Author: Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks #1
Published: February 9 2016
Source: publishers for review
Jane Austen meets X-Men in this gripping and adventure-filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.
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.
This was just so much fun to read. It was full of great banter, well-rounded characters, more than a few unexpected twists, and well-plotted fast-paced action. The voice in this is fantastic -- Ev is one of those rare characters that bursts with life and feeling from page one. Her story centers around her bond with her sister -- and the themes of family and belonging extend to the novel at large. And though there is something of a love triangle -- hear me out -- it is well handled and does not suffocate the real plot of These Vicious Masks.
The comparisons of this YA debut to Jane Austen's stories and to the X-Men are rather dead on, but this story is still uniquely its own. I loved the originality that was shown in this version of our world; alternate histories that are both recognizable but cleverly altered are few and far between. I love the sub-genre of manners and magic, and the authors' adaptation of Regency England with supernatural powers melded together in a very natural and believable way. Ev and her sister's struggle to be more independent and have a life/hobbies of their own felt feminist but not anachronistic.
The first in a series, These Vicious Masks is a great launch point. The plot is nimble but smartly thought-out, and the book moves at a good pace. The beginning feels slightly less polished but once Ev's voice connects, it's a hard novel to set down. The secondary characters have almost as much charm as Ev (seriously, I have a lot of love for all these characters, in spite of/because their various flaws and virtues) and I have to admit that I laughed out loud more than twice while racing through the all too-short 350 pages.
The ending was not my favorite -- but there will be plenty of time for the authors to continue and evolve the ongoing plotlines. There's hardly a slow moment amongst the banter goodness, the shippy feel realness, supernatural awesomness, superb voice, excellent characters, and the unexpected twists! Very fun, very memorable, I cannot wait for the next in the series.