Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis (Review)

Masks and ShadowsMasks and Shadows
by Stephanie Burgis
Adult Historical Fantasy, Romance
Paperback & ebook, 300 Pages
April 12th 2016 by Pyr

Summary

The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus's mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband's death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace's golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress--a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

"Romance, music and dark alchemy rise to a pitch-perfect ending in this wonderful historical novel. Memorable and utterly delightful."
Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award-Winning author of The House of Shattered Wings

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My Review

MASKS AND SHADOWS is a darkly romantic tale set in historical Austria. The author did a marvelous job in her characterizations, descriptions, and overall plot. Adult historical romance readers who enjoy Gothics or historical romance with a slightly dark edge will enjoy this one.

I couldn't help getting pulled in to this story. The author's writing was so well done that I could envision the rich scene with its opulent rooms, the craziness of the concert master and his singers, the dark and dangerous monster, the formal aristocracy with all their flirting and secrets, the gossiping, the soldiers in their uniforms and at the pub... I could go on and on. I felt so completely immersed in this rich world.

Then there were the characters. I loved Charlotte. She was a wonderful heroine with her steady mind, intelligence, and humility. She also was quite human with her faults. I wanted her to slap her sister sometimes and get a backbone, but I also understood why that would be hard for her. I loved Carlo. What a difficult situation. I have to be honest and say that I hadn't really though about the circumstances of a castrato singer. It's rather terrible. He was an unusual hero, but such a good fit for this story and for Charlotte. My heart broke over these two. 

Then there are the villains. I detested Charlotte's sister. She is so hypocritical and I hated how she abused Charlotte and her husband. Prince Nikolaus was superbly pompous and selfish. He was also very naive. There are others who also stood out who added a lot to this story.

The plot overall was steady and intriguing. Parts of it were difficult because it was so heartbreaking, others because the content was disturbing. It's mysterious from the start and the tension grows more and more as the story develops. In the end it was very, very intense. I was literally hanging on to my seat and cheering the characters on at the same time. It was a relief in the end. I was proud of these two main characters and the ending they made for themselves.

In the end, was it what I wished for? This was a very rich, heartbreaking, intense, but also beautiful and sweet story. Personally, I would have liked it cleaner, but it was very well done.

Content: Innuendo, violence, some crass moments, adult subject matter, descriptive scenes.

Source: I received a complimentary ARC from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way.

Have you read any of this author's other books? Have you read other books similar to this one?

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