers, and she didn’t want him to end up hanging on a gibbet outside the Autarch’s Palace.

She shuddered at the thought. Ugh. Not the best thing to think about at breakfast. She pushed away what was left, half a slice of oil-soaked bread and a good-sized chunk of boiled egg, got up, and took the dish to the sideboard. She put the leftover food into the compost, then pumped water into the bronze sink and fired the rock-gas burner underneath it. As the water heated, she looked out at the bright blue sky. Another warm day, she thought, and her arms and legs itched at the thought of wearing a long skirt and long sleeves. But she felt guilty about sneaking out the night before, and promised herself she’d be extra-good all day to make up for it.

Besides, she only had two short tunics: one was wadded up in the garden shed, and the other was crumpled up under her bed, black with coal dust.

The water wasn’t as hot as her mother would have made it, but hot enough for Mara. She turned off the burner, took the hog’s-bristle brush from its hook just below the windowsill, and began scrubbing her dirty dishes. I’ll have to figure out some way to wash that tunic, she thought. And my sheets. They were black when I—

“Good morning, Mara,” her mother said from behind her. She jumped, then turned to see her mother smiling at her from the archway leading into the front room.

Mara forced a laugh. “You scared me!” She hoped she didn’t look as guilty as she felt. “Good morning, Mother.”

“Come in here,” her mother said. “I have something to show you.”

Mara dried her hands on the blue towel hanging on a peg beside the window and went over to her mother. “What is it?”

“Close your eyes,” her mother said.

Mara blinked at her, then giggled and said, “All right.” She closed her eyes. Her mother took her hand and led her into the front room.

“Now . . . open them.”

Mara opened them, and gasped.

In a patch of the bright morning light that poured through the diamond panes of the tall windows stood a dressmaker’s dummy, wearing the most beautiful dress Mara had ever seen.

Shimmering green, sparkling with tiny glittering stones sewn into the fabric, it seemed almost to float above the dummy. It had a high waist and a low back and no sleeves. A shawl, so delicate it might have been made of blue smoke, its fringe glittering with more of the tiny gems, seemed to drift above rather than hang on the shoulders. On the floor beneath the dummy rested two silver shoes, with open toes and high heels.

Mara took it all in with an open mouth, then suddenly remembered to breathe. “For me?”

“For you,” said her mother. “For your Masking.”

“Oh, Mommy!” Mara flung her arms around her mother and squeezed her tight. “It’s beautiful!”

“Would you like to try it on?” her mother said.

“Would I!”

She dropped her skirt and blouse where she stood, then, wearing only her thin drawers, pulled on the dress. Her mother watched her, a strange expression of mixed amusement and sadness playing around her lips. When Mara had everything on, tottering a bit on the heels, the shawl over her shoulders, her back feeling daringly exposed, she looked at her mother and said, “How do I look?”

“You’re beautiful,” her mother said. Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. “My little girl . . .”

“Get Daddy,” Mara said happily. “He should see—”

Her mother wiped her eyes, and shook her head with a smile. “No. He won’t tell me anything about your Mask. Says he wants it to be a surprise. Well, let’s make this a surprise for him. The first time he sees you in it, let it be on your birthday.”

Mara laughed. “I can’t wait to see his face.” She looked down at herself. “I wish I had a mirror.”

“Milady has only to ask,” her mother said. Mara had been so taken with the dress she hadn’t even noticed the tall, cloth-covered object in the corner. Her mother pulled the cloth away, revealing the full-length mirror that normally stood in her parents’ room, a marvelously clear glass that had been a gift from a wealthy merchant in appreciation for a particularly fine Mask made for his Gifted daughter.

Mara looked at herself, and her breath caught in her throat. “I look like a grown-up!” Well, a very skinny grown-up, she amended. She needed to fill out quite a bit more in certain crucial areas before she could really show off the dress to its best effect.

“Wait until we have your hair done properly, and add a necklace and bracelets,” her mother said. “And then the Mask . . .” She paused. “You know that the Autarch will likely be present for your Masking.”

Mara’s breath caught. “What?” She turned to look at her mother in wonder.

Her mother nodded. “It’s true. For the last few months he has made a point of attending the Maskings of the Gifted. Your father attends many as well, of course, as a guest of the family, and in appreciation for his work. He has seen the Autarch many times.” She started to say something else; then stopped. “Many times,” she repeated after a moment.

