When Mark Seaton’s father disappears and his mother is murdered, he becomes a pawn in a deadly world of nobles, masked courtiers, and mysterious beings that whisper in his mind.
The only way a pawn can survive is to gain position and power.
The only way Mark Seaton can be free, is to become a player.
This is a book about political intrigue and a boy who’s forced into the middle of it against his will. Despite his disinterest, once he’s trained, he can’t help himself but do the job, and do it well.
The intrigue in this book went way over my head. I could feel it there, but I’m not the type to really grasp that sort of thing. It does do a great job of showing a boy in a world of suck who becomes a young man in a world of suck. Mark is highly believable and he’s tortured in such delightful ways. His relationships are complex enough that I almost needed a chart to follow them all.
I understand this is part of a series, so I’m not surprised some of the mysterious elements aren’t explained, yet I feel that this book doesn’t stand on its own. It seems like Part 1 of a miniseries, where you can get into it, but need the rest of the Parts to actually understand the story. It reminds me of the Hobbit movies in that respect.
Magic is minimal and reserved for elite groups, so one shouldn’t go into this expecting to see fireballs flung around. It’s delicate and subtle, and not well understood by the characters. In fairness, I didn’t really understand it, either. The masks are ‘alive’, the jesters somehow all have dual personalities except for when they don’t, and there are soul bindings and healings. Much of the magic seems to be tied up with the prevailing religion. That religion is similar enough to Christianity prior to the Reformation that I failed to see any significant differences beyond the words used.
Overall, the prose is pleasant without being compelling or demanding, and I found this a good, solid read. I recommend it for literary fantasy readers, those who want the politics and characters and relationships without a lot of messy fighting and action.