Masques: Patricia Briggs’ debut on audio

Sianim, Masques, Wolfesbanefantasy book reviews Patricia Briggs Sianim 1. MasquesMasques by Patricia Briggs

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.

~Kat Hooper

fantasy book reviews Patricia Briggs Sianim 1. MasquesPatricia Briggs writes wonderful urban fantasy. Until I read Masques, I had almost forgotten that she also writes really great classic fantasy as well. Masques is the first book in her Sianim series, which is being reprinted by Ace, and it is a great start.

Aralorn is a pretty cliché heroine for a fantasy novel except that she’s not pretty. As the bastard daughter of a powerful noble, Aralorn has all the makings of your typical female hero. She follows the script pretty well: she’s got magic, she’s good in a fight, and she doesn’t take orders from her boss. It’s funny because it’s the normal character sketch for an urban fantasy character as well. Briggs is so good at writing this character type, so Aralorn makes a great heroine.

Set in a classic fantasy world, Aralorn and her companion Wolf are faced with the task of spying on the most powerful Wizard, the ae’Magi. Using her magical powers, Aralorn discovers something about this powerful magic-user that forces her to oppose him. Along the way, Briggs gives us fairly straightforward plotlines to follow while keeping a good pace.

I really enjoyed Masques because it was like reading good urban fantasy without the urban. Patricia Briggs always creates interesting characters that you can really like, and for me that is central to a good story. Masques isn’t truly high or epic fantasy because the level of plot complexity and the scope of events is pretty simple. This makes for a nice niche where you don’t have to re-read things over and over to understand everything that’s going on. I am looking forward to Wolfsbane which will be re-released in November 2010.

~John Hulet

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I hate to admit I have not read any of Patricia’s books. I have the first of the other series on my shelf to read, but haven’t been able to get to it yet. But this series sounds great too. :) Thanks for the great review.

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