Mara stared at her. “I never dreamed . . .”

“It is a great honor,” her mother said.

In that moment, Mara’s fears about the upcoming Masking evaporated. And the next few days, passing in a whirlwind of preparation, left no time for doubt. There were visits to the hairdresser, the manicurist . . . after which she began wearing shoes; she didn’t want to damage her toenails, which suddenly looked prettier than she’d ever imagined toenails could look . . . and the caterers. Two other children would be Masked at the same ceremony, but each family would hold its own separate reception afterward: and since Mara was the daughter of Tamita’s Master Maskmaker, her reception had to be top-tier, indeed.

Yet through all the planning, the decorating of the house with strings of silver sequins and garlands of preserved passionflowers of red and yellow and white, one person remained conspicuously absent: her father.

“Are you sure Daddy is all right?” Mara asked her mother as they worked in the kitchen just two days before the Masking. “The last time I saw him, he looked so tired.”

Her mother, polishing silver at the washbasin, remained silent for a moment. “I told you,” she finally said. “He’s not ill. He’s just . . . preoccupied.” She put aside a gleaming knife and picked up a tarnished fork. “And I think I know why.”

“Really?” Mara had her own polishing task: to make sure none of the crystal goblets had even the tiniest water spot to mar their glittering perfection. She lifted the one she held up to her eyes, peering critically through it at the window. “Why?”

Her mother moved on to a spoon. “It’s you.”

“Me?” Mara put down the goblet and stared at her. “Huh?”

“You’re his little girl,” her mother said. “But after the Masking . . . well, you’ll still be his daughter. But you won’t be a little girl anymore. You’ll be an adult. You’ll wear your Mask whenever you go out, and before you know it there’ll be some young man courting you, and then . . .” She sighed. “It’s the way of the world, and there’s nothing to be done about it. But it’s hard. Hard for me, too. But I think it’s even harder for your father. For all fathers.”

Mara picked up the next goblet and rubbed it with her soft white cloth. “Was it like that for your father?” Mara had never known her grandparents, who had died before she was born, but she knew her mother’s father had been a dye merchant, the success of his business bringing the family north to Tamita just before her mother was Masked. His warehouse still stood down by the Gate, although she didn’t know who owned it now: she’d seen big black wagons roll out of it, but had no way of knowing what they carried.

“Yes,” her mother said sadly. “He was different, after I was Masked. Like he didn’t know how to talk to me anymore. And I guess I didn’t really know how to talk to him after that, either. And before we ever figured it out, he and Mom got sick, and . . .” She pressed her lips together, and resumed polishing the silver, harder than ever.

Mara said nothing more about it, but in her heart she swore she wouldn’t let that happen to her. The Masking won’t change me, she promised herself. And it won’t change our family. We’re still a family. We’ll always be a family. Nothing can change that.

And then, as if time had suddenly leaped forward, it was the day of the Masking itself.

Mara saw her father again at last, in the front room as she and her mother came down that morning after spending an hour on Mara’s hair and makeup. His expression when she appeared in her beautiful dress was not at all what she expected. She saw a flash of the pride and wonder she’d hoped for, but then it vanished, as though shutters had been slammed closed across a brightly lit window. All that remained was the same withdrawn look of fatigue she’d seen a few days earlier at breakfast.

“You’re beautiful,” he said, but almost as if the words hurt him.

“Isn’t she?” her mother said. “My little girl. The Autarch will be—”

“The Autarch won’t be there,” her father said. As Mara’s mother gasped, he turned away and picked up his Mask from the stand by the front door.

“What?” her mother cried. “But the Autarch has come to almost all of the Gifted Maskings for the past—”

“Almost all,” her father said. “Not quite all. And this one . . . he has chosen to stay away from.” He settled his Mask on his face, and only then turned to look at them again, his expression hidden by the smooth copper surface. “But there will be another distinguished guest,” he continued. “Ethelda, the Chief Healer of the Palace. Healer of the Autarch himself. She will attend in the Autarch’s place.”

“Ethelda?” Mara’s mother said, sounding hurt and bewildered, and Mara couldn’t blame her. Daddy is already spending as much time with Ethelda as he does with us. Now she’s coming to my Masking?

A horrible thought struck Mara. Could her father be . . . be unfaithful? Her stomach fluttered at the very idea. No. It couldn’t happen.

