THE MASK OF MIRRORS – M. A. Carrick

This is your past, the good and the ill of it, and that which is neither…
Arenza Lenskaya is a liar and a thief, a pattern-reader and a daughter of no clan. Raised in the slums of Nadezra, she fled that world to save her sister.

This is your present, the good and the ill of it, and that which is neither…
Renata Viraudax is a con artist recently arrived in Nadezra. She has one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune.

This is your future, the good and the ill of it, and that which is neither…
But the deeper she is drawn into the aristocratic world of House Traementis, the more she realizes her masquerade is just one of many. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through the city’s streets, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled—with Ren at their heart.

There are definitely Those Books. The big ones. The “thicc bois,” as the kids say. Sitting there looking all intimidating on your shelf…they can feel daunting, no matter how many 700+ page monsters you’ve read in your life.

THE MASK OF MIRRORS was one of Those Books for me. Also, while I hadn’t really read any reviews of it, my overall impression was of a dense, and extremely difficult to follow book. But wow, that’s…really not what I found when I read this. At all. Don’t get me wrong, there are occasional moments of extreme what-the-fuckery happening in THE MASK OF MIRRORS, particularly towards the end.

But I had a complete blast reading this. Like…I just fucking loved this one, so much.

THE MASK OF MIRRORS is the first book in the ROOK & ROSE trilogy by M. A. Carrick, which is a pen name for authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing as a duo.

Our main character is Ren. Ren is a con artist, and over the course of the book, she assumes some other identities. But I’m just gonna stick with Ren for my review.

As a teenager, Ren and her sworn sister, Tess, escaped their brutal crime boss to fend for themselves on the harsh streets of Nadežra. After some years away from the city, Ren and Tess return and begin their long con: Ren cleverly embeds herself within a noble family, House Traementis.

While House Traementis has fallen on hard times, Ren sees this as an opportunity to create a safer and more comfortable lifestyle for her and Tess. Things quickly get WAYYYYY more complicated for Ren, as she finds herself lost in a world of politics, treachery, magic, and more. Additionally, while ostensibly there to take advantage of the Traementis, she begins to build actual relationships with the family.

There’s a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, and some of the secondary characters are fantastic. The relationship between Ren and Tess is at the heart of the story. They’ve been through so much together and Tess is fiercely loyal to Ren. Tess is also just a really fun, almost exuberant character. She has a deep passion for fabrics & for making and altering the clothing necessary to keep up Ren’s cons.

But let me stop here and mention The Rook. Because wow.

I was thoroughly enjoying THE MASK OF MIRRORS prior to The Rook’s first appearance, and after The Rook showed up, I was just like…deliriously in love with this book. The Rook is like some mashup of Batman and one of The Three Musketeers…almost like a living comic book vigilante in this world. He is no friend of the nobility and works in the shadows to root out corruption where he finds it. Any scene with The Rook was like…GET INTO MY EYEBALLS!!!

So, yeah. This is giant book and there’s a lot going on here. Weird magic, lots to do with astrology and tarot cards, dueling, creepy underground lairs. The overall vibe for me was like…this dark & grimy, city-based fantasy novel, but with layers and layers of fancy makeup, masks, and costumes on top.

Ren is an immensely likable protagonist, someone who has been through hell, and is willing to fight tooth and nail for the people she loves. She’s clever, curious, and pretty fucking fearless. I loved Ren with my whole entire heart.

Yeah, fucking wow. This book blew me away. I am so glad to have picked it up & given it a chance, and I’m SO EXCITED for the second book, THE LIAR’S KNOT, which comes out in early December!

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