Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
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Series: Yes, #1 in the These Vicious Masks series
Release date: February 9th, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads (Macmillan)
Length: 352 pages
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: FUN WITTY BANTER TIMES! Plus powers.

Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.

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.

Oh, yes, this is just what the book doctor ordered. If you read my review of The Dark Days Club, you know that this kind of book is my crack. I'm an easy customer, truth be told, when it comes to historical + genre mashups, especially if you add in some witty banter and a Ship of Dreams. So yes, you should take my review with a grain of salt, but also...well, These Vicious Masks is just plain delightful. It really is.

Overall, TVM is tremendous fun. It gets off to a bit of an uneven start, where everything is a bit rushed and a trifle clunky, but the heroine's wonderful voice is enough to carry you through the first 40 to 50 pages. Seriously, her voice. EVELYN WYNDHAM, you treasure. She is snarky but not cruel, sassy and funny, sensible, bored, protective, loving, slightly rash, and entirely stubborn. I miss being in her head, I honestly do. I want more Evelyn.

Evelyn lives with her lovely sister Rose and her snobbish parents in 1882 England. Rose, who is Evelyn's favorite person and also happens to be a very talented nurse, is KIDNAPPED! Evelyn knows Rose needs her help, but no one believes her--no one except the dashing Mr. Kent and the brooding Mr. Braddock. Evelyn runs away to London to hunt down her sister, discovers she has X-Men powers she never knew about, and that the wide vicious world is not at all what it appears.

This book is a very quick read, full of VOICE (oh, Evelyn's voice!). I think one of my favorite aspects is how self-aware it is. It's a big old tropefest, playing with cliches and twisting them around. It tips its hat to the conventions of both nineteenth century romantic literature and paranormal fiction in a way that just makes me geek out.

Then there are the sparkling side characters (most notably Laura, Mr. Kent's younger sister who is a very dramatic and romantic fifteen-year-old who is so VERY FIFTEEN).

"Laura, that dress is not suitable for today, I'm afraid. It's only a small dinner party," I said, hastily stuffing it into the abyss of her wardrobe in exchange for a simple, undecorated blue dress, which would, as Laura passionately exclaimed, "accentuate her sapphire orbs so Mr. Edwards simply could not look away." I sincerely hoped she meant her eyes.

So yes, while I immediately loved Evelyn's voice, I felt it took a few chapters to fully find its groove. Once Evelyn gets to London and begins her search in earnest--once the mystery, shenanigans, powers, and fun stuff starts happening--I couldn't put it down. Powers! Disasters! Fire! Illicit smooches! (THAT SMOOCHING SCENE!!) Betrayal! Deception! Disgrace! Evil as plain as the mask on his face! Wait, this took a turn.

BONKERS BANANATOWN ENDING. YAS. Yesss, I love when books do unsuspecting things! Seriously, I did NOT think it would end like it did. GAH. I like the twists this book took regarding powers and whatnot. I liked that things went Rather Terribly for our heroine and her crew of helpers, and that Evelyn truly did not know who to trust. A few things were possibly a bit rushed--this may just be me and my style, but I really like to sit in those really crushing or weighty emotional beats to get the full impact--but I still got FEELINGS. Particularly from the romance. I am feeling it. 

"Mae, how are you?" Mr. Braddock asked with an affectionate smile so unexpected, I almost tripped. Who knew the man had teeth?

There is a love triangle of sorts, but it is done FANTASTICALLY in that Evelyn is not here for romance, and she is by no means waffling between them. There happen o be two handsome men in her life who, you know, mayyy have their sights set on her but signals are confusing and omg Evelyn needs to FIND HER SISTER she does not have time for a) charming, witty, glib, helpful Nicholas Kent OR b) awkward, grim, cranky, bicker-ful Sebastian Braddock. Me, I'm swinging Mr. Braddock's way (OH, THEIR BANTER. I just love how they cannot go ten seconds with arguing, and the barbs they still my bicker banter bang heart).

But Mr. Kent, who I thought would be just a throwaway dude, really began to pique my interest at the end with certain revelations. No spoilers, but...well. Never mind. I SHAN'T SAY. Just that this is a trilogy, so... WE SHALL SEE.

(I'm so glad it's a trilogy because I WANT MORE EVELYN)

One or two plot things are perhaps a bit convenient, or happen a bit too quickly, and I will say that These Vicious Masks could probably be a bit more sunk in its time period, if that makes sense, but as the focus is more on the paranormal romance aspect than the historical aspect, it's not that weighty of a criticism. There are still fancy gowns and gentlemen of ill repute and reputations to be sullied and governesses of yore and all that jazz. Good times all around, this book. VERY GOOD TIMES. Just my kind of shenanigans.

Bonus notable quotables:

"There's always a distant cousin."
"And distant is how they should remain."

"How can there be thousands of handbooks on the proper ways to bow or how to arrange forks for every possible occasion, but not a single one about how far you must keep from accidentally killing someone?"

"You are right about one thing. I don't need a hero. But I could never love a man who would not be my ally."


  1. This makes me so happy! I've been wanting to read this, and I totally trust your reviews, so if you like it....I'm all in!

  2. I wasn't sure I wanted to read These Vicious Masks, but damn if you didn't make me want to run out and find a copy! It sounds like such a fun, entertaining read, and I really feel like it's something I could fall in love with too.

  3. omg! this sounds so good!

  4. Responding to your third quote at the end, Mr. Kent's response to Evelyn after she said that was when I went full team Mr. Kent although I am still miffed at him a bit ;)


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