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.
I feel a bit like a party pooper writing this review. So far I’ve read lots of positive reviews from fellow book bloggers, and I really feel like that annoying character of a sitcom in who says “I didn’t enjoy this book so much”.
You could sum up this story by saying, one day a poor girl, Ren, decides to take revenge on society and plan to con a rich family, but then that summary wouldn’t be the truth. There is so much going on in this plot, with so many little plot lines on the side, and in the end, the con seemed almost set aside. I personally kind of forgot where the story even started from and slowly I found myself thinking that I couldn’t wait for this book to be over.
It’s not that I didn’t completely enjoy it. The first half of this book is about politics, with a subtle allusion to the existence of magic in this world and I was quite intrigued by the various personalities among the nobility. Then, there is a major event in the middle of the story – which super pissed me off – and the second half took a major shift and became all about magic. The problem is, the magic system is not properly explained. Maybe it was explained in the glossary at the end of the book, which I discovered only when I was 70% through but it was too late. (I think they should start adding like a big note at the front like “Attention! You will find definitions of all those crazy made-up words at the end of the book”.)
After the “shift” I slowly lost interest in the main character, Ren and I think the writers forgot what Ren herself was all about. I enjoyed the first half, reading about Ren’s con to this Liganti (rich) family and all the dramas. The reader is presented with this smart and cunning female character who is capable of acting charming and persuading people to do her bids. I closed an eye on the continuous plot holes in between chapters, as often you are told about what the great Ren was able to achieve and conquer, without actually seeing her in action, if that makes sense. I had to kind of trust the writers that Ren was this smart and master of the art of flattery without having given a proper demonstration.
The second part of the book moved the focus onto a magic system that lacks an explanation of its background and how it works, and it all went around “patterns” which are this world’s tarot cards. I felt like I was drowning in this sea of irrelevant details, card readings and card meanings. The more I continued the more I was overwhelmed by all the characters and separate storylines, not to mention the confusion provoked by the names, titles, nicknames (pet name) that every single character appeared to have. I slowly gave up in trying to remember everything and I just wanted to get over it.
I guess, it wasn’t for me. I know there are readers who felt the same, confused and overwhelmed, and probably it’s me not being used to high fantasy any more. I just thought that this story was infused with too many irrelevant details and magical elements. This 600+ pages story had only two major events happening (in the middle and in the end) and yet, it managed to lose track of the plot.