Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
High above the city, a young guardian searches for the enemy…and finds love.
In a city rife with evil, masked protectors secretly watch over the inhabitants, keeping the citizens safe while hiding their own identity. One young Sentinel, however, violates her oath and loses her heart to the woman she is charged to protect. By day, Pagan Osborne is a shy security specialist working in the family business. By night, as a Sentinel, she fulfils a greater family legacy and battles the criminals who threaten Chastilian’s peace. Erith Baylor, a fiery young woman with her own secrets to hide, is drawn to Pagan’s quiet charm and silent strength. But with so many secrets between them, their attraction could break the ties of family and finally reveal the truth behind the mask.
[Originally posted on Amazon 4/14/09]
Wow I’m shocked at the high star rating for this one. The characters, plot, setting, and dialogue were all wrong for an actual fiction novel. The things that make this book completely not work did have the potential for a very entertaining graphic novel though.
There’s no context for the setting. Where are we? When are we? Usually a writer in some manner manages to give us clues (or they outright tell us) where the novel is set. In Truth Behind the Mask we aren’t even given any subtle hints. It seems to be some alternate universe that’s similar to a slightly futuristic U.S., but not quite exactly the same. But there’s nothing in the book that lets us know one way or the other. As opposed to urban fantasy where we easily see it’s an alternate earth, classic fantasy where we clearly know it’s a different world (often with maps included!), or SF where we know we’re on another planet, and so on.
Not only is there no context for the setting as a whole, the city itself seems to exist in a vacuum. There are no references to other cities, countries, or governments. Is this city normal for wherever they are? Is the world full of these cut-off city-states? Are they just on their own in a black hole somewhere? These are the kinds of things necessary in world-building to create a realistic and believable alternate reality. In any book like this there’s either some, or a lot, of suspension of disbelief required. That’s fine by me. I love suspending my disbelief! But at least give me a hint somewhere which disbeliefs I’m supposed to be suspending.
The characters were all one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Even comic book superhero types need some sort of complexity to them to make them interesting enough to care what happens to them. Especially when they’re in a novel and not a comic book. But if the characters lacked depth, the dialogue was even worse. It was stiff, full of cliches and platitudes, and through most of the book had no resemblence to how people actually converse with each other. And it never improved. Some of the worst, eye-roll causing dialogue was after the “big finale” right near the end.
One other thing that bugged me, and I’ll admit this one is merely a nitpick on my part, but it kept nagging at me whenever the title was used throughout the book, was the title of Sighted. Normally in fantasy type fiction “Sighted” refers to someone with mystical or psychic ability to “see” things others can’t. In Truth Behind the Mask they’re people who sit in a sort of command room using technology to track movements, determine where problems are cropping up, and watch video screens as backup to the Sentinels. Watcher or Guide or something would have been more appropriate because every time Sighted was used it threw me off. I did say that was a nitpick. ;)
The plot of the novel itself was okay, nothing unusual or fascinating. If it had been cleverly supported by quality character development, world-building, and good dialogue then it would have passed muster without any issues. But because the book failed in those other areas I wasn’t interested in what was going to happen. Partly at least because what was going to happen was quite predictable anyway.
I had a very difficult time finishing Truth Behind the Mask. I just didn’t care enough about anything in it to keep me reading. So I had to kinda force myself because I don’t like not finishing books. At least books that I paid over $10 for anyway.
One thing that I love about Bold Strokes Books is that they publish a lot fantasy, adventure, SF, and historical fiction, which most other lesbian presses either don’t publish at all or rarely do. But it’s severely disappointing to pay the high book prices that come with them being a small lesbian press and then end up with such a poorly written book. Just because I tend to be desperate for these types of lesbian books doesn’t mean I’m desperate enough to put up with any old book. I’d rather have only a few to choose from that are quality than to be tempted with quantity that ends up wasting my time and money.