#18 “Masquerade” by Kylie Fornasier

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  1. City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare
  2. Every Word – Ellie Marney
  3. Skinjob – Bruce McCabe
    i.     Bloodlines – Richelle Mead
    ii.   The Golden Lily – Richelle Mead
    iii. The Indigo Spell – Richelle Mead
    iv. The Fiery Heart – Richelle Mead
  4. Silver Shadows – Richelle Mead
  5. Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
  6. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  7. Run – Gregg Olsen
  8. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira
  9. Stoner – John Williams
  10. The Wrong Girl – Zoë Foster
  11. A Fatal Tide – Steve Sailah
  12. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  13. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  14. Being Jade – Kate Belle
  15. Martha in the Mirror – Justin Richards
  16. Shining Darkness – Mark Michalowski
  17. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  18. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  19. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  20. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  21. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  22. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  23. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  24. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  25. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  26. The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
  27. Hades – Candice Fox
  28. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  29. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  30. Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth
  31. Masquerade – Kylie Fornasier

Social media can be absolutely wonderful sometimes. I was flicking through Twitter one day and found a competition where, if you gave the most impressive answer to which costume you’d wear to a masquerade ball, you won a copy of Masquerade. My answer? The winning answer? Tessa’s dress from de Quincey’s party in Clockwork Angel. Tessa hasn’t let me down yet!

Anyway, I finally got to read this book on the day I had about 8 hours of traveling time. Only I was so riveted that I finished it before my flight had finished taxiing down the runway. I had to read that “magazine”, which is is pretty much an ad for the airline, that lived in the seat pocket in front of me. There were some interesting articles (Bondi Hipsters, anyone?), but give me a book with tiny writing and no pictures any day.

Masquerade is different from most YA you see in that it follows the individual, intersecting stories of six characters living in Serenissima, or Venice, in 1750 during Carnevale. (The blurb says seven, but I think one of the characters who ISN’T a POV character was included in the count).
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve read any YA where there were so many POV protagonists. Which is a shame, because when done well, having so many stories woven together into one makes for a richer story. Fornasier has definitely done this well. With the sheer number of characters, we could get lost in their tales and confuse characters if they weren’t well-defined. But Fornasier gives us six individual characters that are impossible to confuse.
What I will say about the characters is that, although they were beautifully different, I felt that they lacked true depth. These characters were different from each other, but rather plain in those differences. We’ve seen all of the characters before, many times:

  1. Orelia is the “newcomer” with a scandalous secret
  2. Angelique is the semi-spoiled daughter of a rich man, who gets distracted by shiny things but has a heart of gold
  3. Veronica is Angelique’s elder sister who refuses to marry and conform to what society expects of her.
    Sidebar: Angelique is told, at one point, that she can’t get married until Veronica does. But Veronica is so anti-marriage, and almost anti-men, that Angelique despairs that she will ever get married. Remind you of anything? *coughTenThingsIHateAboutYoucough*
  4. Bastian is the incredibly spoiled son of the Doge (highest ranking political official in Venice) who sleeps around and wants to break free of the gilded chains around his ankles. He also makes a bet with his best friend, Marco, who insists that he, Bastian, can’t get Orelia to fall in love with him. Only Bastian ends up falling in love with Orelia himself! (so not a spoiler, just BTW).
  5. Claudia is the daughter of a socially ruthless mother who expects her, Claudia, to marry strategically but, alas, the rich girl has fallen in love with the family’s gondolier. Claudia may have been the most intriguing of these stock characters, because there’s a fair bit left unanswered. In a good way.
  6. Anna is the hard-done-by servant. Her parents completely gone and a sister suffering from what we recognise as depression. Anna has to do whatever it takes to save her sister all the while battling with herself and her “dark heart”.

These characters were all beautifully crafted and I cannot fault their characterisation at all. It was just that I’ve seen these characters so many times before that they all felt more like puppets on a stage. Honestly, I think this was a little deliberate. These characters were so typical and so embedded into their setting, I think Venice becomes a bit of a character itself. Our POV characters are all dashing about in their masks and their dresses and their dress coats, but all the while Venice lingers in the background. We see all of the faces of Serenissima: the shininess of the various balls, the hurriedness of le piazze, the shabby sexiness of the prostitute’s district, the venomous politics, and the accepted exclusion of the Jews in il Gheto Novo. In reality, I think Venice was the best developed character in the entire ensemble of characters. We get its history, its present (well its 1750 “present”), its dingy secrets, and its shimmering facade. I actually felt like I was there in Venice, struggling to breathe through my stays. Setting is something that gets overlooked a lot in YA, but Fornasier really managed to make it shine.

Although there were a fair few predictable moments in the story (most stories have them. Even The Infernal Devices has them. Of course Will and Tessa were going to end up together), there were a few occurrences that caught me off guard. Bastian and Orelia’s little “love story” didn’t have the Hollywood ending that I expected. I don’t want to tell you how it actually ends, but I was left pleasantly surprised. There was a scene with Angelique and an artist named Dominico that was totally unexpected, and then there was the end of Claudia’s story arc that left me asking “why?!”. It’s those moment in books that make them memorable; that raises a story from mediocre to magnificent. Masquerade is magnificent.

There were also these beautiful touches of historical trivia. Back in the day, women wore velvet patches on their faces. Movable beauty marks, essentially. Where the marks were worn actually expressed various personality traits. On the nose meant boldness, next to the eye, and on top of the lip also had different meanings (one means passion and the other means flirtatious, but I can’t remember which is which).
And then there was the secret language of fans. We got a little taste of what each positioning of the fan meant and how well everyone in society actually “spoke” the language. There’s this awesome scene where Veronica threatens one of her wannabe suitors with movements of her fan, and he actually gets freaked out. I love those insights into history. Makes the past come alive.

★★★ 1/2

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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2 Responses to #18 “Masquerade” by Kylie Fornasier

  1. Pingback: #22 “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman – Part Two | My Infernal Imagination

  2. Pingback: The Alphabet Book Tag | My Infernal Imagination

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