Masques by Patricia Briggs – Review

Book Jacket:

After an upbringing of proper behavior and oppressive expectations, Aralorn fled her noble birthright for a life of adventure as a mercenary spy. But her latest mission involves more peril than she ever imagined.

Agents of Sianim have asked her to gather intelligence on the increasingly popular and powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae’Magi. Soon Aralorn comes to see past the man’s striking charisma – and into a soul as corrupt and black as endless night. And few have the will to resist the sinister might of the ae’Magi and his minions.

So Aralorn, aided by her enigmatic companion, Wolf, joins the rebellion against the as’Magi. But in a war against a foe armed with the power of illusion, how do you now who the true enemy is – or where he will strike next?

You can read an excerpt here.


Masques – Patricia Brigg’s first novel, recently reissued – is an easy read that doesn’t really add up to much. A popcorn fantasy novel.

Patricia Briggs always has a lovely voice, but in terms of story, Masques is just not at the level we fans of the Mercy Thompson series have come to expect. Despite a nice dynamic between the leads, by and large this story is rather flat and frankly chock full of standard fantasy tropes – the noble girl who chose to become a fighter instead of a lady, the would-be-king, the evil magician and his prodigal son, the forgotten lore in dusty archives, and there’s even zombies, a ghost, and a dragon thrown in for good measure.

The plot, a standard take down the evil Lord/magician story, often feels contrived. Our heroes’ defeat of the Evil Lord basically boils down to something they look up in a book – and of course they just happen to find the one forgotten spell they need – and a magical object that conveniently shows up at the opportune time. The only reason the dragon is even in this story is to conveniently provide emergency transport at a crucial time. And while the Evil Lord certainly is plenty nefarious, his motives are conveniently nebulous – yes, he’s trying to take over the world, but the why and wherefore is never touched upon. With so much provided by well timed providence, I felt like this story just wasn’t earned.

Still, there are interesting aspects to this fantasy world – political overtones to the various nations, nice interludes of action, and a lovely sense of the paranoia that comes from fighting someone who can change how you think, I just wish there had been more of it all, and more had come of what there was. The ending is pleasant enough, if a bit abrupt and fairly predictable.

What this book does have going for it is a lovely dynamic between its two leads. Wolf is far and away the best part of this story, with his enigmatic presence and intriguing backstory, and Aralorn is a cheerful and outgoing sort that is impossible not to like. The interplay between these two is the heart and soul of this story – watching the damaged and introverted Wolf constantly pull away from Aralorn, and her careful dance to give him space but not let him run away, is utterly compelling. Aralorn shows the patience of a good hunter in waiting for Wolf to work through his traumatized past and reveal more of himself to her, and Wolf can’t help getting in his own way. It makes for a nice role reversal from the usual romantic dynamic of the male pursing the lady, and watching these two together made this story fly by.

So while Masques is ultimately forgettable in terms of plot, this book still has a certain charm thanks to the relationship between its two leads. And even after all of the above, I still will be picking up Wolfsbane, the recently published follow-up to Masques, because Aralorn and Wolf are an interesting enough couple to deserve a second story. Wolfsbane is another book Briggs wrote early in her career, but I’m hoping for a story more up to her current level, because Briggs’ usual flare in a fantasy setting would make for a fantastic read. As for Masques, if you’re in the mood for mindless fantasy with a romantic bent, this book definitely fits the bill.

Byrt Grade: B

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Fantasy Literature says:

I really enjoyed Masques because it was like reading good urban fantasy without the urban. Patricia Briggs always creates interesting characters that you can really like, and for me that is central to a good story. Masques isn’t truly high or epic fantasy because the level of plot complexity and the scope of events is pretty simple. This makes for a nice niche where you don’t have to re-read things over and over to understand everything that’s going on.

Temporary Worlds says:

The story is not as polished as some of the Mercy books. At the same time, there is plenty to enjoy about this novel. Masques is one of those stories that hinges on the success of a few key elements, the likability of the main characters, and the chemistry between the female and male lead (Aralorn and Wolf). This is fortunately an area in which Briggs succeeds with flying colors. Aralorn is a great heroine, a mercenary and storyteller with an interesting back story. Wolf is a complex leading man, with a great story to follow. The romantic tension between the two is great, and some of the most satisfying scenes are when the two are just talking. The villain (the ae’Magi) is admittedly far from complex, but at least he is formidable.

What If Books says:

Ms. Briggs says in her introduction that she kept elements she would normally discard in order to remain true to the original version. I can definitely see a few tired cliches in these pages. But overall, this story holds up well