The Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick

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.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I admit, I was completely blindsided by this book. I’d initially picked this up because several blogging friends seemed extremely excited. While my own initial interest was rather middling from just the summary, I’m so glad I listen to friends with better judgement. A fun heist story that gradually evolves into something much greater, extremely charismatic if morally-questionable character, and a fantastic fashion sense.

What first stood out to me as I read was this book’s, and the authors’, impeccable fashion sense. Clothing, styles, trends, and fabric qualities, have long been an aspect of palace and political dramas, but Mask of Mirrors really takes that aspect to a new degree of focus. Fashion is a deciding factor in Renata’s first impression upon Nadežra Upper Society and it becomes a recurring factor in how decisions are influenced and made. Carrick describe the various outfits with a delightful sartorial flair, and though my aphantasia prevents me from actually visualizing any of the outfits, I reveled in the descriptions of colors and textures as I read.

Of course, the characters under those clothes were equally engaging. Our primary protagonist, Renata, an orphan gutter thief attempting to con her into the lineage of one of Nadežra’s noble houses, has streaks of pragmatism with a drive to seize what she believes the city owes her. Through bold fashion statements and witty conversations, following Renata’s moves through Nadežra high society was a ton of fun.

It’s been four paragraphs. I can stop holding back now. Mask of Mirrors has my new favorite questionably villainous morally gray character in Vargo. Crime lord gone legal (maybe), man with hella fashion sense, and secretly a highly talented magic user, I have never read one introduction of a character and gone, yup, him, he’s the one, new problematic fave. Kaz Brekker stans, I beg you to read this book, you will love him. For the large part, he acts as an ally to Renata, but there’s always a looming aura of “he will definitely cross you the moment it’s convenient”. He’s charismatic, polite, even flirtatious at times. Overall a great character. 10/10. This review is very unbiased.

Moving back to more serious topics, namely worldbuilding, Carrick have built up a city that feels thrumming with life. We traverse through the noble upper echelon of House Traementisw, the grungier underbelly of Vargo and Renata’s childhoods, and all areas in between. There’s a slow exploration of growing racial tensions due to the city’s colonizing history, the card-based magic, and the mirror-like dream world it seems to stem from. While the worldbuilding is fairly dense, it was always engaging, truly bringing the world of Nadežra to life.

If there was one thing I disliked, it’s that there’s a big secret that gets teased throughout this book. As a friend and I were reading, we were texting each other back and forth trying to guess what was behind said secret. We have never wanted to not know the big reveal of a secret more than when we finished this book.

Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. A fantastic, extremely charismatic set of characters including one of my new all time favorites in Vargo, deeply explored Venetian-inspired city worldbuilding, a casually queer setting, and all the sartorial flair a fashion fan could dream of.


r/Fantasy 2020-2021 Bingo Squares:

  • Novel Featuring Politics (hard mode)

Publication Date: 21 January 2020
Publisher: Orbit
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 672
Word Count: ~214,000
ISBN: 0356515176 
Buy It Here: Amazon Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

2 thoughts on “The Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick

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