City of Masks by Ashley Capes is the first novel of the Bone Mask Trilogy and tells the story of three interlocking characters set against a city of secrets and intrigue while outside forces circle, seeking to take advantage of the coming chaos.
Notch is accused of a murder he didn’t commit. To clear his name, he will have to stay one step ahead of authorities while hunting down those who framed him. Sophia is ripped from her expected life as a bone carver to take her brother’s place as Successor and–eventually–Protector of the royal line after his tragic death. When her family is accused of plotting against the throne Sophia is forced to flee and team up with an unlikely band of allies to clear her family and get to the heart of what is happening in the city. Aiin, a newly minted Pathfinder for the Medah, is tasked with finding the lost Sea Shrine and using it to destroy those who took his people’s homeland from them long ago. Can he succeed where every other Pathfinder has failed?
I found a lot to love in this book and the characters were at the top of the list. Sophia, Notch, and Aiin each had distinct personalities and motives that drove them, making them unique individuals and not paper cutouts. Even the secondary characters were fleshed out and given enough life that you didn’t forget them. I especially applaud the character creation of the two primary antagonists/villains–Prince Oseto and Luppo. Both of them acted in such detestable and selfish manners, especially towards Sophia, that I wanted to strangle both on the spot.
The plot was especially well written and Capes did an excellent job of rotating between the three protagonists. Things happened with such speed that I was kept on my toes in anticipation of what would happen next. When a chapter would end at a climax and then immediately switch to another character I had to keep reading.
Capes also managed a few shocking reveals, made so by deftly slipping details into earlier portions of the story. I won’t spoil them for those who haven’t read it, but I was surprised by more than one revelation that I didn’t see coming.
The only criticism that I have relates to Aiin’s POV. While Notch and Sophia’s POV’s intercept fairly quickly, Aiin doesn’t run into them until near the end of the book. I applaud how his actions tie into the overall story ark, but I spent most of the book wondering what he was doing and how it impacted what was happening elsewhere.
City of Masks is an excellent start to a trilogy. While the immediate danger faced in this book is over, more problems loom on the horizon. I look forward to seeing how Sophia, Notch, and Aiin deal with them and how they interact with each other.