The Darkwood Mask by Jeff LaSala

  (2 ratings)

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Book Information  
AuthorJeff LaSala
TitleThe Darkwood Mask
SeriesEberron -- The Inquisitives
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by DragonReader 
(Jun 16, 2008)

The Darkwood Mask is an exciting mix of fantasy and mystery. The story revolves around two main characters. Tallis, an ex-soldier, who now lives as a renegade, has been framed for the murder of a foreign ambassador. Soneste, an up-and-coming inquisitive (i.e., a detective) from the ambassador's home country, has been sent to investigate. In addition the author gives us an interesting cast of side-characters who are all memorable in their own way. The characters are both well-written and interesting. As a reader I found myself truly caring about the characters and wanting to learn more about them. The "bad guys" were also well done. Their motivations and actions made sense, which lends a feeling of realism to the story.

While the book is, at its simplest, a murder mystery, it is so much more than that. The author does an excellent job of weaving together a number of interesting subplots. For example, there is a kind of fish-out-of-water storyline with Soneste being sent from her home country of Breland to the harsh and bureaucratic city of Korth, in the nation of Karrnath. The author does an excellent job of showing us Karrnathi society from the perspective of an outsider. A second storyline looks at what it means to be a patriot. Tallis, once a revered Major in the Karrnathi army, now lives his life as a rogue, working to change his country for the better. Though labeled a traitor, Tallis remains fiercely loyal to his country.

There were other storylines I found interesting, such as the fragile political situation between Karrnath and Breland. Another storyline (and perhaps the most important) I won't mention out of fear of giving too much away, but suffice it to say the plot is multi-layered and the mystery will keep you guessing to the end. Even when I figured out the who (which I was unable to do until near the end), I still couldn't guess the why...

As mentioned in the other review, the only minor criticism I have (and it is very, very minor) is that a few scenes seemed to jump a little, most likely due to parts of the scene being edited out. But this hardly took away from the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It provides just the right mix of action and mystery and throws in a bit of political intrigue to spice things up a bit. The narrative is well written and well paced. And the author keeps you guessing with lots of little twists and turns.

A first-rate novel, I hope to see many more books by Mr. LaSala.

I would recommend this novel highly, not only to fans of the world of Eberron, but to both fans of fantasy and mystery.

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