But then why wasn’t the Autarch coming to her Masking? Why was Ethelda coming instead?

It’s because I lied about the magic I see, she thought suddenly. The Autarch knows. Maybe this Ethelda does, too. Maybe Daddy does, too. Maybe that’s why he’s been so distant. I don’t have the Gift at all. Or at least, not enough. Maybe I won’t be able to use it all. I won’t be able to be my father’s apprentice. . . .

All those thoughts raced through her mind in an instant, in the time it took her mother to press her lips together and then lift and don her own her Mask, pale blue with a pattern of white stars on the cheeks. Their true expressions hidden behind faint smiles of magical clay, Mara’s parents led her outside, and for the last time, Mara stepped into the cool morning air with her face uncovered.

They climbed silently up Maskmakers’ Way to the Maskery’s walled compound. The bronze-bound wooden gate in the tall stone fence stood open. Inside, rather than the cobblestoned courtyard she had expected, Mara saw a riot of color, flowering bushes growing in profusion on manicured lawns beneath tall trees whose leaves rustled in the light breeze. Liquid trills of birdsong filled the space, as though avian composers had been specially commissioned to mark the august occasion.

The midmorning sun glinted off a path of crushed white stone that led to the Maskery, a circular building of white marble, topped by a golden dome and surrounded by a slender-columned portico.

The other two children being Masked that day already waited by the Maskery door: a boy and a girl Mara had never met. Though they obviously shared a birthday, they hadn’t shared a tutor. The girl, far more buxom than Mara, wore a shamelessly low-cut red dress that hugged her hips. The boy, all in black from head to toe, looked more like a twelve-year-old than someone who had just turned fifteen. A heavy dusting of freckles stood out in stark relief on his paper-white face, framed by big ears. He kept swallowing and clenching and unclenching his fists. Mara just hoped he wouldn’t be sick. That would certainly take some of the shine off the proceedings.

She didn’t feel nervous at all, she told herself, even as a bead of sweat slid down her exposed back. And she had a much nicer dress than the other girl, even if she didn’t fill it out in quite the same way.

Two Watchers in expressionless black Masks flanked the Maskery door. The door itself, though twice as tall as Mara, was so narrow that only one person would be able to pass through it at a time. Solid bronze, bearing high-relief images of four Masks, one above the other, it gleamed dully in the sunlight, far outshone by the Masker waiting in front of it: like Tester Tibor, he wore yellow, bright as a daffodil, from his Mask to his hooded robe to his sandaled feet. Even his toenails were painted yellow, Mara noted, then quickly raised her eyes and looked straight ahead again, feeling it must be somehow improper to be examining the toes of a Masker.

They all formed a line in front of the door, the Masker at the head, then the boy, the other girl, and Mara. The witnesses—her parents, a younger couple that seemed to be the girl’s parents, and an older couple she thought must be the boy’s grandparents—brought up the rear.

They stood there in silence for what seemed to Mara a very long time, until a final witness came up the white stone path from the Gate.

The newcomer, not much taller than Mara, wore a long white robe, belted with blue. Blue shoes slipped in and out from beneath the robe’s blue-embroidered hem as she walked. Blue also Masked her face; green gems glittered on the forehead and cheeks.

Ethelda. Mara’s gaze swung to her mother, who took one quick look at the newcomer, and then turned to face forward again. Mara wondered what expression lay beneath the shining pale blue surface of her Mask.

“Healer Ethelda,” said the Masker, gravely. “You are here as a witness for the Autarch, long may He reign?”

“I am,” Ethelda said. Her voice sounded slightly breathless, as though she had run most of the way from the Palace, whose tall golden walls loomed above them atop the crest of Fortress Hill.

The Masker nodded, then turned toward the door. Though he didn’t touch it, it swung silently inward. One by one, they stepped inside.

The first thing Mara noticed was the sound of running water, issuing from the dimness beyond the door. As her turn came to enter the Maskery, she discovered the source: just inside, a bridge arched over a shallow moat about five feet wide, filled with water which tumbled foaming out of golden spouts, shaped like the heads of mountain cats, set at regular intervals around the Maskery’s curved white marble walls.

Between the spouts burned white torches in golden sconces, their yellow flames the only source of light—except for the eyes of the golden mask at the very top of the dome, fashioned exactly, Mara saw at once, like the Mask of the Autarch. (Although on those rare occasions she had seen the Autarch, his eyes had not actually blazed with light like the eyes of this Mask, lit from behind by a skylight.)

