These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

These Vicious Masks, #1

Source: Netgalley ARC rating

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.

Jane Austen meets X-Men in These Vicious Masks, the thrilling Victorian adventure from debut authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas!

"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.”

Evelyn is not the typical Londoner consumed with society balls and high-rising affairs of the heart and social status - instead she tries to shy away from societal obligation, much to the annoyance of her determined mother. After leaving a particularly strange ball that opens the story, she finds out that her sister has disappeared - and is reputed to have healing powers. Convinced she was kidnapped instead of running off, she enlists in the help of some unconventional and surprising allies. What follows is a fun ride filled with adventure and humor, but also the reader has in store for them a bittersweet and surprising ending.

It's kind of hard not to fall head-over-heels with the writing style. Shanker and Zekas write easily and effortlessly it seems, with plenty of convincing humor that left me grinning as much as it did my gnawing my bottom lip in suspense. The plot is paced perfectly to coincide with the story's events, and while it does stay humorous through most of the story, it doesn't shy away from uncovering the underside of London's seedy societal woes.

Scheming and backstabbing women, money-motivated parents, shunning matrons? Check.

Magical powers, psychics, secret societies, and mad scientists? Check.

I don't think the potential, dangling love triangle was needed. It's not a heavy one and the main heroine is consumed with finding her sister, not tying the knot, so romance isn't actually on the horizon with anyone - it just seems like the possibility of romance between two exists, but this is solved by the end of the book anyway so it's a non-issue.

There isn't an actual cliffhanger but there are some dangling ends, especially with one of the main characters she pairs up with; since this is to be a series, that's acceptable. It's not an over-the-edge, almost fall off ending. I will say the book feels slightly incomplete at the end, though.

It's fun, it's adventurous, there's actual detecting involved with the investigation, I laughed a few times, the story players are quirky and enjoyable, and the story's depth held my interest the entire ride. Recommended for fans of historical fiction especially, but any should enjoy it since it's a blend of leading heroine meets hidden X-men.

   Book Quotes:

“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.”

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