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320 pages, Paperback
First published February 9, 2016
Buddy-read with my best super-girl.
“No, the true face is wretchedly simple and empty. The absolute joy in life, in friendship, in love, is learning about a person, deciphering them, taking each and every mask off to find a new one, waiting to be explored and understood.”
I chose this leading quote for a reason: this books also consists of masks hiding its true meaning, or maybe blending with it, creating in the process something quite different from the initial goal. This book is like a marshmallow: light and airy but filled with a specific flavor. I won't write a detailed review, describing cons and pros, because the pleasure is in knowing the story in person, unraveling it mask by mask and deciding for yourself what it is that you see: truth or illusion?
Annotation of These Vicious Masks promises us a blend of Jane Austen and X-Men taking place in Victorian London. I do not usually trust such announcements before I read the book and make sure whether the claim is valid or just an advertising move. This book proved to be a 100% true about its claim. We can see the love authors express toward Jane Austen and X-men in every curve and line of the writing, but also the book does not turn into a fan fiction - no - it has its own unique, beautifully woven story.
The soul of this book is Evelyn - our MC. She tells us her story in a marvelous sarcastic way. I swear, I haven't laughed that much, because of the narrator's voice in a long time. Every page is literally filled with intelligent humor that perfectly blends into the background, making it whole undivided entity. For example, the book begins with the words:
“Rose,” I said, turning to my younger sister. “In your esteemed medical opinion, is it possible to die of ennui?”
“I . . . can’t recall a documented case.”
“What about exhaustion? Monotony?”
“That could lead to madness,” Rose offered.
“And drowning in a sea of suitors? After being pushed in by your mother?”
“It would have to be a lot of suitors.”
Not only this dialogue is funny, but it also shows us a glimpse into high society, and what if felt like for a girl with a lively temperament to live in that world. I admit, sometimes Evelyn acted a little bit off for a 19th century girl, because of her free spirit and total lack of demureness. But I am thankful to authors for creating her the way she is. Such an amazing heroine. And you know what? She reminded me of Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice - one of my favorite heroines ever! Fans of this amazing classics will find a lot of cute details in the story. And don't forget about brooding gentlemen with too much pride:
Ah, yes, just my type: a stiff, prideful lord-to-be with impeccable, cold deportment to prove his perfect breeding.
Good Lord. His appearance was nearly a caricature of the dark and brooding hero from every gothic novel. He stood very tall, even more so than my gawky frame, arrogance oozing from every inch of his broad-shouldered form. Alert, hooded eyes scrutinized me fiercely, as if trying to turn my blood cooler. His lips were drawn into a slight frown, presumably a permanent state, while the crease in his brow gave the absurd impression of perpetual deep thought. With a gloved hand he brushed away a strand of mussed, straight black hair to afford us a better view of his captivating face. I felt sure he knew exactly the effect this would have on most young women.
But of course our heroine is immune to his charms!
Let's sort the painful part at once: this book has a love-triangle and at the same time it doesn't. If you read the book and know whom Evelyn talks about in the quotes above, you know whose team I am, but, I'd say, so far the first part of the trilogy does not has a full-formed love-triangle and hopefully will not require one, though, a lot of people will disagree with me on that topic. I can't deny, though, that this story has two very dashing gentlemen, and it's hard to determine whom to give your heart in the end.
Now, I've almost forgotten myself in a dreamy haze filled with alluring gentlemen. Let's get back to the story. The mystery. It is very solid and the less you know about it, the better. Usually my Sherlock intuition never fails me, especially when an intriguing mystery presents itself, but in this case I just idly flew by without noticing the bread crumbs (I blame everything on boys!). I think Mr. Kent - one of the MCs - stole my Sherlock powers and used them for himself:
“How in heaven’s name did you do that?”
“Well, first you might notice the shop was called Mortimer’s, rather than Mortimer and Son’s, but the man wore a wedding ring and didn’t look portly enough to own a successful shop and be childless. So you might look for signs of a daughter and find the display case in the back holding two dolls dressed to fit the distinctive tastes of two little girls. They were English wax dolls from the craze of 1876, but one wore a hat that was fashionable in 1879, which might make you wonder why one was more neglected than the other. The answer to that is sitting in a vase containing lilies and cypress, which any flower girl worth her salt will tell you means innocence and mourning the dead. So mentioning Mr. Mortimer’s daughter would arouse his emotions for both the tragically deceased one and his precious living one.”
Not fair! It was my line, Mr. Kent!
