"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."
Carolyn's thoughts on the book:
As a fan of mystery, historical fiction, and fantasy, I was intrigued when I first heard about These Vicious Masks. When it was touted as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” I knew I had to read it - while superhero-style fantasy/sci-fi is readily available in YA right now, as is historical fiction, I haven’t seen much crossover beyond steampunk Victorian (in the same vein as the Stoker and Holmes series and Something Strange and Deadly); the only thing I love more than genre fiction is genre crossover done well.
Evelyn is the classic heroine who chafes against society’s expectations of her: strong but self-deprecating, and loyal to a fault - her sister’s welfare is her top priority; she never stops to think about the implications of her actions, may it be running off to London in search of her missing sister, or sneaking out to a brothel to gather information. Sebastian Braddock, while first appearing to be the living incarnation of the tall, dark, and brooding type seen all-too-often in historical romances, is hiding secrets of his own - and he’s not the only one. Amidst the frivolity of the endless parties and social gatherings lurks a darker world, with infinitely higher stakes: secret societies comprised of powered individuals, operating in the shadows of London. Friends and villains alike possess surprising abilities, each with their own hidden agendas, and Evelyn quickly finds herself in the middle of a struggle much larger than she ever realized. As she digs deeper, her world is forever changed by her tragic findings, and she struggles to find her own sense of heroism in her storm of grief.
Despite the ostensibly historical setting, These Vicious Masks reads far more like a classic superhero origin story than historical fiction or romance (though it contains elements of several genres). Unlike, say, Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, the inter-genre aspect isn’t played for laughs, but rather lays the foundation for a smart, intricate plot and complex characters. While the story follows the generic path of “special teenager has powers but refuses to admit it until their world falls apart and they are the only one who can save it” storyline, it borrows tropes and archetypes from multiple genres, at once familiar while still staying fresh.
A fantastic book in its own right, These Vicious Masks is also a great origin story for a superhero team I have a feeling we'll be reading more about soon - a sequel, These Ruthless Deeds, is scheduled to be released February of next year. I can't wait to see what's next in store for Evelyn and her motley crew of heroes and anti-heroes alike.
Carolyn is a teen blogger who shares her favorite YA reads and favorite book related finds with readers on Fridays.