Fantasy Book Review: The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick

Fantasy Book Review

: The Mask of Mirrors
Author: M.A. Carrick
Publication Date: January 21, 2021
Publisher: Orbit
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Shelves: Female-authored, Female-fronted

As much as I wanted to love The Mask of Mirrors, and as much as I really liked pieces of it, I'm afraid it has to go down as my first disappointment of the year. Make no mistake, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing as M.A. Carrick, have written a beautiful book, full of sumptuous details, complete with fascinating characters, but there's just so much of it all that it becomes overwhelming.

Every character who crosses the page has a name, and never just one, but first names, last names, family names, nicknames, and secret names, not to mention titles, and there's no pattern to how they're used. With so many characters coming and going, I kept losing track of who was who, whether we'd met them before, and if they were important. Places are the same, with seemingly every building, alley, and plaza getting a proper name, a slang name, and a directional name. Maybe with an easily accessible glossary in the finished physical copy this might become an easier read, but as an ebook it was more frustrating than entertaining.

On top of that confusion, I found the pacing of this very slow, with the characters themselves having no apparent sense of urgency. Maybe if things had happened quicker, maybe if there'd been pivotal events to which we could attach characters, this might have been an easier read, but by the time anything did happen, I was already frustrated that one thread seemed to have been neglected, and lost track of how the new one connected to anything. 

It's a shame because The Mask of Mirrors has a lot of potential. When it works, when it's shining brightest, it reminded me of authors like Guy Gavriel Kay and Sebastien de Castell, but those positives were outshined by the struggle of reading. I didn't hate it. In fact, I'd love to give it another try when I can sit down, flip back-and-forth in a paperback, and maybe make a few notes in the margins, but the reading experience here was sorely lacking.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Could it be an issue with two very detail oriented authors working on the same book, so that the result is information overload? I'm currently reading this one, and I haven't run into any problems yet, but then I'm also listening to the audio format and I find it much easier to follow because the brain automatically tends to tune out anything extraneous. I'm still early in the book though, so crossing my fingers!

    1. Yeah, I absolutely think format is at least partially to blame for the challenge. I just can't do audiobooks, but I can imagine hearing it might help. Having a physical copy where I could flip back and forth to a glossary or an appendix would make a difference too. I may very well revisit this when it comes out, in which case I'll revisit the review. :)

  2. I'm currently reading this one. Just over 32% in and I am enjoying it but I totally see your point about the names. Good grief - give me a break. That aside I'm curious about how things will play out though.
    Lynn :D


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