About the Book:
Author: Jenny Lundquist
Publisher: RP Teens
Publication Date: 2013
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Series: The Opal Mask Series – Book 1
Genre: Fiction; Teen/YA, Fairytale
Rating: 4 out of 5
Fantasy, fairytales and anything that involves a royal is catching like wildfire and fortunately for the most part, it’s a subculture most fans are willing to embrace. With a twist, this fairytale is one of the cutest I’ve read in this genre for a while. It follows the feisty, Elara whose life has been anything but easy. Raised by a family who is not her own, Elara has become tough to the world and has no love for the family who’ve given her a roof but treated her as nothing more than a source of income and servant to do their bidding. Then there is Wilha. The young princess has had a very different life than Elara – she’s been brought up with privilege, yet no answers as to why her father insists she wear a mask that hides nearly her entire face. The two girls meet after forces greater than their own bring them together and forever change both of their futures.
Relative newcomer to the world of YA fiction, Jenny Lundquist (she’s written middle-grade fiction) has got a sweet little premise going on in this, the first novel in a series about secrets, adventure and plenty of cute heroes. Alternating between the heroines, Lundquist does a fine job of shifting between the girls though some readers may find fault with their personalities. In different ways, both are hard to warm too – Elara is a bit of a sassy “brat” but she’s made likable because of how she grew up. She had to be a fighter, someone who could fend for herself and insert her independence in even the smallest of ways. Then there is Wilha. Sheltered and the “good girl,” Wilha develops a selfish side a fourth of the way through the novel when she has a chance to escape a life she didn’t understand and while I liked the adventurous side of her (and even sympathized), this also leads to a potential irritant – the author was fond of loading up on would-be love interests. Each girl has someone from their past (Elara a friend, Wilha a fencing instructor) and then at their eventual destination, there is a prince and local boy waiting in the wings. True, one of them is ruled out fairly early on just the same, it seemed a little bit unfair given how the novel wraps and doesn’t say much for the protagonists – plus I was fond of James, the village barman, and think that he deserves better than a disappearing girlfriend. Maybe my suspicions won’t prove correct and he will.
Fans of Melanie Dickerson should consider checking into these because the style of ‘Opal Mask’ reminded me a great deal of her novel The Captive Maiden. With exception to a slow start, this novel was quite good as well as being much preferred over Dickerson’s writing. This plot has been accomplished before, however there was a “pull” to this one that kept the pages turning and excitement to see what would next happen. Anyone who read Doon this summer will recognize similarities (two girl’s finding romance, uncovering secrets) there also and from all I’ve read, this could also be likened to Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series only there is no time travel element. The “quality” of the novel was unexpected and I’m eager to read the eventual sequel – there are many doors left open in this Cinderella-esque saga.
Synopsis: Every Fairy-Tale Ending Has a Price. . . .
Orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, Elara is determined to learn her true identity, even if it means wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, in Galandria’s royal capital, Princess Wilha stands out as someone to either worship or fear. Though no one knows why the king has always made her conceal her face–including Wilha herself.
When an assassination attempt threatens the peace of neighboring kingdoms, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face . . . with a chance at claiming new identities. However, with dark revelations now surfacing, both girls will need to decide if brighter futures are worth the binding risks.
Coming Next from Jenny Lundquist: Untitled sequel, coming fall 2014
With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.