A Con Artist in a Magical City: The Rook & Rose Trilogy by M.A Carrick

A Con Artist in a Magical City: The Rook & Rose Trilogy by M.A Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors and The Liar’s Knot (Orbit, January and December, 2021). Covers by Nekro

I don’t know about you, but this recent trend in young adult fantasy for covers with elaborate designs and colorful crowns instead of cover art does nothing for me. There’s so many on the shelves, and after a while they all look the same.

At least the book descriptions are different — and that’s what grabbed me in the case of The Mask of Mirrors, the opening novel in a new fantasy trilogy by “M.A Carrick,” the writing team of Marie Brennan (author of the Hugo-nominated A Natural History of Dragons) and Alyc Helms (author of the splendidly pulpy Missy Masters novels). The two met on an archaeological dig in Wales and Ireland, which is exactly where I’d want to meet my future writing partner.

The second novel in the series, The Liar’s Knot, is due next month, and there’s a third volume on the way. Here’s the description on the back of The Mask of Mirrors that caught my eye.

Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled… with Ren at their heart.

The Hugo-nominated fan site Birds of a Feather gives the book a warm review:

On the mean streets of the Venice-inspired city of Nadezra, young Ren’s life is not a good one. Under the thumb of the criminal Ondrakja, her existence is precarious and dependent on her capricious moods. Is it any wonder that she takes decisive action to get her and her siblings to escape, by poisoning her?

Now, years later, Ren is back. Now she’s an adult, and with Tess, her skills have morphed into con artistry of a high order. She has a plan for wealth and power by targeting the weak and precarious noble family of Treamentis… by posing as Renata Viraudax, a daughter of Letilia, a family member who fled long ago, Ren can infiltrate herself into high society and make some good coin…. But it is a tough assignment, the Treamentis family are wary even given Renata’s polished patter, a local crime lord turned respectable businessman is suspicious of Ren, and just what are a number of the city nobles up to?

Ren’s major problem, unbeknownst to her, is that as she tries to infiltrate and fleece the family, she will be drawn, despite herself, into a plot that could topple the entire city, and everyone, including Ren, within it. There are dark forces afoot indeed. Ren is no hero, but when the city of her birth is existentially threatened, she might have to become one… The plotting is clockwork… under the skilled writing here, it comes together into a wonderful package… This is a collaboration that hits all the marks.

Here’s the details on both books.

The Mask of Mirrors (643 pages, $18.99 in trade paperback/$4.99 digital/$45 audio CD, January 19, 2021)
The Liar’s Knot (643 pages, $18.99 in trade paperback, December 7, 2021)

Both are published by Orbit. The covers are by Nekro. Read an excerpt from The Mask of Mirrors here.

See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.

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