Masks

Posted: August 31, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Well, I am back and, after an August of intense Reading, I have got a lot of catching up to do. August’s Reading has been a variable experiences, having read some fantastic books such as Tuf Voyaging, The Thousand Names and Steelheart and other novels which could be categorized as dissapointments, such as Clash of Lions or Masks itself. I shall upload my different reviews in the coming days.

Mask

Masks, written by E.C. Blake, brings us the story of Mara, a young girl who lives on a medieval totalitarian society in which the citizens are forced to carry magical masks whenever they go outside their homes. These masks have been enchanted to warn the Watchmen whenever the bearer is thinking treason, allowing them to detain anyone who could potentially go against their supreme leader, the Autarch. Mara, the only daughter of the Master Mask Maker, has leaded a very comfortable life, hardly ever questioning the system. But when her masking ceremony fails and she is arrested and carried to the mines to work as a slave with the other UnMasked her believe system will be shattered and she will be forced to open her eyes and really see the suffering that the Autarch has brought to his people.

I am personally torn about this book. On one hand the author manages to create an entrapping and mesmerizing society which shall entrap the reader’s attention due to the amount of detail put in the system itself but, on the other hand, this amazing effect is lost due to the superficiality and the lack of life we start appreciating on Mara as the novel develops.

Mara is a passive protagonist, and those are two terms that, quite frankly, should never go together. She is carried by the narrative from one point to another without taking an active role during the whole story. For example, as she escapes she gets discovered by a man who, from the very first moment they meet, tells her he is taking her to the mines, where she belongs. In this situation we are expecting some kind of resistance, right? After all she just killed a man and even if her magic has run off temporarily, she could run or try to put up a fight. But no, she just sits there, not even tied, and lets the man carry her to the mines.

Mara, just like Tungdil was on The Dwarves, is a plain character with little development throughout the story, but while Tungdil’s personality was that of the perfect hero’s, Mara’s resembles the personality of an NPC: Passive and mostly useless. Of the two sides of the spectrum I personally prefer Tungdil, and I dislike perfect heroes.

The magic system deserves a positive mention in this review. If you enjoyed the Warbreaker’s magic system, a magic which is considered almost a natural resource and is based in the color scale, you will love Masks’ system. In this novel the magic is extracted from the ground as if it was a metaphor of the oil industry: it is running out but people are more dependent to it than ever before. The magic in this book is also based on colors, creating a magic system in which your future is decided in accordance of the color you see. Children can see all of them and, as they get older, the colors start to disappear to the point in which they can see only one.

Though this Caste System has been utilized in other fantasy and dystopian novels, the magic in Masks is so important throughout the lives of the different characters instead of just being limited to the “choosing moment” as I like to call it, as happens in so many other novels, that the reader really feels that magic plays a fundamental role on the society he is witnessing.

The story development, sadly, is highly predictable. Narrative twists, character’s real intentions and even the ending can be guessed way before they come to happen. My opinion is that this may be a result of the fact that the events of the novel feel forced by the author. Allow me to explain myself: So, in the novel they talk about the mining camps, right? Then it is sensible to think that the main character will end up in one of those camps, and she does, independently of how many times she is rescued before she arrives, even though, as I said before, the means of her arrival are flawed at best (seriously, it bothers me a lot that she didn’t try to run, you should have seen me on the bus as I was reading this part). She arrives there because is expected and needed for the narrative but the way she does isn’t natural, it is forced.

And what about the setting? As I said before, the society has been masterfully created, achieving a result which stands up for its sheer originality and its realism. It is especially frightful when the mining camps are described, the amount of detail Mr. Blake managed to put into that location and the behavior of the characters which inhabited it make it a terrifying experience not only for Mara, but also for the reader, who can find in it numerous references to the concentration camps used in World War II. There is a particular scene where another inmate threatens Mara to asphyxiate her with the pillow if she keeps screaming at night, which really allows the reader to understand the inhuman experience all those characters are going through. E.C. Blake doesn’t try to make anything look sweeter; he captures the brutal realities of a totalitarian regime so rigorously that just for that I would say reading this book was worth it.

If you liked Divergent or other similar books, you probably will like Masks, for the bases of the story are quite similar. Though the main character was a huge let down, the world that surrounds her made this book an entertaining summer reading.

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

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