Darkly magical and beautifully imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.
Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…
Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the aristocratic world of House Traementis, she realises her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupted magic begins to weave its way through Nadežra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.
What a ride this book was! I mean, only by reading the blub I knew this was a book for me: a con artist, a vigilante and crime lord, plus magic? Count me in for the ride!
Ren was an absolute joy as a main character and I loved, loved, loved following her. She definitely has everything it takes to pull off such an elaborate con: she’s incredibly smart and knows how to manipulate people, using her knowledge, beauty and talent for disguise to their full effect. She’s also fiercely loyal, and I adored her relationship with her sister Tess. Multiple POVs alternate throughout the book, and I think that worked extremely well.
I ended up feeling really invested in all the key characters. Each of them had their share of dangerous secrets, and they were all extremely well-rounded and multilayered. Special shoutouts to Vargo, a crime lord trying to work his way into local nobility, and Serrado, the conflicted captain who wants to use the guards’ resources to benefit the lower classes instead of the rich. I loved these two so much!
But this is just scratching the surface. In this book there are so. many. characters! The cast is extremely varied and diverse, and it got to the point where I really struggled to remember who everyone was (especially when some of the names look quite similar). I did find out that there was a character list at the end, which I hadn’t realised up until I got there (joys of reading the e-arc version!), and I would have definitely consulted it frequently if I had! There was also a glossary, which again would have been very useful had I noticed its existence before getting to the end of the book, since I struggled with remembering a lot of this world’s vocabulary. Definitely won’t make that mistake again!
The world itself was beautifully built, with its complex society and history. I particularly liked that characters came from different backgrounds, and seeing the world through their eyes made it easier to understand the ethnic, religious and class conflict in the book. The local traditions were especially interesting, and so crucial to the plot, that it was a great pleasure to just learn more about them. The descriptions were quite detailed, which often was nice, but sometimes felt just a tad too long, and didn’t really help the pace.
Now, the pace was where my biggest issue with this book was. I often have this problem with adult fantasy books, so it’s most likely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me“, but for a large part of the book it just felt as if I was stuck in a loop: it didn’t matter how much I read in a sitting, I just wasn’t moving forward. As I said, I loved the characters and I enjoyed spending time with them, and the plot was engaging, full of twists and turns and danger and revelations, but still… somehow the pace felt off. Again, this is most probably me rather than the book itself, but it took something away from the experience for me.
Overall, though, The Mask of Mirrors was a really great read. Filled with engaging characters, a complex world, lies, danger, magic and a gripping plot, it’s the perfect companion in these long, cold winter days. I’ll take the rest of this trilogy now, please and thank you, I need to know what Ren gets up to next!