I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I received the re-issue of Patricia Briggs’ very first novel, Masques, as I’ve been reading and reviewing urban fantasy here on FanaticSpace. I knew that Ms. Briggs had started in high fantasy, but I’d never read any of her work before this.
Reading the promotional copy made me wonder if I could get back involved in a high fantasy world after burning myself out years ago, cutting my teeth on things like the Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings before I could drive. (Disclaimer for FTC regulations – I have received this book at no cost). Continuing into the foreword written by Ms. Briggs, I was a little more worried about what I was about to get myself into…
When I wrote Masques, I was in my twenties and hadn’t even finished a short story worthy of the name. I knew nothing about writing. The only tool I had in my craftbox was that I loved the fantasy genre and had read a lot of books. Twenty years later, I’ve written more than fifteen books, discussed/argued writing with a number of enormously skilled craftspeople — and learned a lot in the process. But that same experience also means I could not write Masques now.
I shouldn’t have been so worried, because from the first chapter I was hooked completely. Yes, there are cliches that would be hard to get published strewn throughout the book, but man, it was a great story. Some of the scenes lack, in Ms. Briggs’ words, “to use a few descriptions”, but once you’re wrapped into the world that she created, it doesn’t really matter. You care about Aralorn, the lead character as she weaves you through the book as if you’re one of the people that she’s sharing a folktale with over a campfire. While the cliches and some of the more one-dimensional characters might drive some folk away, this to me was a great jaunt down memory lane of the 1980’s and 1990’s fantasy that I grew up on.
So what’s the story, you say? Aralorn, illegitimate daughter of a Northern Lord left the world of propriety and courtiers for work as a mercenary and a spy. She’s brash and a bit plain to look at, but can weave a story from all of the folktales that she collects as easily as she can shapeshift, thanks to her mother’s side of the family. Four years prior to the main timeline of the book, she rescues a wolf (who is not exactly what he seems) from an abandoned trap. She knows that Wolf isn’t a normal wolf but can’t quite place if he is a “green-magic” shapeshifter or a human mage.
We meet Aralorn as she has just begun a new assignment, taking the place of a slave in the household of the reigning human mage of the world, Geoffrey ae’Magi. His overwhelming charisma is not a natural charisma, but a spell that seems to be overwhelming the entire world, country by country. Aralorn has to fight hard to not let it overpower her, even when seeing that he is not the person that everyone speaks of. The only other person that doesn’t seem to be effected by this magic is her compatriot, Wolf.
Escaping from the ae’Magi’s castle, her mission cut short, her next mission is seen, at least to her, as a “punishment” for not falling under the ae’Magi’s charismatic spell. Off in the hinterlands where “green magic” runs deep, and “human magic” has a hard time, she hears that one of the monarchs who seemed unaffected as well form the ae’Magi’s spell has been “overcome by insanity” and is on the run, somewhere close by. Leaving her mission in search of the missing king, she stumbles upon a plot to overthrow the ae’Magi, led by the ruler and her old friend, Wolf, now in human form. Aralorn decides to help them in their task before the entire world is taken over by the ae’Magi.
Still don’t know if this is your cup of fantasy tea? Give the sample chapter a try that they’ve posted. Then, run out and get a copy of this re-release before they become as rare as the original printing.
Masques will be available in mass market paperback on September 28, 2010, and the sequel, Wolfsbane, in November 2010.