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The Masks of Aygrima, #1

In the land of Aygrima, the ruler –Autarch- has decreed that all citizens wear a mask that is enchanted to show their true thoughts. It is also a means for the Autarch to see who is trying to start a rebellion against him. Mara Holdfast is special. Her father is the high maskmaker and she is gifted with the ability to see and use magic. Mara cannot wait until her 15th birthday so that she can finally be masked and become an adult. However catastrophe strikes. During her masking ceremony, her mask shatters; this makes Mara no longer a citizen and casts her into prison to be sold as a slave. During the transit from the city to a scary new destiny, Mara is rescued by a mythological rebellion. The un-masked, who are always whispered about in closed circles, but have never been seen. Mara must decide which side to take in the looming war and find out just how much she can give.

This was a very valiant effort at a first book in a new YA Dystopian series. I did enjoy most of the reading. There were a few slow parts and places where I seemed to have lost my footing. I read this book, but it did not suck me into the world. I think my biggest issue was that I felt Mara almost had it too easy. Whenever something bad happened to her, almost instantly there was a pillow to cushion her fall. I tend to like my heroines with a few scars and some major issues. Because going into a world rebellion, there is no way that you can escape unharmed and unchanged. Having said that, I do think that this book is going to shape up to be a good series. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has been looking for a more magical YA series to start reading. It has bits of fantasy elements along with the Dystopian feel.

Book Blurb for Masks

Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima?the one land blessed with magical resources?cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.

In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.

At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks?which denote both status and profession?whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.

Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.

But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didn’t turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because she’s lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?

Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits her?a future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.

Night Owl Reviews Dec, 2013 3.50