These Vicious Masks
By Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Published: February 9, 2016
England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes. she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they're not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true―and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.
Jane Austen meets X-Men in These Vicious Masks, the thrilling Victorian adventure from debut authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas!
Evelyn Wyndham and her younger sister Rosamund are not like other society girls. They have gained a reputation for their skills with home remedies and healing, especially Rose. Both girls enjoy helping others and Rose hopes to be a doctor someday. Unfortunately their mother sees it as a barely suitable hobby and wants her daughters to marry well. When they attend a ball at a neighbor's house, Evelyn meets Sebastian Braddock, the nephew of her host and she takes an instant dislike to him. Sebastian seems to be very interested in Rose's healing abilities as is the giant of a man who crashes the ball and tries to persuade Rose to help him. The very next day after a disturbing dream about Rose, Evelyn wakes to find that Rose has disappeared. Since her family refuses to believe that Rose couldn't have left of her own free will (a note was found supposedly written by Rose stating her plans to stay with her aunt and uncle in London), Evelyn goes off on her own even though she doesn't really have a solid plan.
Evelyn is pretty reckless but she is determined to find and save her sister. I liked that about her even when I got annoyed with some of her foolish ideas. Thankfully she has help from Mr. Kent, her friend and would-be suitor as well as Sebastian Braddock. I liked Sebastian and thought he was an interesting character though he should have given Evelyn more credit (and realized that whenever he tried to exclude her from the investigation it would only backfire). There is some romance and Sebastian and Evelyn have great chemistry but it doesn't overshadow the more pressing crisis of finding Rose and stopping a madman.
There are other characters introduced with unusual abilities and that did remind me a little bit of X-Men. The evil villain and his henchmen are experimenting on people with these abilities and he has a scientific theory for it which I am sure will be explored more in the next book.
I found These Vicious Masks to be an enjoyable historical mystery with some elements of the supernatural/unexplained phenomena. I could have used more explanation or detail about the characters' abilities but I liked the story and how they tried to beat an enemy who always seems one step ahead. I loved the banter between Sebastian and Evelyn and even Mr. Kent who grew on me. I eagerly look forward to the next book.
I think this would be a good readalike suggestion for readers who liked A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin. Fans of Patrice Kindl's A School for Brides or those who like YA historical romance in general might enjoy it as well.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley