Published: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books
Series: Rook & Rose #1
Pages: 672 (Paperback)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a dazzling and darkly magical fantasy adventure by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing together as M. A. Carrick.
Fortune favors the bold. Magic favors the liars.
Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.
I have long been pining for a story that came even close to The Lies of Locke Lamora and while this wasn’t quite on that same level it’s the closest a book has come in sooo long. I live for clever con-artist stories and The Mask of Mirrors is exactly that. I feel like it was also one very elaborate set up for future books, but more on that later.
Ren and her sister (adoptive sister) have just moved back to Nadežra after many years away and they are planning quite the con. Ren is pretending to be Renata Viraudax, daughter of the estranged Letilia Traementis so that she may worm her way into the Traementis household. Her motives aren’t what I’d call evil by any stretch – Ren just wants the name and hopefully enough money to provide for herself and Tess. The con is helped by the fact that Ren and Tess were actually servants of Letilia’s so they knew much of her history and even swiped some family jewels on the way out. Little does Ren know that House Traementis might have a respected name, but that’s about all that’s left since Donaia’s deceased husband racked up gambling debts.
Ren’s attempt to become part of this household leads to many unforeseen circumstances as she is drawn into the political, criminal and even magical side of Nadežra. Derossi Vargo, crime lord, becomes quite central to matters. He’s an interesting character with a mysterious air about him and unusual skill in the arcane. On the opposite side of things is Grey Serrado, a captain in the Vigil (police) who is also a family friend of the Traementis. His investigations into Ren almost ruin her plans and he continues to throw a wrench into things from time to time. The cast of characters is honestly quite large, though I will briefly mention Leato and Giuna, son and daughter of Donaia Traementis. Leato is a handsome man who isn’t quite as superficial as he first appears. Giuna is the sheltered younger sister who I took quite a liking to as the story progressed – more than meets the eye there as well!
In addition to Ren’s con, the political intrigue is executed so well and is just as (if not more) fascinating than all the action bits. And then you throw in Vargo, with his dark looks and his weird spider and things really start heating up! OH, AND THE ROOK!!! The mysterious Robin Hood type figure that shows up to humiliate assholes from time to time. It’s a mystery as to who may be lurking under that hood, but trust me when you find out… WOW!
Overall, this book really swept me away. I love the world building, the different types of magic mentioned, the characters… so much! And this whole book seemed to be the set up for the Rook and the Rose actually being a duo and I am so here for that! I loved it and it was a fantastic way to wrap up 2020.