City of Masks

Rated 4.25/5 based on 4 reviews
In the city-state of Bonvidaeo, by custom and law everyone must wear a mask and act in character with it, or face civil, social and religious penalties.

Gregorius Bass is sent to Bonvidaeo as the Envoy of Calaria, mainly to get him out from underfoot. Masked as the Innocent Man, and in the company of his radical young Bonvidaoan servant, Bass stumbles into mystery, intrigue, heresy and murder.

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Words: 50,520
Language: English
ISBN: 9781452320380
About Mike Reeves-McMillan

Mike Reeves-McMillan lives in Auckland, New Zealand, surrounded by trees.
He’s almost certainly the world’s only steampunk-fantasy author who holds a master’s degree in English, a certificate in health science, an Advanced Diploma of Hypnotherapy and a certificate in celebrant studies (rituals for transition through crisis). He's worked as an editor for a major publishing house, which is just one of the reasons he has no interest in being published by a major publishing house.

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Review by: Brian Rush on Jan. 13, 2013 :
Mike Reeves called City of Masks a “magicless fantasy.” I wondered what that could be until I read the book. Having done so, I can say that it isn’t a fantasy (there are no fantasy elements in the story), but it is a wonderful, tightly-crafted tale with richly-developed characters and an intricate plot in a highly imaginative setting. I believe the reason Reeves calls it a fantasy is because it takes place in an alternate world, but of course that isn’t a defining characteristic of fantasy; many fantasies don’t take place in alternate worlds, but all fantasies include fantastic elements, which City of Masks does not. But enough on categories and genres.

The alternate world of this story is a city, Bonvidaeo, where everyone wears a mask at all times. Not only does everyone wear a mask but everyone is supposed to behave in a manner appropriate to the mask being worn, and there are restriction on who can wear what masks when. In fact, the city has adopted (and enforced) a religious doctrine called “characterism” which asserts that the person wearing the mask is the mask and must be treated accordingly. Opposing this is an underground which preaches the heretical doctrine of “personalism,” the idea that the mask and the person are two separate entities.

The story centers around this religious dispute and a series of grisly murders that touches upon it.

The book is told in first-person via the memoirs and journals of several characters. Most of it is from the point of view of a foreign envoy who is there to represent his nation and the immigrants from it into the city of Bonvidaeo, one of whom is the first known victim of the killer. In the course of tracking down the murderer, a twisted political plot is uncovered, love is found, surprises arise behind the masks, there is swordplay, an assassination plot, a beautiful and devious and powerful woman, and, of course, quite a bit of disguise and impersonation. This sort of first-person writing is hard to bring off successfully but Reeves does succeed in giving each perspective its own voice. I am going to give this book five stars for superior characterization, plot, and writing style, all three, although none of them stood out enough to justify five stars by itself.

The pace may be a little slow for readers accustomed to books packed with action, but there is plenty of action in this story.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Debbie on April 01, 2011 :
I love epistolary stories, and I love political intrigue, and I love masks. This book was all three wrapped into one delicious package. Reeves-McMillan has created a fascinating society with Bonvidaeo where all the citizenry wear masks and take on the persona of the character - and are legally their mask. Bass, by virtue of being the brother-in-law of Calaria's Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister, is assigned to be envoy to Bonvidaeo. Not only is he thrown into a confusing new culture but he soon stumbles into the middle of a serial murderer's killings and political machinations to disrupt the current political order.

This was a fascinating story, and I only wish that there had be. Reeves-McMillan nicely captured the different voices of the characters, and did a great job telling the store through Bonvidaeo's journal entries. I loved the twist ending. Part of it I was expecting; the other parts, not at all.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: James on Sep. 18, 2009 :
An elegantly written piece, fantastical in many ways. The idea of a city where your mask is more important than your actual personality lends a novel slant to the tale, and the main character's own personality being so tightly integrated with the masks chosen for him makes him a truly believable personality.

I would recommend listening to this in audiobook form as well as reading it. Mike's reading brings the book to life.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Mark Wallace on June 13, 2009 :
Surprisingly good. The premise - a city where everyone reacts to the mask you wear rather than your "true" identity is superficially absurd. The author accepts that premise, writes to it, examines it as the characters would, and manages to tell a good story. The same could be said of the characters; they start rather thin, but acquire depth as the story progresses. It isn't a great book; most of the plot twists have too much or too little foreshadowing. Although I'm fond of novels written in the form of letters, that, plus the premise impose some constraints on the storytelling. The fun of the novel is the way the story overcomes those constraints.
(reviewed long after purchase)

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