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The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon – ARC Review!

Goodreads synopsis

Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…

My Review

Holy cow this book took me on a wild and emotional ride. I finished it the other night and had to write down my thoughts straight away because I had so many of them. It shouldn’t be possible, but Samantha Shannon keeps making these books better and better and ‘The Mask Falling’ has to be my favourite so far… even if it broke my heart. Please be warned that there will be spoilers for the previous books in the series.

Paige is like a cat with nine lives. After evading death again, she is shipped off to Paris with Warden to work for the mysterious Domino programme only, Paige being Paige, she has her own plans and ambitions. Ambitions that will test her resolve and mental and physical health after the torture she suffered at the hands of the Rephaim. She has a long road to recovery, but when the chance comes to help the Mime Order she left behind she knows she must take it, no matter the consequences.

Paige, Paige, Paige. I loved her so much in this book, even if there were times I wanted to jump in and throttle her. She finds it incredibly hard to trust people, which you can understand after learning about her past and the secrets Jaxon kept from her. She is too willing to put her own life at risk to save others, and it made me incredibly sad to see her valuing her life lower than The Mime Order and those she loves. But through all that she still has an incredible will to fight, she is stubborn to a fault, and she is determined not to let her fears hold her back. She would never describe herself as a ‘people person’ and let’s be honest, she would more likely shoot you than strike up a conversation. But she manages to create a sense of loyalty so deep that Voyant’s in other parts of Scion are raising their voices in her name. Her character growth amazes me book by book, and I will be incredibly sad when her story comes to an end.

One thing that makes this series so good is the breadth of secondary characters. We have the likes of the Seven Seals; Jaxon, Nick, Eliza, Dani, Nadine and Zeke. Paige’s story would be completely different without these people in it, for better or worse (Jaxon) they are her family, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her relationship with them all. Some don’t have a very big role in this book with Paige in Paris, yet their characters are so rooted in her story that I couldn’t help myself thinking ‘Nick will kill you for doing this’ when Paige tried something stupid. We also have Warden and the other Rephaim. Another group who have mixed feeling about Paige, the Rephaim wanting her dead and the Ranthen strengthening her claim as Black Moth in the hope she can help them defeat Nashira Sargas. But Warden is the only one who truly knows Paige, he has been with her through thick and thin, seen her at her worst, and yet still has an unwavering belief in her ability to be the saviour of Voyants, a belief that Paige find’s hard to share. Then there are the other Voyants, the members of the Mime Order, and the Court of Miracles (the French equivalent.) We get treated to some old faces returning, as well as getting the chance to see Paige build some new relationships. This may seem like a lot, but Shannon has a rare ability of giving you just enough of everyone to keep them straight in your head, even people who we might not have heard of since book 1.

I loved the setting for this book! Paris is one of my all-time favourite cities and, having had the chance to visit multiple times, I could easily imagine myself in the sites and streets that Paige frequented. I love a good fantasy world, but there is something special about having a fantasy book set in the world we all know and love and knowing that you can go and visit the sites themselves. I was completely transported to Paris, with its creepy catacombs and beautiful painted glass chapels. I also loved when we were introduced to the Court of Miracles, the French equivalent of the Mime Order. Shannon made them unsurprisingly extra with their Jewels and powdered wigs, it was almost like stepping back in time.

Shannon really took us on a wild ride with Paige in this book. After the torture she suffered under the Rephaim she is understandably traumatised and suffering from PTSD. After being waterboarded, she is unable to immerse her face in water, making showers and even drinking water near impossible. She flinches at the slightest sound and far too often finds herself back in that cell facing down her torturer. I think Shannon dealt with this brilliantly. It’s a hard topic and one that can easily be done wrong, but even though we see Paige’s resilience shining through, we also see her at her weakest in this book. Taken from her home into a strange city, working for people she doesn’t know. Shannon really makes us feel for Paige, we feel her weakness and her strength, and I enjoyed that while she did have to face her fears, it wasn’t like and instant fix, Paige knows she still has a long journey to a full recovery.

I’ve mentioned them before, but I really do love seeing Paige’s relationships and interactions in this series, especially with Warden. After her putting distance between them in The Song Rising, claiming she couldn’t risk the Ranthen backing out of their deal if they were ever caught, I thoroughly enjoyed all the tortured looks and almost jealously we get to see in this book. Their relationship is just so beautifully written, yes, it is physical and romantic, but the strength of it lies in the trust they have for each other. Warden is one of the few people Paige allows to see all of her, the good and the bad. And it is similar for Warden, Paige is one of the few he lets in to see his scars both physical and mental. They are incredibly strong together, but both unwilling to admit the true depths of their feelings.

I’m not lying when I say this book took me on an emotional roller coaster. After 4 books I am incredibly invested in Paige’s and the other characters outcome, so when certain plot twists happened, I wondered what made Samantha Shannon hate her characters and readers so much 😂… and the ending!?! The ARC was really weirdly laid out, so it took me a minute to realise I had actually finished and then I proceeded to say ‘What the Fuck’ rather loudly at work. Plot twist wise Shannon is firmly in the ‘brilliantly landed and thought out plot twists that make you as the reader incredibly annoyed that you didn’t see it coming’ category. There were a few in this book that had me grinning to myself because I kind of expected it, and others that, while they didn’t come out of nowhere, I simply didn’t see coming. I’m so annoyed at myself for reading this early because I desperately need the next book to make sure all my lovelies are ok.

One of my all-time favourite series, my love for this grows more and more with every book. If you’re up for a little emotional torture, and like unforgettable characters, rag tag gangs, a brilliantly built magic system and forbidden romance then what are you waiting for! With 4 books and a novella out already, there is plenty to whet your appetite whilst we wait in silent torture for the next book to appear. Another easy 5*. Thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy.

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