These Vicious Masks, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (Feb. 2016, Macmillan), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250073891
Recommended for ages 13+
Evelyn is so tired of dealing with society’s expectations. She isn’t interested in the balls her mother insists they attend, she isn’t interested in marriage – she’d rather help her sister, Rose, who has the scandalous dream of becoming a doctor! The two have earned the pearl-clutching reputation for healing people at their country estate, and that just won’t do in London society. The sisters meet an odd gentleman named Sebastian Braddock at one gala, and don’t know what to make of him. Is he eccentric, or just crazy? All bets are off the next morning, when Evelyn wakes up to discover Rose is gone. No matter what her so-called note said, she knows that Mr. Braddock is somehow mixed up in this. She heads off to London to find her sister and bring her home.
Once she arrives in London, though, Evelyn finds out that she, Rose, Mr. Braddock, and even Mr. Kent, the dashing gentleman that’s had eyes for her – are a very special group of people, with special abilities that attract the attention of a scientist who experiments on these gifted individuals. Rose’s time is running out, and Evelyn finds herself forced to trust Mr. Braddock to help her get her sister back home safely.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s Heroes, circa 1820; X-Men meets Jane Austen, as I’ve read elsewhere. We’ve got a nefarious underground organization pulling strings, young men and women with incredible abilities that they may not even be aware they have, dashing men and daring young women rushing headlong into danger to save one of their own. I love the witty dialogue here – I chuckled out loud often while reading. Evelyn is a brilliant protagonist, sarcastic and vulnerable, smart and strong. Her banter with Mr. Kent is delicious, and her frustration at her own attraction to Sebastian Braddock is hilarious.
It’s not all laughs, with a very real danger in the form of a doctor hell bent on discovering the source of these abilities. Evelyn is terrified at the prospect of losing her sister, and furious at the time it’s taking to locate her. She finds herself in some of the seediest spots in London and up against people, the likes of whom she’s never encountered before. You’ll laugh, but you’ll white knuckle the covers as you read this book, trust me. The ending of the book leads me to think/hope/wish that there’s another book coming, and while I normally sigh and say, “Everything is a trilogy/quadrilogy/series these days,” here, I’ll say, “Yes, please, more.”
Add this one to your YA collections where you have fantasy fans. No steampunk here, just good storytelling and superpowers, no tights, no capes (unless we’re talking opera cloaks, that’s a different story).