Esme’s SPFBO 2017: The Silver Mask by Christian Ellingsen

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This book was part of Fantasy Book Reviews grouping, it was a semifinalist but has now been eliminated.


Plot:

This is a murder mystery book with a lot of French influence in the language and setting.

A meteor has struck and Wren goes out with a team of people to retrieve it, it’s full of an ore known as Cinnabar, and it’s highly valuable – and also looks to be radioactive. His team was able to mine it and bring back what they needed, but not without cost. A monster attacked their group and killed one of their members…. and the young man sent to mine the ore got very sick from being exposed to it. His hair started to fall out, his skin color changed and he was very weak. The box they used to contain it had to be lined with lead to prevent contamination.

Dr. Elizabeth Reid was also looking for the meteor, but arrived too late, and is now searching for a way to get her hands on it. She ends up at the site of a strange murder scene, she chases the subject and ends up killing him in self defense. She’s arrested and could face serious charges since the murderer who ran from the scene was actually a palace guard, making things even more complicated.

Fox is a policeman of sorts, he’s the Captain of the Palace Inspectorate, and is investigating a series of murders to see if they are related. The city of Vasini is very political, and people outwardly portray their political factions via the color of their attire. A politicians wife has been murdered, and it appears to be poison, and several other people from the Fisher faction have also been murdered and he’s running into road blocks trying to figure out what’s going on. The further he investigates, the weirder and more complex things seem to be, and it’s leading to clues that implicate people in the higher ranks of society.

Final Score: 8.5/10


Characters:

There were so many characters in this book it’s not funny, and the POV’s jump around in the beginning so you have to pay close attention to what’s going on. Some of the POV’s are there and gone in a page though.

  • Wren – I’m not a fan of this guy, he’s pretty brutal. He murders a young kid and shows no remorse for it. He’s out for the money and will do anything it takes to get it.
  • Elizabeth Reid – I wasn’t sure what to think of her at first, but compared to Wren she’s a doll. She’s highly educated, she’s a doctor and you’re not sure what her motives are at first for getting involved in all of this.
  • Fox – he used to be an alchemist and for the first murder he was testing the wife’s vomit and wine for any signs of poison. He’s also sharp, very intelligent, and is cautiously investigating these murders while trying not to ruffle the wrong feathers.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


World Building:

The world building in this book isn’t so much about the magic or magic systems, or the crazy monsters or other fantasy elements. It’s more about building up the culture and political scene of Vasini. Which politicians have alliances and which ones are enemies and things along that line.

This is a world where religion is waning and science is over taking over the mainstream – in one of the POV’s you get some backstory that the gods/deities have all died, and since the death of the sun god Rynesh the sun went from yellow to red, and when Serina, the goddess of the moon died, the moon broke.

Science is evident in this society, or at least the beginnings of it – it felt like the start of the industrial revolution with proto cars and flintlock rifles and guns.

There’s a very French overtone to the whole book, with titles like Monsieur, Madame, Commandant etc. The royalty wear lots of powder and perfume and makeup – both men and women. They wear fake beauty spots and are in love with themselves. The commoner is trying to make ends meet in a bustling city, most relying on older kids incomes to make ends meet.

Final Score: 8.5/10 


Pacing/Prose/Tone:

The pacing was okay, it did take me a little bit to get into the book though because of how dense it was, there’s a lot to take in right away and you’re not sure how it all comes together for a while – this is a book that rewards patience. There’s so much going on and if you read too quickly and miss things you can get lost. The writing was pretty great, I didn’t catch any spelling or grammar issues, and the writing felt professional not amateur.

The tone was … suspenseful? Is that a tone? There’s a lot of murder and mystery in the book so it kind of keeps you on the edge of your seat when things get going.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 9/10 


Originality:

I’ve seen a few murder mystery books in fantasy, but not that many. I don’t often see it with this much complexity, and having a French setting made it stand apart as well – I don’t see many books with this sort of setting where the royalty is all dolled up in powdered wigs and people getting around the city in the first model buggies.

Final Score: 8.5/10 


Audience:

  • For people who like murder mystery
  • For people who like French settings
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who enjoy complex plot
  • For people who enjoy more low key magic elements
  • For people who like suspense/tension
  • For people who like dense stories

Final Score: 49.5/60 or 8.3/10

 

2 comments

  1. Excellent review! I read his “a divided river” this year and I also enjoyed his writing style and world building (it was also set in Vasini)

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