These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas Review: Less of the swoon, more of the mystery

January 25, 2016 by Aila J. | 4 stars, ARC Reviews, Books

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas Review: Less of the swoon, more of the mysteryThese Vicious Masks Series: These Vicious Masks #1
Published by Swoon Reads on February 9, 2016
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical, Romance
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Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.

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.

Set in a historical setting, These Vicious Masks features a set of vibrant characters with supernatural powers that have the power to change the world – in both good and bad ways. We start out with Evelyn, who is telling the story from a first person point of view. She dislikes the monotonous patterns of English society and the fake faces that everyone presents. From the very first chapter, I knew I was going to enjoy reading through Evelyn’s perspective. She has a refreshing voice and is honest and upfront about things – so different from the facades that dominate the rest of the community.

“But what was point of all this? Was anyone truly satisfied with seeing the same people over and over again, mouthing the same false words, feeling nothing, and saying less? Even my London season felt like I was in a prison, trapped in the same routine of balls, dinners, theaters, and concerts that all seemed to blend together, just like the shallow people in attendance.”

I like how the authors take into account the setting. Our characters know what propriety allows them to do (or not do) and the boundaries, instead of just frolicking around and doing whatever they want. That is, until they start coming upon life-or-death situations. I must admit, it was funny to read things like “Oh we must investigate this-this-and-that to get to the bottom of this!” and the reply “Okay, I’ll call you at 9 am sharp tomorrow morning so we can start doing so.” I think it’s just me, but I find the delay in the investigation quite amusing. Either way, it helped me even more become immersed in the setting of the 1800’s.

In the story, Evelyn is on a quest to find her kidnapped sister Rose, and along the way discovers her own dormant abilities. The supernatural aspects are nicely weaved into the story and provided an interesting dynamic. It was especially fun to see the characters unravel more and more of the mysteries surrounding their abilities and why Evelyn’s sister got kidnapped. We are lead from ballrooms to brothels (or, er, dancing rooms) to discover what happened to Rose and each event was more exciting than the last. The story really kept me on my feet as I read quicker and quicker to find out what the characters have discovered.

Quite honestly, I enjoyed reading about each and every character. Some were self-motivated, while others liked making decisions for other people, but the bottom line was that they were intelligent, flawed, and learned many lessons throughout the story. Among those characters include Mr. Kent, who fancies himself a detective, as well as Mr. Braddock, who is mysterious and knows more than he’s telling about the “powers” that Evelyn and her sister have. I thought that Evelyn’s initial reaction to Mr. Braddock’s claims were quite realistic: disbelief and incredulity. But as the story progresses, the more she’s willing to believe them. This was a nice change from the usual “Oh, of course I’ll go along with what you say – you’re good-looking, after all!” that we see sometimes in Young Adult books.

There is an evident love triangle (which you guys know I’m not a big fan of), but there is definitely a lean towards one guy more than the other. Seriously, the air between them was literally crackling with tension. Despite that, it’s definitely a subtle romance that grow on both characters (who refuse to acknowledge it). I loved reading their bickering and witty dialogue – seriously, they were made for each other. Despite the romance being quite in the background in favor of the exhilarating story, it still managed to make me swoon.

“The absolute joy in life, in friendship, in love, is learning about a person, deciphering them, taking each and every mask off to find a new one, waiting to be explored and understood.”

Adding to that was the ending. Wow – I did not expect what happened to happen! Be warned, readers, that there is a cliffhanger. The main points are resolved in this book but there’s a lot left hanging, which makes me angsty for the next book. We see glimpses of a bigger organization working behind the scenes and the authors set it up real nicely for the sequel. Which I want desperately need!


You need to get your hands on this historical book that contains, warning: an intricate plot, electric romance, headstrong characters, and massive cliffhanger with a dose of the supernatural that’ll leave you begging for more.

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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34 responses to “These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas Review: Less of the swoon, more of the mystery

  1. danielleisbusyreading

    Great review, girl! I've decided to hold off on this book for now because of the love triangle. If she makes a firm decision in the next book I think I'll give it a try. The story sounds so interesting and we need more historical YA!