At the center of the chamber rose a circular dais perhaps ten feet in diameter and two feet high, covered with gleaming white tiles that contrasted with the blue tiles of the main floor. Beyond the dais, white-tiled stairs led down through an opening in the floor. More torchlight flickered in the underground corridor beyond.

Mara had been told what would happen, so she knew to follow the Masker to the edge of the dais, but not to step up onto it until called. The three candidates stood side by side while the Masker took his place in the middle of the dais. The Watchers stood to either side of him. The Witnesses spread out behind the candidates, several steps back.

On a table beside the Masker rested three lumps, each covered with cloth of gold. Mara looked at them, and licked dry lips. One of those, she knew, was her Mask.

The Masker looked down at the three children. “Perik Adder, come to be Masked.”

The boy jerked forward so suddenly he almost tripped over the edge of the dais, but caught himself just in time and stepped up onto the white tiles. He faced the Masker, his hands, Mara saw from behind, working more convulsively than ever.

The Masker turned to the table and pulled the cloth off the nearest lump. A white Mask, its cheeks and forehead marked with red stars, stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Not one of ours, Mara thought disapprovingly. She made a mental note to never make anything that ugly.

The Masker raised the Mask in both hands, and turned back to Perik. “Perik Adder, you have reached the age of fifteen years. It is now the will of the Autarch that you become a full citizen of Tamita, with all the duties and responsibilities that entails, and that you serve him and his heirs for the rest of your life. Do you accept the will of the Autarch?”

Of course he does, Mara thought. He has to get his Mask. He can’t leave here without one.

“I do,” the boy said.

“Should you prove false, the Mask you are about to receive will reveal your treachery to the Autarch’s Watchers,” the Masker warned. “Serve the Autarch well, and you will live a long and happy life in his service. But be untrue, and that life is forfeit. I ask you for the second time, in the full knowledge of these truths, do you accept the will of the Autarch?”

Was it Mara’s imagination, or did the boy hesitate? But it was only for a second, if he did.

“I do.”

“So that there can be no mistake, for the Autarch does not want in his service those who do not come to it freely, I ask you for the third and final time: do you accept the will of the Autarch?”

The eyes of the golden Mask overhead dimmed suddenly as a cloud passed in front of the sun.

“I do,” said the boy.

The Masker inclined his head. “Then I welcome you to full citizenship, to adulthood, and to the service of the Autarch: and in recognition of your thrice-made vow, I present you with this Mask, symbol of your devotion, guardian of your thoughts.”

He turned the Mask and settled it gently onto the boy’s face. The boy gasped. Though it appeared to be made of glazed, fired clay—though in fact, as Mara knew well, it was made of glazed, fired clay—the Mask squirmed as it touched Perik Adder’s face: then, abruptly, the movement stopped, and the Mask looked exactly like his face had looked—except, of course, in white clay. The boy swayed for a moment, then straightened: he turned to face the Witnesses. Polite applause pitter-pattered through the domed chamber. Mara glanced behind her, and saw the older couple hugging.

“You may join your family,” the Masker said, and Perik Adder stepped down.

The other girl—Jilny Patterner was her name, and a very silly name it was, too, Mara thought—was next. Her Masking proceeded exactly as Perik’s had. She stepped down from the dais, wearing a white Mask like the boy’s, though hers was marked with little pink roses on the cheeks (Mara didn’t roll her eyes at the sight, but she wanted to).

And then . . .

“Mara Holdfast, come to be Masked.”

Even though she’d known that call was coming, Mara’s heart skipped a beat. Bearing herself as straight and proud as she could, she stepped up onto the dais. The Masker turned to the table and pulled the cloth off the last lump there, and Mara gasped. She had never seen a more beautiful Mask: gleaming, copper-colored, with rubies forming a fiery tiara across the forehead, more rubies sparkling like flickering flames on the cheeks. Tears started in her eyes. Oh, Daddy!

The Masker lifted that magnificent Mask and turned to face her. “Mara Holdfast, you have reached the age of fifteen years. You have been tested, and found to have the Gift.” Mara couldn’t turn around to see, but she hoped Jilny Patterner’s eyes had just narrowed in jealousy inside her silly rose-painted Mask. “It is a precious thing, the Gift of magic,” the Masker went on. “Precious, for it enables you to serve the Autarchy in ways that those without that Gift can only dream of. With your Gift in particular comes great responsibility, for you, Mara Holdfast, are apprenticed to your father, Charlton Holdfast, Master Maskmaker of Tamita,” the Masker nodded over her shoulder in the direction of her father. “Someday, your Masks will adorn and glorify the faces of generations yet to come.”

