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Publisher's Summary

Mel can sense the blood beating through her companions' veins. She can count the moments between heartbeats to tell who is sincere and who is lying. She can make herself stronger for short periods of time, heal small wounds on her body, and manipulate light to change her appearance subtly. These abilities are useful skills for a Mask - a preternaturally sensitive, cloaked and imposing, impartial arbitrator, both revered and feared by everyone.

Mattieus Ottick, or just Ott to his friends, comes from the frozen north to hunt the strange ogre-like creatures, or trogs, that threaten the northern mines. Magical beasties? Nightmares come to life? The world as Ott knows it is about to change. Blessed by easy charm and good looks, Ott is used to the attention of females, but, gods above, he is knocked flat by the kiss of the ethereal woman he rescues.

©2014 EM Kaplan (P)2017 EM Kaplan

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Masks aren't supposed to feel!

Mel is a Mask - someone who wears a mask that completely hides their face so their expressions can’t be betrayed. Masks are unbiased arbiters whose opinion is the law of the land. Their judgment in matters of arbitration is final and respected.

in the opening scene Mel is kidnapped by a vicious troll… and then is subsequently rescued by a masculine stranger. Nothing wrong with that, you might say. In fact, sounds a bit like a romance should! But as a Mask, Mel is not supposed to have feelings as this is part and parcel to being a Mask. The first thing that Mel notices about her rescuer hero is that he smells… well, wonderful - to the point where it lights a fire between her loins. Literally. No, not literally, but to the point where she immediately attacks her rescuer with kisses. Hot steamy kisses.

The seed is planted there between them and they can’t forget each other, no matter what happens to them in the book. Disasters, trolls, kidnapping, murder, heartbreak, and intrusive parents. Mix in a little inter-species breeding and you have a very interesting story.

It’s a good book. At its heart this is a book about a girl wanting her life to go in a different direction than her parents planned. Layered over top is an epic adventure. I liked the concept of the Masks, how they are the judicial system in Ms. Kaplan’s world she created. I think a lot more could be done with their backstory in future books.

TJ Richie’s performance was very good. She did a great job with the male voices, and was fantastic with the dialog.

This audiobook was gifted to me by the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mary
  • TACOMA, WA, US
  • 01-22-18

Must pay attention!

Mel is a young woman from a society called the Masks, a group of people who are hypersensitive to their surroundings and the feelings and motivations of those around them. Masks are to be neutral, unfeeling and dispassionate, it is what makes them the arbitrators of their world. Mel is different, she feels, she hopes, and eventually, she loves.

The premise of this story was very good. The twists and turns that commenced during the listening held my attention throughout the entirety of the book. There was a lot of information given, and many subplots happening along with the main storyline. This was a book that I had to pay attention to or I would lose my way. There were a few plot holes that I hope are rectified in the next book in the series.

The narrator did a great job and I enjoyed listening to her voice cadence.

I provided this review in exchange for a complimentary copy of the audiobook from the author, narrator, or publisher.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing fantasy listen

LOVED this book! Well crafted world with complex characters, and an intriguing storyline that kept me hooked from the first sentence. Excellent narrator as well, she really brought the story to life. Will definitely be listening to the other books in this series. I recommend this one for fans of Patrica Briggs and Robin McKinley. I received a free review copy of this audiobook at my request and I have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fantasy romance - good series start

This book clearly indicates that it's the first book in a series. Accordingly, there were threads in the story that didn't wind down completely by the end of the story. If this were a standalone story, I'd point out things like the unresolved disappearance of characters down cellar pits or a full explanation for why Rob's father summoned the Masks and plotted the events that followed once the Masks arrived. I'm assuming that we'd see what happened to those characters in the next installment in the series, so I wouldn't identify these unexplained gaps as flaws in the story.

There were a few romance threads in the story, but there was nothing explicitly racy in the romantic scenes to make readers uncomfortable.

While I was listening to the audiobook, I was wondering if things were going to take brutal turns (in the same vein as Game of Thrones, when beloved characters suddenly get tortured, murdered, abandoned, raped, betrayed, etc.). The bad guys were bad but they weren't utterly evil, and we met other characters that I thought might turn into bad guys but they didn't. There's also some mild misunderstanding between the two main characters, stemming from lack of self-confidence (worry about disappointing the other partner) and lack of communication. For these reasons, I suspect that this book might be targeted for a young adult (late teen) audience. The author certainly could have written the story in a darker and more gritty fashion that might appeal more to older readers. The book wasn't entirely fairytale, happily-ever-after, but it was close.

So, as a light romantic fantasy with more books to follow in the series, I wasn't disappointed with this story.

