The fantasy novels revolve around a classist system where Scholars, the now lower class, are controlled by the Empire which takes in select children to train them to become the deadly leaders and law enforcement known as Masks. The novels focus on Laia, a smart and compassionate Scholar girl, and Elias, a Mask in training.
Elias is my second-favorite character in this series. Raised in an environment where they train people from childhood to be ruthless killing machines, Elias still has a heart. This prequel story focuses on Elias, as well as his best friend Helene, who is also in training to be a Mask (and the only girl training to be one), as they do one of many of the training challenges that they go through to become the cold killers by the Empires design. Elias discovers that the Empire is testing poisons on Scholars like they are animals. Elias convinces Helene and the others to help him find out what’s happening and stop it.
It is always interesting seeing a visualization of a book you love. The art is very YA - clean and a little cute - which isn’t how I imagined it, since this book series gets dark and often ruthless, but for this story of Elias and Helene, it works. The only thing I found odd was the Mask. In the book series, they are called Masks because they are given a silver mask that they put on their face which fuses with their skin permanently. Yep. Permanent silver face. In the comic, it is depicted as a half mask, keeping the mouth and chin exposed, and let me say, I like it better. I also forgot how much I love the world Tahir has built. It is full and meticulous details, down to the phrases and slang (“Bleeding skies!”).
Get ready for action, espionage, and a full fantasy world. If you are looking for a good YA book or an intro into one of the bestselling YA series of the last decade, pick this up.
Creative Team: Sabaa Tahir and Nicole Andelfinger (writers), Sonia Liao (artist)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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