Mara shivered, goose bumps running up her bare back and down her arms. She’d never thought of it in quite such grand terms.

Doubts and fears forgotten, she felt only awe and gratitude. She focused her eyes on the beautiful Mask her father had so lovingly crafted for her. The skin of her face seemed almost to have a mind of its own, a mind that yearned for the touch of the Mask’s smooth clay . . .

“Mara Holdfast,” the Masker intoned, returning to the vow he had already administered twice. “You have reached the age of fifteen years. It is now the will of the Autarch that you become a full citizen of Aygrima, with all the duties and responsibilities that entails, and that you serve him and his heirs for the rest of your life. Do you accept the will of the Autarch?”

It was hard to even say “I do” through the lump in her throat, but all too soon, it seemed, the oaths were over, and the Masker stepped forward with the beautiful copper-colored Mask in his hands. “Then I welcome you to full citizenship, to adulthood, and to the service of the Autarch: and in recognition of your thrice-made vow, I present you with this Mask, symbol of your devotion, guardian of your thoughts!” The Masker raised the Mask in both hands and settled it onto Mara’s face.

It was the most beautiful, wonderful, joyful moment of her life . . .

. . . and then it all went wrong.

The Mask writhed, like the others; but unlike the others, it did not stop. It squirmed and wriggled like a basket full of snakes, faster and faster and harder and harder. Mara gasped in terror, then screamed in pain, as she felt the skin above her cheekbones rip open, the skin of her forehead split, her nose break. She fell to her knees, eyes squeezed shut to try to protect them, scrabbling at the Mask with both hands, tearing at it with her fingernails, but it wouldn’t come off, wouldn’t come off, wouldn’t come off, it was going to kill her—

The Mask shattered, the thunderclap of its destruction making her ears ring. A dozen pieces fell away from her face and crashed to the dais. Her blood, shockingly red, splattered the white tiles. She coughed and choked and spat out scarlet-laced saliva and mucus.

Yellow toenails in white sandals stepped into her vision. Gagging, she looked up through bleary eyes to see the Masker looking sternly over her head at the Witnesses behind her. “This candidate has failed the Masking,” he intoned. “She cannot be made a citizen. In the name of the Autarch, clear this place!”

She heard her mother screaming her name. She wanted to get up, go to her, beg her father to help, to do something . . . but the room swayed around her, and the thunder of the falling water seemed to pound down on her, pinning her in place.

What’s happening to me? Nothing made sense. Is this a dream?

The door to the Maskery slammed closed, cutting off her mother’s screams.

"Masks is a book that took me by complete surprise. Not since the likes of Lirael or Sabriel have I enjoyed a YA with a female protagonist to the extent I did Masks." — Fantasy Faction

"Mara’s personal growth is a delight to follow. Sharp characterization, a fast-moving plot, and a steady unveiling of a bigger picture make this a welcome addition to the genre." — Publishers Weekly

"Masks grabs the reader’s attention on the first page and holds it until the last.... The characters are complex and relatable and grow throughout the story, and the storyline itself is fresh and never predictable. Masks is simply impossible to put down and will leave readers begging for the last two books in the trilogy." — RT Book Reviews

"Blake brings his fantastic world to life through offbeat links between magic, nature, and human behavior in a caste-ridden society." — Locus

"Masks is a book that took me by complete surprise. Not since the likes of Lirael or Sabriel have I enjoyed a YA with a female protagonist to the extent I did Masks." — Fantasy Fiction

"Mara’s personal growth is a delight to follow. Sharp characterization, a fast-moving plot, and a steady unveiling of a bigger picture make this a welcome addition to the genre." — Publishers Weekly

 "Masks grabs the reader’s attention on the first page and holds it until the last.... The characters are complex and relatable and grow throughout the story, and the storyline itself is fresh and never predictable. Masks is simply impossible to put down and will leave readers begging for the last two books in the trilogy." — RT Book Reviews 

"Blake brings his fantastic world to life through offbeat links between magic, nature, and human behavior in a caste-ridden society." — Locus

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