It’s Jane Austen meets X-Men in this highly entertaining historical fantasy debut that left me utterly hanging and wanting the next book. Prior to reading this, I already had this weird notion that I was going to enjoy the read because I enjoyed that pitch so much. And lo and behold, These Vicious Masks exceeded my expectations and then some.
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.
First of all, I thought the X-Men concept of the story was executed superbly and effortlessly. This is a recurring problem I usually encounter within most fantasy/sci-fi YA novels – when the exposition of the superhuman abilities and how they came to be comes off as confusing or maybe info-dumpish. Does that make sense? But I thought this book nailed the exposition pretty well, and that’s a huge factor on why I enjoyed the read so much.
The characters were vibrant and witty and totally bomb. Man, I wish this were a TV series because I would love to see these book characters come to life. I thought our main protagonist, Evelyn, was such a badass heroine and throughout the whole journey of finding her sister, she really stayed headstrong – something I admire in her character. I also really liked our two love interests starting with the dashing Mr. Nicholas Kent. Surprisingly, he proved to be more than a pretty face, boasting lots of wittiness and humour especially when the book needed it most. And then we have Mr. Sebastian Braddock, the brooding young gentleman. For the most part, I enjoyed his interactions with Evelyn but in the character department, I would have liked to see more personality and less broodiness.
Lastly, I thought the plot and the pacing of the story was good and I actually finished the book in one sitting aha – it’s that good, guys. There was never a dull chapter and I found myself really invested with the characters and the story. The ending came as a surprise, I didn’t think the authors were heading into that direction but overall, they wrapped up the first book quite nicely. Now I am dying to read the sequel. Gah.
Final thoughts? Fantastic debut. You should read it! I give it an 8/10.