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Masks and Shadows Paperback – April 12, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
Burgis (the Kat, Incorrigible series), trained as a music historian, does justice to an unusual choice of time period and subject matter in this enjoyable historical fantasy. Charlotte von Steinbeck, recently widowed, accepts her sister Sophie's invitation to visit EszterhÃ¡za, the grandiose palace of the Hungarian prince Nikolaus EsterhÃ¡zy. The year is 1779, and the prince, Sophie's lover, is a wealthy patron of the arts and sciences. One of the arts he supports is music: his chief household musician is Haydn, and the famous castrato singer Carlo Morelli arrives to visit shortly after Charlotte does. The prince's court, however, is also full of alchemists studying dangerous, secret magic. Charlotte and Carlo learn that they and those they care for are in deadly peril as they attempt to attend Haydn's new opera and succeed at falling in love. The political intricacies and the details of court life and court music are intensely evocative, and the characters are charmingâthough not, unfortunately, as three-dimensional as their spectacular surroundings. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Apr.)\n
“Romance, music, and dark alchemy rise to a pitch-perfect ending in this wonderful historical novel. Memorable and utterly delightful.”
—Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award–winning author of The House of Shattered Wings
“This deftly told and hugely engaging story weaves together the glittering court life of eighteenth-century Europe with a love for music (and Haydn), a thrilling taste of love and politics, and the bitter threat of a deadly magic.”
—Kate Elliot, author of Cold Magic and Court of Fives
“Elegant and exciting, Masks and Shadows celebrates diversity in taking us to a corner of the fantasy world few have ever visited. Stephanie Burgis plays her magical music with assurance and a profound knowledge that delighted and enlightened me as much as it entertained.”
—Ellen Kushner, author of Swordspoint and the Locus Award–winning The Privilege of the Sword
“Terrific. A lush adventure fueled by music and alchemy, and peopled with irresistible characters. Masks and Shadows blends history and magic into a rich, believable love story fraught with royal intrigue. I finished it in one sitting.”
—Donna Thorland, author of The Dutch Girl
“An intricate, passionate tale of love, difference, and danger. Loved it!”
—Laura Florand, international bestselling author
“A delightful tapestry of courtly intrigue, deadly magic, music, and romance. Stephanie Burgis has woven an unforgettable tale, steeped in eighteenth-century atmosphere and full of unique, well-drawn characters. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fantasy.”
—Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood
“Wonderful setting, fascinating characters, and beautiful music. It truly feels as if the author has lived with the people in that period and has written them from life—magic, demons, angelic singers, and all. I can’t wait to read the next. There will be a next? Yes? Please?”
—Judith Tarr, author of World Fantasy Award–nominated Lord of the Two Lands and the Hound and the Falcon series
“Passion reigns in this vivid work of alchemy and opera! Burgis conjures a world of dazzling splendor and intrigue, then fills it with a rich cast of characters. Lush descriptions of a baroque past delight the mind’s eye while the tension mounts. In this captivating fantasy romance, you can almost hear the music.”
—Elaine Isaak, author of The Singer’s Crown
“Masks and Shadows stole my heart from the very first page. Set against the lush backdrop of a prince’s estate and the Habsburg Empire, this is a story rich in music and dark magic, intrigue and romance, finding the courage to be a hero, and discovering that dreams can come true.”
—Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Against a Brightening Sky
“The story . . . is not just about opera, it actually is an opera. It is filled with passion and drama, evil plots and heroic rescues, spurned wives and pouting mistresses, demon-summoning alchemists, ambitious noblemen, and the most famous castrato singer in Europe. . . . You can practically hear the operatic score as each character steps onstage and each scene progresses.”
—Rachel Neumeier, author of The Keeper of the Mist and the House of Shadows series
“A romantic dance of intrigue, wit, and derring-do, Masks and Shadows enthralls from start to finish.”
—Justina Robson, author of Glorious Angels and the Quantum Gravity series
Top customer reviews
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In Masks and Shadows, from the very start we are thrust into a web of intrigue, with a young widow reuniting with her long-unseen sister (the very public mistress of a powerful Prince, kept alongside his wife and even usurping her in some of the musical and artistic events in this Versailles-like pseudo-salon environment), and political plots about to break involving everyone from the servants of the wealthy Eszterháza house, up to the latest scintillating guests, among them a pair of dueling popular and world-renown alchemists; political schemers; a singer who has made influential connections in many of the great houses of Europe and who just happens to have been thrust at a young age, by his parents, into musical life as a castrato (or musico, to use the less pejorative term); and even the composer Joseph Haydn.
As I eagerly devoured the first several chapters, I felt compelled to make liberal use of online searches and encyclopedia and articles to look up Haydn, Vienna, the Habsburgs, castrati and their lives and medical and political situation. I couldn't begin to imagine what people so treated could have felt like, or sounded like; and to my fascination, I discovered that one of the last great castrati had been recorded, and the recordings survive to this day (While the digital revolution may mean that the records of our modern-day cultures may not survive, it does provide the means by which everyday folks such as I, today, may access otherwise-unreachable treasures such as these recordings)
I have never seen an opera, but I noticed that the book was divided into "acts" like a play or opera, and I find myself wondering if the book might follow the exact structure of an opera, because plot elements such as court intrigue, love and loss seem to follow what I gather are the kind of order and severity used in opera, as well.
Although the story was complete in itself, I long to know more of what "happened to" these (mostly-fictional) characters and to live in their lives, because I can't bear to give them up! I shall have to make do by rereading Masks and Shadows. I know I shall absorb more of the complex interwoven plots on subsequent reads, because on first read I just could not pace myself.
There were many elements to this story but each person, each plot, each historical fact, and the fantasy element all blended perfectly together to create a believable and fascinating reality that was incredibly suspenseful, shocking, clever, fun, witty, romantic, and very, very human.
Much like Kat from Burgis' earlier novels, Masks and Shadows does a have a moral: Society becomes perverted when a person is prevented from being his or her true self.
Most recent customer reviews
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