These Vicious Masks
Were there mutants in Victorian England? Of course there were! Nobody said Professor X and his crew were the earliest gifted! The Misses Wyndham, snarkster supreme, Evelyn, and sweet, slightly underdeveloped, Rose, share the lucky gift of making people well. When Rose suspiciously runs off to London, Evelyn goes after her. With the help of some other fascinating characters, she sets off on a chase that brings an underworld to light in a London that is, in all ways but one, very real and familiar.
The greatest thing about These Vicious Masks is Evelyn. Everything else is great, too, but without her this story would be near to nothing. Evelyn is smart, snarky, and oft decisive enough (too decisive?) for everyone involved, while still being young and headstrong enough to make mistakes. The supporting characters are gifted in their own ways, and the chase is compelling in a way that feels neither cut-and-dry nor bogged-down. The story is left open without ending on the ever-popular cliffhanger, which gives it even more points in my book. And I look forward to more of this universe.
But it’s the writing that really keeps you going. I love a good story that is rich with detail but also written in a way that makes it quick and fun! The characters are well developed (with the exception of Rose, in my opinion, but that might just be because we get to see so little of her compared to the others), and conversations and situations all feel like something that could happen in their time period, down to the pseudo-science. Barbs are volleyed amongst several different parties, and the snark is not limited to Evelyn’s core gifted group. Instead, intrigue is countered with very run-of-the-mill London Society, including clueless witticisms from jealous society misses and clueless gentlemen and lords, to boot.
In other words, this novel warmed my historical romance-reading, comics-loving heart to its core.
Please let there be more.
Thomas Dunne Books
September 18, 2012
The praise on and around this book focuses almost entirely on its Japanese steampunk setting and how unique that is within a genre so often set within North American or European societies. It is refreshing to read something that ventures away from the genre standards. However, especially in the beginning of the book, the author seemed to be almost obsessed with revealing just how much he knows about ancient Japanese culture, mythology, and the way of the samurai. A lot of the information—names of attire and weapons in particular—end up feeling like a list of items picked out of a Wikipedia entry and woven without grace into the setting. Fortunately, this settles down somewhat once the lotus-polluted city of Kigen is introduced, but, with my limited knowledge of Japanese language, I did find the (over- and perhaps improper) usage of certain words rather jarring. Fortunately, none of this was enough to deter me from enjoying the story of a young fox clan hunter who joins her father on the Shogun’s mad quest to capture a mythical arashitora. Influx of Japanese terms aside, Kristoff’s steampunk society, with its Guildsmen in their clanking suits and chainkatana wielding samurai, is certainly a sight to imagine, and he does well with the details of both scenery and action, including an incredible battle between man, machine, and monster. But at the heart of the story is a girl, Yukiko, and her thunder tiger, Buruu, a relationship that I was pleased to see develop. YA can be very hit or miss with me, but Kristoff hit the right balance of stubborn teen and responsible young adult that pleases me, and, while there is a romance subplot, it did not feel shoehorned in as I so often find happens in YA. In fact, the romance was only a means to an ends, with the real relationship being that which grows between Yukiko and Buruu.
C.K. Kelly Martin
Dancing Cat Books
November 21 2015
With only one exam to go before she’s done high school forever, Ivy feels as though her life is going according to plan. That is until her (seemingly) perfect boyfriend tells her he wants to see other people on the way to said exam. She thought she would spend her last summer before university with Jeremy, fighting for their shared social causes. But now summer looms long and lonely in front of her. That is until she’s reunited with her second cousin Lucan, who she hasn’t seen in years.
Lucan hasn’t been having an easy time lately either. He feels stuck between his parents—his dad who is still bitter about the divorce and his mom’s terrible new boyfriend. Not to mention his best friend Des, whose relationship might be turning abusive. Even though their moms have been mysteriously feuding for years, Ivy and Lucan find themselves bonding over their shared misery.
Though they initially came together because they needed someone else to talk to, their relationship soon develops into something more. Martin does an excellent job illustrating how a friendship can blossom and grow between two people over a length of time. From peanut allergies to sexually transmitted diseases, they face everything together and it was refreshing to see such a solid friendship represented in young adult literature. At times, Delicate felt a little rushed and problems were often solved rather quickly, but overall this was a charming novel about some of the challenges you face when growing up, and the importance of needing someone to lean on when those challenges arise.