The Lost Mask by Ashley Capes epic fantasy book reviewsThe Lost Mask by Ashley Capes

The Lost Mask is book two of THE BONE MASK TRILOGY by Ashley Capes, set in a world that has as its most notable feature the existence of sacred bone masks that allow the wearer to communicate with mysterious god-like entities. From them derives the trilogy’s name, and it makes for an intriguing concept that provides a doorway between the material and spiritual realms; worldly politics and numinous mystery.

As in the previous book, City of Masks, the story is spread across three distinct plot-strands, though unlike its predecessor, the scope of The Lost Mask expands to include more subplots, locations and characters.

King Oseto has assumed the throne, but difficulties loom on the horizon: not only the possibility of invasion from the nearby country of Renovar, but a strange disease that moves through the many-tiered city of Anaskar thanks to the rotting carcass of the great Sea Beast on the shoreline. Though it was slain in the previous book, it contains such power that its bones must be harvested carefully — but as the illness spreads so too do the city’s defences weaken.

Meanwhile, war veteran Notch and mask-bearer Sofia are in search of the latter’s father, a hunt that leads them to the ominously-named Bloodwood and all the dangers lurking therein. Sofia is in possession of one of the aforementioned Greatmasks to assist her, but soon finds continued use of Argeon has its side-effects…

Finally (in a much smaller role this time around), Ain the desert dweller is released from Oseto’s prison to become a peace envoy to his own people. Despite his longing for his home and family, his greatest challenge is not found in either captivity or journey, but in resisting the allure of a beautiful golden Bird of the Sun.

Like most good sequels, The Lost Mask expands on the plot and world introduced in the first instalment without losing track of what matters most: the characters. Oseto, Sofia and Ain are each given new obstacles to face, and their characters explored more deeply in the ways they overcome them. For Oseto the problems are political, specifically his attempts to maintain control over his inner circle of subjects whilst being constantly distracted by the wellbeing of an entire city.

For Sofia it’s more physical, as her journey into the Bloodwood is an arduous process and her body comes to depend on Argeon in a way that’s reminiscent of someone gradually succumbing to an addiction. And for Ain it’s psychological, first in measuring his distrust of Oseto against his longing to escape, and then in becoming so enraptured by the Bird of the Sun that he risks losing all sense of purpose.

Though the book has less political intrigue than its predecessor, there is a lot more action and suspense, and naturally more world-building when it comes to the places these characters traverse. Capes captures the quiet menace of the forest and the chaotic jumble of the city, but also finds the time to delve further into the history and purpose of the Greatmasks.

The Lost Mask is a thick book, but Capes has a good handle on his pacing and the chapters practically fly by. Though it suffers just a tad from “middle book syndrome” (particularly its inevitable cliff-hanger finish) it’s a strong continuation of the story that began in City of Masks and certainly leaves a reader itching to get their hands on the third and final instalment.

The Bone Mask Trilogy — (2014-2016) Publisher: Waking in Anaskar Prison, covered in blood and accused of murder, nobody will listen to Notch’s claims of innocence until he meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco. But Sofia has her own burdens. The first female Protector in a hundred years, her House is under threat from enemies within, the prince has made it clear he does not want her services and worst of all, she cannot communicate with her father’s sentient mask of bone, the centuries-old Argeon. Without the bone mask she cannot help anyone — not herself, and certainly not a mercenary with no powerful House to protect him. Meanwhile, far across the western desert, Ain, a young Pathfinder, is thrust into the role of Seeker. Before winter storms close the way, he must leave his home on a quest to locate the Sea Shrine and take revenge on the people who drove his ancestors from Anaskar, the city ruled by the prince Sofia and Notch are sworn to protect, whether he wants their help or not.