The Mask of Mirrors, M A Carrick – Book Review

Hello Humans! December Judith here writing reviews for 2021 releases and feeling very confused about time and the inevitable heat death of the universe. But to distract myself from that kind of thinking I like to pour myself into reading and OOOH there are some good books coming in the next year. One such book is M A Carrick’s (Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms) The Mask of Mirrors which releases in the UK on January 21st. Magic, con women, nobles and politics – yes.

Goodreads Summary:

Darkly magical and intricately imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…
Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure 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 corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

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I knew I wanted to read this when I realised it was in part written by Marie Brennan because as you may know I am a huge fan of Turning Darkness into Light and I just knew I was going to have a good time with this. I love a fantasy mystery and I also love a long con – this book just felt like it was pulling in a lot of different elements that I really love and it was either going to be really great or a big dissapointment.

I’m delighted to say that this book was really great.

One thing I enjoyed was the worldbuilding. I read the setting as very Venetian – which is always a pro as I love Venice, and I think that the various settings in the book are well done. I particularly enjoy the details involved in the furnishings of rooms and the clothing – I was delighted that a big part of the story is to do with Ren’s ‘handmaid’ Tess making her clothes as we get to see a character using fashion to influence the nobility – not only do you therefore get gorgeous ball gown descriptions but also you get to see how clothing can be used for politics and it’s just exactly what I want in a story like this.

I thought the magic in the world was interesting. While it wasn’t a totally explained hard magic system (usually my preference) there is a hard magic system in place. I particularly found the use of card magic/clairvoyance to be really impactful on the story. I think I almost preferred that to some of the ‘bigger’ magic in the book purely because there was an added element of interest – the potential to use that card magic to con someone.

Because it’s the plot that really shines through in this book. Ren’s mission is clear from the off and although there are various things that change throughout the book the core mission is still there. I think it works really well as a focal point for a much wider story and gives you as a reader an anchor to keep coming back to when the plot is a bit more far flung.

Because this story is so much more than just ‘trick the nobility’. There is much more going on than any of the characters know and to the very last second there are new pieces of information being thrown at you. That can get a little bit overwhelming at times especially if you’re like me and you have a hard time keeping track of moving pieces, but the book does a good job of including some explanation points within the story to catch you up on occasion. It’s a good balance of showing and telling – the only time I got a little confused was a classic ‘Judith’ moment where I thought two characters were one character and got muddled up with who was doing what – but that’s definitely a me problem.

This book was a lot longer than I was expecting, to the point where I almost think it could have been two shorter books – I can even think of where I would have split the story. But I can understand why, there’s oodles of information to pack in and a lot of things to set up. For the most part the pace remains high, but I don’t know if that’s because I was reading this book in quite dedicated chunks, I wonder if it would feel the same if you were picking it up in smaller pieces over a longer period? But a lot of the issues I was having with the book in the first half were solved in the second half so maybe it was a good thing that it was so long?

I had a really good time reading this book and I think a lot of people are going to like it, mostly because it encompasses a lot of different elements that I know for a fact people enjoy. It’s definitely a book I’ll be rereading and a series I will be following in the future.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Mask of Mirrors Publishes January 21st

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