A short list of adventures awaiting you: carriage pursuits, brothel visitations, bare-handed fight scenes, jumps from the buildings - and that all without counting an X-men part!
The writing style in this book is as superb as its other components. I enjoyed the language immensely, especially some of the epithets were so brilliantly selected, I couldn't contain my admiration with the beauty and precision of it:
Still, he simply ignored me and stormed up the steps, taut as a bent bow. I flew after him like an arrow.
Such a simple phrase, but the way it's build, sending a message straight to our hearts!
Overall, a highly recommended book. Historical fiction slowly makes its way in YA genre, and if you haven't read any historical YA yet, These Vicious Masks is a wonderful book to begin your journey with.
10 out of 10
“The true face is wretchedly simple and empty. The absolute joy in life, in friendship, in love, is learning about a person, deciphering them, taking each and every mask off to find a new one, waiting to be explored and understood.”
“We do not remain the same each minute to the next. Every word you hear, every sight you see, every smell, every thought you have, every moment—it all changes you. We keep putting on mask after mask, layers over layers. That’s how one grows.”
Our cab set off down the crowded Victoria Street toward the heart of the city, trundling past drab buildings and gray street corners at an agonizingly slow speed rivaling that of a dying cow. To make the trip even more enjoyable, pungent city scents seeped through the hansom doors—strangely enough also reminding me of a dying cow.
“Miss Wyndham, when I first met you in London, I thought you the most intelligent and the strongest girl I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. She would never moon after some mopey, dark boy. She would look for the man that challenged her, amused her, and made her sparkle and enjoy life.”
“I still think you’re angry, stubborn, and infuriatingly willful. But I’ve come to rather like it, especially when it’s directed at someone who isn’t me. You simply refuse to settle. You keep pushing forward to get what you want, no matter what gets in your way, no matter what hurts you. It’s most admirable.”
Evelyn Wyndham is here! This is truly, the most absolutely perfect and wonderful week.
Miss Wyndham feigned an illness, sneaked out of the house, and walked the London streets unaccompanied for most of the night. At the very least, I’d say she’s a better influence on Miss Kent than Lady Kent is.
“Miss Wyndham, I’ve seen girls like you and your sister for years—it never changes. You all think yourselves so clever, so pretty, and so entitled that you believe the rules of society don’t apply to you. That you’re free to do whatever you wish while the rest of us have to struggle and suffer and sacrifice to get what we want the right way! No one cares to ever look beyond appearances. Society prefers it to be simple. And you spend years reaping the benefits, and suddenly, when it no longer works for you, everyone must change then, is that right?”
“My, my, it’s a surprise to see Mr. Braddock here,” Mr. Kent said, a hint of acrimony lacing his voice.
“Yes, it is.”
He leaned in confidentially. “Perhaps he’s come to apologize. Or maybe that also needs to be done in his bedroom.”
I strained to keep a whisper. “You know very well why I was in his bedroom! He was injured, and I needed to check on him.”
“No one is going to make an exception for that where your reputation is concerned.”
“I had other concerns at the time.”
He put his hand on his chest. “I’m feeling quite injured myself. Perhaps we might—”
“Mr. Kent! This is not an appropriate place for that kind of talk!”
“Very well,” he said. “If you wish to speak about it somewhere much more inappropriate, just say the word.”
Laura shook her head, fresh tears streaming down her face. “Even Nick won’t try to convince Mama! I refuse to talk to him.”
I shook my head, trying to shut my trunk. Overloaded, it wouldn’t close. “Don’t do that—he’s your brother.”
“And I hate him. I hate everyone! I just want to run away from home . . . or set it on fire. Or set Miss Verinder’s house on fire! Oooh, we should do that, Evelyn!”
We love Jane Austen, and we also love books that are inspired by Jane Austen. These three books are each completely different, but amazing in their own ways. If you're looking for a sweet contemporary romance check out First and Then, a Jane Austen meets X-Men mashup look at These Vicious Masks, and for a historical fiction with a quick and witty heroine get ready for Love, Lies & Spies, out in April.
“Evelyn, see there. The eldest from the Ralstons. I hear they have a lovely collection of stained-glass windows.”
“Set a date. I shall marry him immediately.”
“Not this childish behavior again. You will give these men more than a second’s thought or deeply regret this attitude in a few years’ time.”
“Yes, when I’m crying next to, God forbid, a plain window”.
Miss Wyndham, when I first met you in London, I thought you the most intelligent and the strongest girl I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. She would never moon after some mopey, dark boy. She would look for the man that challenged her, amused her, and made her sparkle and enjoy life.