★★★☆☆
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Review: The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon

Welcome to book four in The Bone Season series, bringing us new territory, new emotions, and all-in-all, an exciting change of pace. After the last two instalments, which had felt a little flat and same-y in my opinion, The Mask Falling feels fresh and interesting, and is definitely the book I have enjoyed the most since the first in the series.

This book takes us to the Scion citadel of Paris, a setting I was massively interested in. I loved falling into ‘dystopian’ Paris, a city reminiscent of the real one but with a slight futuristic tilt and an emphasis on the underground, the carrières. Paige is still reeling from the events of the last book, recovering from torture at the hands of the Rephaim and the PTSD she now deals with, which was a great addition to the character development (and the best-written part of the entire book). But Paige can’t hide herself away with her struggles – she has an important new assignment for the mysterious Domino Programme …

I will never not be impressed by the world Samantha Shannon has created. The spirits and clairvoyance, the dystopian future with a uniquely Victorian tilt. I will always keep coming back for each bookly portion of world-building this series spoon-feeds us. The other elements, the filling to the sandwich if you will, may not be my favourite – they may not leave me satisfied – but I remained entertained throughout. Like every instalment in this series, I found the plot to be well-structured but lacking in substance most of the time. The plot elements felt very separate from each other throughout the story, with the plot not properly advancing until the very end, laying the groundwork sure, but the trade-off was a narrative that felt jagged and disjointed, without a clear picture of what we were building to. And I found that slightly frustrating.

Not as frustrating as the romance, though – yeesh. I am not one for romance, but I will happily accept a subplot if I can clearly feel like chemistry between the characters. But when it comes to Paige and Arcturus, it is just not there for me. All I’ve ever felt between those two is cringe; and maybe my intense dislike for the ‘hundred-year-old-fantasy-being-falls-for-teenage-human-girl” trope has drowned out the excellent romance-writing from Shannon – don’t know, can’t say. But if the chemistry is there, I can’t see it. And my annoyance at the romantic subplot definitely colours my overall enjoyment of the series.

Nontheless, the world keeps me captivated, and I really enjoyed being in Paris and getting into the underground-spyish-type zone this instalment fostered. I liked the struggle Paige was going through and I enjoyed the plot enough to remain intrigued. Do I wish for the end of the romantic subplot? Yes. Do I lament the lack of Jaxon and the waning focus on spirits and clairvoyance in this series? Completely. Am I still tangled in the web of this series, unable to tear myself away? Yeeeeeeeesssssssss.

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