Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Book Description:

Paperback, 298 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Swoon Reads

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

Reviewer's Copy: Paperback

Source: Purchased

My Thoughts:

Reading the first chapter was like stepping into the countryside of England. The photograph of it in my mind was vivid and full of color, scents and noise. The power of words was strong and palpable as the writing duo molded the setting and time period with very specific details, ranging from the obvious to the subtle, from minute to the grand. These Vicious Masks unfolded into a wellspring of power play, pretentious displays and miracles and scandals. I thoroughly enjoyed how the duo fleshed out the culture, practices and customs, and societal workings of the Victorian era.

I found the writing fluid, in such a way that I could not pinpoint which sections were written by Shanker and which sections were written by Zekas. The amount of humor and sarcasm injected into the story was one of the reasons why I loved These Vicious Masks. It was not typical of historical fiction and it made me love the book more.

Evelyn was an inspiring rebel, walking over the careful folds and curves of society. She blended into the crevices of rules and expectations, only to come out, leaving these rules trampled in her wake. I found her rule-breaking a breath of fresh air. I am used to battles between elites but from time to time, rebels with their own fire power surprise me. She was a caring sister, loving Rose enough to go against all odds. Stories that draw on the facets of sibling relationship make me want to wish for a sibling of my own.

Evelyn interacted with opposites Mr. Kent and Mr. Braddock. Mr. Kent was full of life and equally full of surprises. He was a perfect gentleman of an esteemed family. He also happened to be funny and witty. In my mind, I baptized him as a specimen of the endangered guy species. Mr. Braddock was his polar opposite - cold, distant, a bit rude, shrouded in mystery and misunderstood. He was a walking question that no one had the answer to. His sarcasm and humor was darker. He was quick on his feet and had a knack for getting into trouble. But he was fiercely loyal and went out of his way to help people. Evelyn's conversations with these two gentlemen were thoroughly entertaining. Banter with Mr. Kent tended to be light, teasing and flattering, giving Evelyn a hint too many of his concern and feelings for her. While conversations with Mr. Braddock bordered on confrontational, always peppered with aired out doubts, suspicions and assumptions.

Masks were donned by all the characters, in different forms. Each event and each conversation revealed a different, deeper layer of the characters. I wanted to think of them as masked attendees at a masquerade ball, only to find out that it was a trial of some sort, and they were forced to shed layers of disguise. Each individual was neither good nor bad. I liked how there was a lot of gray area and blurred lines, generating space for pondering and judgment

The supernatural aspect of the book left me wanting more. The scientific explanation behind the phenomenon was interesting. However, I would have wanted a deeper study on the mentioned phenomenon. In addition to this, the abilities that the characters possessed seemed more magical than scientific to me. For this reason, I needed more convincing.

These Vicious Masks is an atmospheric, entertaining and humorous historical fiction, with a taste of the supernatural and romance. This is perfect for the following readers: readers looking for historical fiction, specifically Victorian era stories, and readers looking for Jane Austen-inspired novels.


4.5 Cupids = Obsessive book love.
Almost made it as one of my favorites! I strongly recommend this!