    • That's a good idea Danielle. 🙂 I'll definitely keep you updated if she decides to make a firm decision in the next book! The story is definitely interesting and ALL THE YES to historical YA 😀

  2. Awww I love it when the romance is applied with such a subtle touch and that crackling chemistry sounds insane! The mystery aspect of the book really intrigues me, it makes me wonder what each character is about. Evelyn sounds like she has a really upfront and honest point of view which is great! Thanks for putting this book on my radar Aila!

    • My pleasure Jeann! I really enjoyed all the characters – especially Evelyn. :)) The supernatural twist also makes for a fun ride too.

  3. samoak

    I've been really curious about this one for a while. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it. I'm not too keen on the love triangle, but I think I can handle it since it leans heavily one way.

    • Thanks! Thank goodness that you can definitely tell who Evelyn would likely end up with. Hopefully we'll see more of them together in the sequel!

    • This is definitely great for historical fiction fans! Luckily, the romance wasn't very heavy so I could get past my love triangle problems haha. (You're welcome for the warning!! It's good to know these things :P)

  4. nirvanaamjad

    PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY. Also masks. And Victorian England. And X men.

    …why have I not read this? It sounds amaazing – you got me at intricate plot.

  5. Oooh! I love historical settings and this one sounds amazing! Seriously, who can resist 18th century England? I'm kinda wary of the love triangle though… the last one that I read where the romance leaned heavily towards one of the love interests… it ended up switching the other way in the sequel T___T. But I shall keep my eyes out for this one.

    • WAT. What kind of evil book would do that to readers?? ; o ; Hopefully that doesn't happen in this one! But yes, historical settings can be so fun when they're done well. Even with tentacle demons ha.

  6. I'm going to have to take your word for it with the love triangle situation. I'm not a fan either, and I sure hope it won't drive me nuts. I like the X-men/ Pride & Prejudice mix. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

    • Ooh yes, the supernatural aspects were really fun to read about! Haha luckily enough, the romance wasn't that big of a deal in the story so I could get over my love triangle problems. 😛 Guess I'm so used to them popping up in YA lit at this point!

  7. I love historical fiction, so naturally I was interested in this one, but I have to admit the mention of the love triangle is a little off-putting. But i like that the authors were able to stay true to the time period. Plus, it looks like it was a whole lot of fun to read. I'm glad this was such an enjoyable read for you, Aila!
    Beautiful review! 🙂
    My recent post Romancing With Nick (2) : Two Swoony Scoundrels

    • Thanks so much Nick! Luckily, the romance wasn't a huge deal in the book and I could get over the love triangle problems I had. Historical fiction is so great when it's done well, isn't it?

  8. Josephine

    Oooh this book is high on my radar right now! I'm so curious about it, because of how gorgeous the cover is and also how awesome the story sounds. Your review just made me two times more excited to read it!

  9. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    I've seen this one around a lot! I'm not a big fan of historical, but I do want to give this one a try. 🙂

    • I hope you enjoy it Bieke, when you get it a try. 🙂 I think the historical setting was done pretty well, but I do know of people who just don't like past time periods haha.

    • Yeahh I wish love triangles didn't exist, but I know of many readers who actually enjoy them! So alas, they will always be here haha. Ooh I hope this book lives up to your expectations!

    • Nahhh that's not weird. 😛 I know people who absolutely LOVE love triangles! I'm just not a fan. The supernatural storyline was definitely fun. I hope you enjoy!

  10. Ooh, I AM INTRIGUED. And this is the first review I've read for it too, so squee! It makes me excited. I'm only a little nervous because of the historical fiction setting…that's never much my forte?! BUT THE PREMISE AND THE TITLE And THE COVER. <3 I can't ignore the need to read it. XD

    • That's pretty exciting! I think the historical fiction was done quite well (but I can totally see why people don't really like it much). AYEE THE COVER AND TITLE. It's definitely something to look out for!

    • I hope you enjoy, Joan! 🙂 Yeahhh I'm not a big fan of love triangles, but at this point it's whatever haha. 😛 I'm so used to them, I guess.

    • Ooh I hope you enjoy it Christy! I know, waiting is suchhh a painnn. Good thing I'm so used to it with all these cliffhangers haha. :')

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