Shadows. E. C. Blake. DAW Hardcover. August 2014. 304 pp. ISBN#: 97800756407605.
Mara Holdfast returns in the second novel by E. C. Blake to a frightening past and future. In Masks, she failed on her Mask Day, causing death and having to flee the land where the evil Autarch rules tyrannically over every man, woman and child. Her father, the official Mask-Maker, it seemed, had either not put enough magic in her mask or a bad combination of something; either way she seems very confused about that awful day!
Now she has been rescued by the group called the Unmasked who want her to create those same masks but she needs magic to do so. There are only two sources of this magic, one lying in other people and the other back in her homeland where she cannot go without risking death. For now every mask she makes crumbles upon being touched. The only idea she has left is to sneak into her father’s home and get him to help her so she can create these masks for the people who have saved her life.
This goal is somewhat blocked with the appearance of a boatload of people, with only one survivor who claims to come from a far-away land. He claims he is a leader of their Navy but will only tell the truth to the leader of the Unmasked Community. Mara is attracted to him for sure while her male friends are constantly bickering over her lack of attention due to their insane jealousy.
To say more would be a spoiler – heaven forbid! However, it is to be noted that Mara has the power to take magic from other people but the exertion of that power could and does kill the ones from whom she takes the power. Not a pretty talent to have; add to that that the more she uses this talent the more she wants do it again and again and again – addictive desire indeed!
Mara will meet several very painful disasters and learn so much about herself and other characters before she learns to modify her wants with a realistic motivation and even then will be continuously tempted! Mara is clearly a flawed character but one for whom the reader winds up constantly rooting for! The ending also suggests another sequel might be in the works – hopefully?
This is a work of even greater adventure than Blake’s first novel. Adventure, battles, scenes of devastating power and ruthlessness, mistakes galore, kindness, compassion, love, and so much more fill these pages which will be sure to delight every fan of fantasy, science fiction, adventure, thrillers and mysteries! Well done, indeed, E. C. Blake!