Mask of Mirrors

Rook & Rose #1

Author: M. A. Carrick

My rating: 5 stars (or whatever the max is).

Nightmares, masquerades, and twists upon twists.

Ren learned from a young age to use her beauty as a weapon to con others into giving her their money. Now she’s upgraded to her biggest and longest con ever – pretending to be the niece of a noblewoman whose sister ran away decades earlier. Deflecting suspicion from multiple parties and acting like the rich woman she’s pretending to be, will take all of Ren’s skill & money that she doesn’t have. But even as she uses her talents, her sister’s sewing prowess, and magical makeup to achieve her goals, her life becomes entwined with the nobles she wishes to infiltrate, her secrets become endangered, and worst of all, she uncovers deeper and darker conspiracies than her own.

At first, I thought this was a story about a young woman conning a rich family into believing she was a distant relative in order to gain a foothold into the rich society and their money. And for about the first half of this book, that’s pretty much all it was about. Not to knock it – it was a great plot on its own merit, with fascinating characters and excellent writing. All that, however, was just a setup for another deeper plot, involving nightmares and drugs, dreams and politics, and revenge and power. And so many layers of secrets! It was built up like a delicate tower of cards, but it’s very subtle at first. This is the type of book that now that I understand the cultural background, several characters’ secrets, and where it all leads to, I’d love to go back and reread it in order to appreciate all the little details and clues that I missed the first time around.

There were so many layers of plot twists and secrets. Ren was far from the only one running around with multiple secret identities. The others’ were even more complex and mysterious. I was shocked at the end when one identity was revealed. There must’ve been clues dropped and hinted at throughout, but it was so well done that I hadn’t ever picked up on it. There were so many secrets, so many masquerades… It was prefect.

The plot moves slowly, taking its time to setup the world building, character interaction, culture, relationships, politics, and layers of secrets. It had its moments of heart stopping action too, but mostly, this book isn’t meant as a quick read; It is extremely immersive and very well written. Of course, I only got up to the suspenseful parts late at night, when I needed to get up on time in the morning. Suffice to say, timeliness did not happen, but the book was worth it. So very worth it.

I’ve read some books that managed to convey certain senses, such as hunger, cravings for food, for touch, sights and smells… This book made me appreciate sleep in a whole new way. At one point especially, it strongly conveyed the sense of exhaustion. Dreams were a large part of the theme here. A mix of dreams and nightmares, of lies and truths, of poverty and riches… An excellent blending of all those elements.

The world building was superb. Two separate cultures, racism towards natives, religious systems with their respective magics. Politics, deceptions, and secrets upon secrets. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but by the end, I was connecting all the dots, realizing how the political ambitions of one character took advantage of certain religious and cultural ideas to obtain their nefarious goal. And then realizing that they weren’t even the worst evil out there. That we’ve been played all this time by someone even more deceptive and cold hearted than anyone thought them to be.

Even with the multiple plot layers and twists going on, we still really get to know & like several of the characters involved. They each had very distinct personalities, which is amazing considering how many of them there were. The book is mainly told from Ren’s perspective. It only changes to other characters in the rare instance when it provides a better viewpoint for certain important plot events. Even in those cases, the switch was seamless and didn’t leave off on any cliffhangers. (I hate when books do that.) And didn’t give away any secrets that Ren wasn’t aware of at the time. So every twist and surprise that came her way was just as shocking to the reader as it felt to her.

This book was so thorough and so much more complex than I ever expected. It’s a very long book, but it’s worth every millisecond of time one spends on it, and I don’t say that very often. I’m ready for the continuation. So many changes happened in the final chapter here, I’d love to see where it will all go, but first I need a moment to sit here and meditate over the secrets that were just revealed, absorb them, and perhaps use the time to reread this book to find all the clues & everything else I’ve missed the first time.

If you’re looking for a complex fantasy book with awesome characters, twisty layers of mysteries and secrets upon secrets, and above it all, an amazing female con artist/actress, I can’t recommend this book enough.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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