I enjoyed the narrator - her tone and emotion were good, and I'm glad she didn't artificially deepen her voice for male characters. My personal preference is for a slightly faster narration, so I sped it up a bit during playback.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • TU
  • 01-04-18

Good but best to pay attention

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

The narration was pretty good in this book, which definitely helped me to enjoy it. In the beginning of the book, there is a bit of an information dump by the author. This was probably to set up the world, but it was a bit overwhelming. That being said, it was actually pretty good. I would definitely be open to more of this series.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Lots of Plot Twists

I got this ARC via audiobook boom and this is my voluntary review. This story took more than 13 hours to tell. The narration was not very swift but was done well. This is a story that had many plot twists and lots of scenes. I liked the story although at times I had to put it down and go do something else. Magic, trolls, strange stones, evil stepfathers, betrayal, and love are woven throughout the story.,I enjoyed the ending. There were several parts that could have been left out because they did not go well with the story but they were few and far between so I guess they did not take away from the story. It took me three sittings to finish the story as it got boring at times.Not to say that the overall story was boring, there was just a lot going on. I still want to know what happened to some of the characters. So I hope there is another book that will tell us about them.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fairytale PLUS without overload

Parts fairy tale, myth, and fantasy, Unmasked draws you in, then when you think it’s going to be boring, it throws you another whoa!?
I believe this to be all original work, but it gives you the feel of an old fairytale rewritten like Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl which my mom had translated for me from an old German book of fairytales.
I would classify this as just over the line into UpperYA with all adults being able to enjoy. Unless you’re into Noir.
Richards does a good job with narration.
Recommend. I will definitely be checking out book 2 to see where this goes for Mel & Ott.
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

So much going on but that is okay.

I received this book at my request in exchange for an honest review.

This story is not what you would think it is. It is a mixture of old world and modern age. I do not know if I am able to but this story in a particular genre. This story is about a woman named Mel. When we are first introduced to her she is battling for her life and she is saved by someone that she would least expect.

This story at times was really difficult to follow with the multiple different points of view. This is not a book that you can drift with. Once you lose focus it will be hard to figure out what character is which and how all of them are connected with one another. ALL of the characters are all connected so paying attention is key.

I love the world that EM Kaplan is building. It is unlike anything that I have read before and it is refreshing. In a sea of fantasy this book stands out in the nost wonderful of ways. It is not an easy read in the beginning because you are starting to learn who all the characters are and what role and special talents that the seem to have. However when you past the introduction of this world you will get sucked in and never want to leave.

I also loved TJ Richardson as a narrator. I think that she did a fantastic job and I cannot wait to listen to book two in this series. I also hope that this series continues because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and this book only had me wanting more.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jan
  • MKE
  • 08-09-17

Enjoy!

fantasy, action-adventure, romance

The characters are fascinating, the descriptives are unbelievably clear, and the plot is full of action that moves very quickly. Excellent fantasy!
TJ Richards did a great job as narrator!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Great narration, the book was okay

I received a copy of this book in audio format from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Mel is part of society group called Masks. They have unique abilities to analyze persons and situations, and their services are usually required to arbitrate in any conflict. But Mel is different from the rest of Masks, since she is also impetuous and really does not fit within the rest. Mel and her parents are required to travel north to resolve a conflict between a new race called trogs and the locals of a little town.

I think the premises of this book were brilliant. I liked the idea of a sector of the society with special abilities to play judges and how it would affect somebody which did not completely fit into this scheme. Sadly I missed some more character development. Mel was different but I think Kaplan could have transmitted better what Mel was up against. A consequence of plain characters are forced actions and conversations, and we also see a lot of this in this book. Without mentioning how Mel and Ott met. Even fifteen years younger I would not have fallen for that (I hope). In the middle of some dare situation they meet and suddenly fall in love. Okay, I would accept love at first sight, but I would not expect much from it months after. I do not mind romance in books, but I need it to be justified and it has to feel natural. The sudden urge Mel felt is not explained nor analyzed.

The story about the trogs was also very interesting, but I missed some more information about it. Who where they really? There is a hypothesis about it but when I expected more information the book just finished. There is also something going on with Ott, which left me wanting to know more. I guess we will get that information in future books.

This book is part of a series, which is why I guess there is still some information not delivered to the listener, but it is a book which stands well on its own and does not end on a massive cliffhanger, something I appreciate.

There was something that bothered me a bit, and it was how the information was delivered to the listener. At the beginning of the book, especially, there was a sudden ton of information. I found it distracting, and this and the inability to connect to the characters prevented me from fully enjoying the book.

Even though the main characters are in their twenties, I would classify this book as Young Adult due to how romance is approached.

What I truly enjoyed was T.J. Richards' narration. She did a wonderful job transmitting the characters emotions and making subtle voice changes depending on the character. It was very very subtle, but it was very clear at all times who was talking. She has a soft and clear voice, and the audio production was spotless. I will be on the watch for T.J. Richards from now on!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful