Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publishing Information: February 9th 2016 by Swoon Reads
Source: ARC for Review
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.
With its fantastic super-powered characters and 19th century London setting, These Vicious Masks definitely appealed to both my love for fantasy and history. I thought this book was an entertaining and engaging read with wonderfully snarky characters.
This book has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets X-Men. I could definitely see the parallels between the main female character, Evelyn, and Elizabeth Bennet, and between Mr. Sebastian Braddock, the main male character, and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Evelyn was the perfect 19th century heroine — her sarcasm, wit, and sense of humor reminded me so much of Elizabeth Bennet. Like Lizzy, Evelyn is bored with society and wants more out of life than just going to balls and getting married. I liked that Evelyn didn’t care about behaving in the manner that society expects her to; her priority is to solve the mystery behind her sister’s disappearance and has a “consequences be damned” attitude about it all. Mr. Braddock is the moody, mysterious, and brooding Mr. Darcy-like figure in the book. Like Mr.Darcy, you learn that there’s more to him than meets the eye and that beneath the tough exterior, he’s actually quite sweet.
“Why don’t—” He stopped abruptly and took a breath. “Normally I’m good at being polite, but with you, I have to try very hard.”
“Were you trying very hard the two times you’ve compared me to a prostitute today?”
— An exchange between Evelyn and Mr. Braddock, These Vicious Masks
Given that the book is set in 19th Century England, there isn’t that much swoony romance. Basically there is as much “in your face” romance as there is in a Jane Austen book….which is basically not much at all. The romance is there but much more subtle. I think because this is a Swoon Reads book, I was expecting the romance to be a bit more overwhelming so I was surprised that Evelyn’s attempts to get back her sister and her superpower were actually at the core of the book — I definitely did not mind that since I loved the focus being on Evelyn rather than the romantic interests (yes there is a love triangle but it’s pretty clear who Evelyn is most interested in).
I read this book right after reading a bunch of slower works so I really appreciated how fast-paced it was and thought that the action scenes were well done. The down side of reading it right after more detailed historical works though is that I felt like the world-building was lacking at times and that the historical fiction part of this book was definitely on the light side. Also, a few times the events that took place felt either too rushed or too convenient.
This was a fun and humorous read that quickly draws you in. If I had to describe this book, I would say that it’s kind of like a lighter version of The Dark Days Club so it will appeal people who like both fantasy and historical fiction. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel because this was a promising start to the series.