Aralorn, a short, plain, and outspoken young lady who always hated to “sit and sew” in her father’s court, works as a mercenary and spy. She’s not particularly good with the sword (the staff is her weapon of choice), but her shapeshifting ability is a pretty useful skill. She’s sometimes aided by the wolf she saved a few years ago. He comes and goes and Aralorn knows that he’s more than he seems. When the evil mage Jeffrey starts planning world domination, Aralorn and Wolf plan to stop him.
Masques kept me entertained for 9 hours and 48 minutes (I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version). Though there’s nothing new in Patricia Briggs’ debut novel, and not much that surprised or inspired me, it was pleasantly diverting. Masques is definitely predictable in places and it relies on a few too many convenient occurrences as well as several too-common fantasy elements, but Aralorn and Wolf are likable and well-developed. I’m not exactly attached to them, but I’d enjoy hearing more of their story in the sequel, Wolfsbane.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of Masques was the introduction by Patricia Briggs. She describes the history of the book (she started it in college), how she wrote it before she knew anything about writing, how she was shocked that it sold, and how poorly it did. It went out of print, but started selling for hundreds of dollars on the used market after she became successful with her other novels, including the very popular Mercy Thompson series. (I remember seeing those astounding prices for Masques when I constructed this page 3 years ago!). When Ace decided to publish Wolfsbane (out next week), they decided to reprint Masques (ha ha to all you folks who paid $250!) and invited Ms. Briggs to revise her debut novel. When she sat down to work on the first chapter, she was “squirming uncomfortably all the way through.” She makes it clear that she’s not completely enamored with her first effort, but that if she changed it to how she’d write it today, it would no longer be Masques. Thus, she polished it up a bit but left it mostly the same.
This audiobook was read by Katherine Kellgren who I admired when she read Tobias Buckell’s The Executioness. She has a pleasant enthusiastic voice and speaks at a nice quick pace. I especially like her female voices because they’re not too high-pitched. I didn’t care too much for her voice for Wolf, though. His voice is supposed to be rough, so I think that’s what she was going for, but it just sounded old to me. However, this issue is not enough to keep me from listening to Wolfsbane.
Masques is a must-read for Patricia Briggs fans — they’ll definitely be interested in this debut novel. It’s a fun story and makes a nice bit of history.