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Masks: The Masks of Aygrima: Book One Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Encapsulating the best features of a good teen title, Masks is sure to resonate with readers. In Aygrima, the ability to use magic exists in a small part of the population, most notably in the absolute ruler Autarch, who is able to manipulate it in powerful ways. When young people turn 15, Masks are placed their faces, indicating their position and occupation in society. They must be worn in public for the rest of the individuals' lives and reveal any treasonous thoughts to the Watchers. When the Maskmaker's daughter, Mara, turns 15, she is hopeful that her Mask will make her an apprentice to her father, but the happy occasion becomes anything but when her Mask rejects her. Thrown out of the city and separated from her family, the teen is relegated to a terrible fate of working in the mines until she is rescued by some unlikely advocates who have formed an unMasked army. When Mara discovers that she has the power to to kill or to heal, she joins its forces. Her magical powers prove to be stronger than anyone anticipated, and Mara must learn how to master her gifts before hurting those she loves. With an intriguing setting and a suspenseful story line that will hook readers, Masks is the first of a promising new series.—Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC
"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
Top Customer Reviews
In this case, the tale revolves around a fifteen year old girl named Mara, who demonstrates all of the obstinacy of youth, both good and bad. I found the book interesting in that it seems to straddle the line between YA and adult fiction. The young lead would clearly appeal to YA readers, but the writing style is more sophisticated than what I've typically seen. Also, there is barely any romance, which doesn't follow a lot of YA conventions. I think both teen and adult fantasy fans would enjoy this story (Note: there is a lot of violence and reference to sexual abuse, but it's not explicitly depicted).
Mara's internal dialog dominates a lot of the book, and by the end I was a bit wearied with her. To be fair, she's placed under enormous pressure throughout the story, and I can't say that her responses to these stresses were out of character, but I didn't fall in love with her. I rooted for her, but I didn't feel that intense connection that really draws me in.
Blake does all the required things (describing a world, creating rules for it's operation, epic travel descriptions) with a level of quality first time authors sometimes struggle with. The story is rich in details, the characters have strong emotional and clear motivational reasons for doing what they are doing. (I *think* this is a first novel. A search for other books by this author comes up empty.)
In a sense it's difficult to guess what characters will go what directions since the possibilities are varied and interesting. In fact it's difficult to figure which way our hero will go with her choices. Then again...
So what would you do, faced with possible glory or slavery, if your "utopia" was suddenly disturbed by something that should not (historically rarely) happen? How do you sort out who are your friends, who is telling the truth, and can you even trust your own beloved father? What are the possibilities you have an untapped power (expected to fade without proper training) the dwarfs the reigning adults in your life?
These are hard questions for a girl coming to age, and maybe in a parable form, reflect the struggles of what our real world youth face everyday. Then again, maybe it's just a fun read on a magical wild ride that will leave you laughing, screaming, crying, and sleepless (at least until you finish the book).
It's horrible that anyone would even think of recommending this as a young adult book, and yet the very first Editorial Review on Amazon for this book glowingly does just that.
From School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Encapsulating the best features of a good teen title, Masks is sure to resonate with readers.
—Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC
E. C. Blake's website is also proud to announce that the book Masks was nominated for two Saskatchewan Book Awards, one of them being in the category of Best Young Adult Literature. My main point in this review is to emphasize that this book should NOT be marketed to children. It is NOT suitable material for 13 - 16 year olds to read. Here's why...
The obsessive amount of sexual assault of under-aged girls within this book is highly disturbing. Along the lines of mental disorder disturbing.
Mara, the main character, lives in a "Big Brother' is watching type of world...where any treasonous thoughts will get a citizen killed... yet this rampant rape goes unchallenged and unpunished. How does that even make sense? Because it's not mainly the unMasked (the criminal scum, if you will) doing all this raping of 15 year old girls...it's the Masked Watchers (police force of Aygrima) doing this every single night.
Over and over and over is this rape thing repeated. Mara is threatened with it innumerable times and it is done to (or revealed that it HAS been done to) almost every female she meets. NONE of the male characters in the book face this threat, nor do the males seem to face much of any threat at all throughout this entire book. Even the males in the mine camp, who are also enslaved, seem to serve no other purpose character-wise other than to give the author even more males from whom to threaten mass rape.
I stopped reading the book. I got sick of the non-existent plot and unimaginative repetitive sexual fantasies of the author. Because it really does seem that this guy is writing to ostensibly horrify the reader about all this rape of young teenagers...and getting all excited by imagining himself living as a Watcher in his very own little slave-camp world.
Rape and multiple in-depth descriptions of urinating aside (many reviewers have mentioned the high number of scenes where Mara is either forced to urinate in front of a would-be rapist or watch said would-be rapist urinate), the book itself is lacking in plot, world-building, and engaging characters. Mara remains an idiot throughout the book (at least until page 264, where I stopped reading because I got tired of her getting rescued for the thousandth time without ever having done anything worthwhile on her own and having all these rape dreams..yes, even in her dreams, there is rape. Seriously, this theme is omnipresent, you just CAN'T escape it).
The author writes himself into a corner uncountable times and he uses the Divine Intervention card WAY too often.
Some examples (Spoiler Alert):
1. Mara's masking fails and rips her face to shreds and breaks her nose. The super best healer in the land just HAPPENS to be there and heals her face back to perfection.
2. Mara is sent to a prison warehouse for the unmasked where some fat guy draws nudes of all the 15 year old prisoners so he can sell them as porn in the city. SHE escapes having to stand nude cause of flat chest and perfect face. Wrong on so many levels. Seriously, it's really not that hard to see the author's fetishes. Side note: it's here where all the writing about urinating and being watched urinating and having to watch wanna be rapist guys urinate starts.
3. Mara, a few other girls, and Grute the rapist ride for days in a prison wagon headed to the mines where they will work as slaves for the rest of their lives. She is saved via the divine intervention of the unMasked Army (rebels)...who have NEVER until now rescued ANY of these poor children. Wow, Mara, I want just half your luck.
4. Mara goes to the rebels' camp, gets nice clean clothes and food and soforth for a day or so...goes to take a bath...gets naked, of course...
and gets kidnapped by Grute. He takes her with plans on selling her virginity to the highest bidder when he gets them both to the slave camp mines. Like...yeah that totally makes sense dude...escape the mines, escape the rebel army...run to the mines because yeah that's super smart to go work in horrid slavery. MUCH better than, oh, I dunno, disappearing into the forest and living off the land. Anyway, Mara ALMOST gets raped by Grute but miraculously harness her apparently limitless magical abilities (that no one in this society is taught ANYTHING about until after they are Masked) to kill Grute while he's naked, excited, and standing over her. So...divine intervention because this attack just HAPPENED to occur in a place that, what luck, had magic for her to use even though she didn't know anything about how to use it. I mean, she doesn't even know what all the different types of magic are, since she's never been taught what they do and she is the only person in the history of persons living in this world that can see multiple colors of magic.
I could go on but this is getting long. Suffice it to say that this book is a pile of drivel. Seriously, E. C. Blake...go write porn fantasies instead. Oh wait...you did! It's called Masks.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In Aygrima, every adult wears an enchanted mask as a symbol of loyalty to their ruler, the all-powerful Autarch. Any treachery, and the mask will shatter.Read more
Quick & Dirty: For years, every adult has been required to wear a mask when outside of their house in order to prevent another...Read more