100-Character Breakdown: Predictable at points, but a satisfying conclusion to a lively, well-crafted trilogy.
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: DAW Books (July 2015)
With the last book in The Masks of Aygrima series, E.C. Blake had a lot of loose ends that still needed tying. But by the last page, Faces is well-concluded, bringing a satisfying ending to the numerous characters Blake developed so well over the three books. The series follows Mara Holdfast, daughter to the Master Maskmaker, as she tries to stop the tyrannical Autarch, who rules Aygrima with powerful magic and Masks that can detect his people’s rebellious thoughts. While trying to understand her unusually powerful magical gift, Mara finds herself in the UnMasked Army, a secret group devoted to deposing the Autarch. In Faces, Mara works with the UnMasked Army, foreigner Prince Chell and his men, and the mythical Lady of Pain and Fire in one last desperate attempt to topple the Autarch.
Certain aspects of the book comes across as predictable — very much unlike the rest of the series, which surprises the reader at almost every turn. Yet the predictability rarely diminishes the impact. The series builds up the Autarch, the Lady of Pain and Fire, and the less-experienced Mara as three superpowers, all with a similar magic gift and a huge influence over the war beginning to shake Aygrima. The last book truly completes Blake’s portrait of these characters, uniquely demonstrating just how profoundly their gift has impacted their lives. Yet Blake does justice to all of his other characters as well. He introduces a wide variety of characters throughout the series, and somehow by the end of Faces, he manages to give almost all of them some sort of ending. In crafting these characters, Blake wonderfully uses magic and the state of the book’s society to weave in issues of power, abuse, and loss. He isn’t afraid to show the darker sides of humanity. This series delves deeply into pain and self-discovery — especially with the intricate portrayal of Mara both internally and externally — making this incredibly fantastical world feel real. While the first half of Faces feels a bit slow, and there are times when the actions of an antagonist or the events of a mission unfold predictably, the journey itself is an enjoyable read. Blake does not disappoint in his conclusion to The Masks of Aygrima series.