I adore The Bone Season series. I have listened to or read the first book in the series at least three times and plan to do so again. There is something about the characters, the setting, and the story that have me coming back to it again and again. So it comes as no surprise that The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon is one of my most anticipated releases for 2021. I had high hopes for the latest in Paige Mahoney’s war against Scion, and Ms. Shannon did not disappoint.
I love that Ms. Shannon does not gloss over the violence that comes with living on the streets and waging a guerilla war against a powerful enemy. Given how lovingly she describes Paige and Warden, I know she cares about her characters. However, because she is unafraid to show the darker side of life, I also know that she remains committed to authenticity. This means that she is careful with her stories and characters. She plots out every detail so that her fictional world is as realistic as the real one. Moreover, she ensures nothing is stagnant. Her characters grow and evolve. Situations get more complicated, and decisions become agonizing. If it weren’t for the fact that the story involves otherworldly creatures and magic, the series itself could be contemporary fiction.
The Mask Falling was never going to be an easy book to read because it starts after Paige escapes from her torture at the hands of Scion. The damage they wrought on her body, mind, and spirit is immense, and Ms. Shannon includes the slow and arduous process of recovery Paige must endure. It isn’t pretty, but every minor success Paige achieves after what she endured is a major victory.
Of particular joy is the opportunity to see Warden and Paige together again in a confined setting. Theirs has always been a complicated relationship, but in The Mask Falling, you see them overcome some of those complications to just be together. Their banter is outstanding, but it is in their genuine compassion for each other where their relationship shines. Together, they are everything I want them to be and more.
And then Ms. Shannon broke me. Following the highest of highs and a victory like no other, The Mask Falling takes a wicked and vicious turn that had me contemplating throwing my Kindle across the room in anger and despair. As one shock follows another, it was all I could do to contain my composure. I finished the book gutted, an emotional wreck.
Yet, I wouldn’t want The Mask Falling to be any different. Paige’s story has always been one step forward, two steps back. No victory comes without consequences, usually negative, and I don’t see what happens at the end as any different. In fact, I love that with the highest of highs, she includes the lowest of lows. It is one more example of just how realistic the story is.
Ms. Shannon has the gift of storytelling. With The Mask Falling, she solidifies that statement. The characters are natural, the story fluid, and the descriptions luscious. She plays your emotions like a harp, delicately plucking each one until you don’t know where Paige ends and you begin. It is going to be a long wait for the fifth book, but thankfully, this is a series that is just as rewarding on the third reread as it is on the first.