This is the third book in the Micah Grey series, which began with Pantomime and continued in Shadowplay. I really enjoyed those, so I was very excited to get this book from NetGalley, and as a result I endeavoured to write a coherent review. That said, I was ill at the time (this is my Goodreads review, written shortly after finishing the book), so it’s unlikely to be the best thing I’ve ever written.
Masquerade doesn’t come out until early March, but as I may have mentioned once or twice or a dozen times, I’m running low on February releases and so on to review here, so I’m going to have to put this up a bit early to fill in the gap. Also, why do so many of the books I’ve had from NetGalley come out on 9th March? What is it about that date?
While we’re here, just let me mention how much I love the covers of these books. They’re not the best for thumbnails because it can be hard to see the title/author’s name, but I still love the minimalist design and the intricacy of the central picture.
First of all, I was glad I decided to reread the first two books before I read this one. Although Lam is quite good at summarising the plot and past events within the narrative of the current book — there are a few parts that are clearly designed to remind you of what’s previously happened, but they don’t feel like infodumps even when you’ve literally read those stories that day, which is effective — it meant I was able to pick up on the themes and ideas that have been slowly building throughout the trilogy. This namely involves the political situation, and the Forester party, which has been hinted at since book one and became more significant in book two, but only really dominated the plot in this one.
This book definitely took the political aspect of the worldbuilding to a level that the previous books didn’t reach, and for the most part it was effective: the conflict between peaceful protest and violence, the difference between wanting reform and civil war, and the idea that parties could have some admirable goals while also being problematic. That said, even after reading the whole trilogy in the space of three days, I still don’t feel like I’ve got a firm grip on the LAYOUT of the world, and I could’ve done with a map. I don’t know if the paper editions have one, maybe, but the Kindle editions (and of course the eARC of book three that I read) didn’t, and it might’ve helped me keep track of things.
I have good news to those who read my Goodreads review (if you can really call it that) of book two: Ricket the cat does indeed appear in this book and, while his appearances are brief and all too infrequent, Lam doesn’t forget about him halfway through like she seemed to do in book two, so he appears even at the end. I know this because I highlighted every single one of his appearances to keep track of them. It’s possible I’m too invested in a cat who is really a very minor character…
I almost wrote in this review that it seemed odd for the title to be Masquerade when the only masked ball that happens is in the very final scene, the epilogue in fact, rather than forming a more significant part like the pantomime in book one. But then I realised I was taking too narrow an approach to the term: this book’s full of deceptions, hidden identities, different personae, and people pretending to be somebody that they’re not. The idea of appearances being deceptive is central to the plot. So really, the whole thing’s a masquerade, even if sometimes it’s a dangerous one.
That said, there is less PERFORMANCE in this book, or rather, fewer of the main plot points hinge on a performance (like the pantomime in book one, the magical competition in book two, and so on). There are many smaller tangential moments of magic and some that put the characters in a position for other plot stuff to happen (e.g. performing at the palace, which then puts them in a position to be close to the monarchy, an important position in such a politically-minded book), but it doesn’t have as much weight, unless you count deception and double-crossing as performance. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, it’s just an observation.
Trying to avoid spoilers, I will nonetheless say that I felt a few aspects of the ending were a little bit too neat. I was pleased with the way the plot was wrapped up, as that had a good balance of reward and cost and so on, but some of the characters’ individual arcs weren’t as convincing. Problems that had seemed insurmountable in previous books suddenly melted away, particularly where Drystan was concerned. Maybe that’s unfair: there was a lot of character growth and struggles leading up to that point, but because we only saw one side of it (i.e. Drystan’s), the other side seemed sudden and the catalyst for that change was unclear. This is impossible to explain better without giving spoilers, so I won’t try. The political situation, too, was wrapped up quite neatly, although I didn’t think it felt unrealistic.
On the whole, I felt this was a strong ending to the trilogy, and reasonably satisfying — my main complaint would likely be that in places it felt a little bit TOO satisfying, although I think I’m also glazing over a lot of the less happy moments that came before the positive ending, probably because I’m ill and not thinking straight. Having just reread the first two books meant I skimmed a few places, particularly at the beginning, where the characters were effectively summarising what had happened before, but most people wouldn’t have the story as fresh in their mind and for forgetful readers like me, I can see that being a positive thing when picking up the book after a long delay.
The cat needed more screentime, though. I mean, there are enough psychic people in this book: surely someone could have had an entertaining and cute conversation with it? Give me more cats in YA fiction or give me death, tbh.