The Hidden Face

November 25, 2017
The Hidden Face Book Cover The Hidden Face
Fifth Unmasking, #1
S.C. Flynn
Fantasy
The Hive
November 25th, 2017
eARC
350
Author Request

A face without a face - an unmasking that leaves the mask.

Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he - or she - be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven's old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

The Hidden Face is an epic fantasy novel drenched in the atmosphere of the early Middle Ages and in Kabbalistic riddles and is the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

(via Goodreads)

 

Release day review! Congratulations to S.C. Flynn for the release of The Hidden Mask today, November 25th!

 

The relationship between book bloggers and authors is a complicated one in this day and age. It’s easy to communicate with people on a mass scale and the anonymity of the internet makes it easy for both parties to forget there are people on the other side of the technology. It’s a magical thing when an author takes the time and effort to make a real connection with the blogger community. S.C. Flynn is one of these authors. I’ve watched him develop relationships on social media and blogs with reviewers. I’ve watched him treat the blogger community with respect and admiration. When he reached out to me and offered a free eARC copy of his upcoming fantasy release The Hidden Face in exchange for an unbiased review, I was excited to help out!

What had Halakh said once? Fill the mind with wonderful things, but don’t be ashamed of the senses.

The Hidden Face opens with our protagonist, Dayraven, returning from 15 years as a political hostage in another empire to ensure the peace. We’re coming upon the end of an era, as it’s been about 500 years since the Akhen, the sun god, last descended to Earth granting boons to one empire over all others through the Fourth Unmasking. The last time, Dayraven’s own empire benefitted. As the 500-year mark draws closer, it’s obvious upon Dayraven’s return his own empire has not prepared for this shift. Brought together with Sunniva, the daughter of a famous scholar, they are suddenly thrust into a Dan-Brown-Esque mystery. Running against time, Dayraven and Sunniva must solve the puzzles left by their mentors and father to understand the secret left to them. A secret to the impending Fifth Unmasking.

What really caught me right away with The Hidden Face is the well-constructed world building. Flynn obviously understands all the peoples of the world he has built. We get to know four major empires during this story and each one feels distinct. For example, the Faustian Empire feels Roman while the Jaelites more Kabbalistic. It’s easy for me to understand the cultural differences and separate out all the different people groups without confusion. Also, the whole concept of the Unmasking is brilliant. It’s a unique and new idea from my fantasy experiences. Based on the book synopsis, I was nervous I wouldn’t get it. Flynn does a great job explaining the process without just telling the reader about it. I learned through the experiences of the characters.

There was something sad and chilling about a strong young man who was blind.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I got from learning through the experiences of the characters. Even though our protagonists are trying to solve an endless string of puzzles, I didn’t feel like I was discovering along with them. Instead, I felt like an observer having to be told everything in order to understand their problem-solving. I appreciate the distinct differences between Dayraven and Sunniva which made these explanations required, but it didn’t improve my overall enjoyment.

My favorite character in this story is certain Twister. A hunchback with a complex and painful past, he quickly became the most fascinating. I feel like the name Twister is perfect since he always had me guessing. Good guy? Bad guy? Just flat crazy? I could never guess. I loved observing all the changes in Twister’s relationships and exploring his backstory. There is obviously much greatness to come from this character as the series continues!

“The tombs?”
“Someone’s waiting for you there. Explain the situation as clearly as your clumsy mouth can, and don’t get in the way when they go to work. Remember, you’re just a tool in all this.

Most of the other characters were unimpressive, sadly. I wasn’t drawn into or interested in any of them. I was more interested in our dead mentors than in any of the living characters. Both our femme fatale Malombra and our heroine Sunniva were both so poorly constructed that I literally laughed out loud at some of their thoughts and dialogue. They both fell flat. Both of these characters held a lot of promise for me. But, their dialogue was so stilted and predictable they almost felt like caricatures of who they were supposed to be. As a female reader who loves fantasy, I was a little bit insulted. There was little to nothing believable about these characters. With a little bit of polish, I think these characters are easily salvageable. I have hope.

My biggest challenge with this novel, beyond our unrealistic and dull female characters, has to do with the use of sex. I am definitely a pro-sex woman. But I was shocked at how prominent nudity, bathing, and sexual activity was present for a book marketed as YA. I would agree that this has been written at a YA level, but this book has multiple sexual encounters written into it. Including child molestation and non-consensual sex. In fact, in the latter encounter was treated so poorly, I almost DNF’d this book. After Dayraven is drugged and forced to have sex with Malombra, he is obviously scarred and upset. Yet, Sunniva’s response is to victim blame Dayraven because obviously men cannot be raped. I was so horrified. And Dayraven agrees with her. That all this is his fault and Sunniva has every right to be mad at him! ARGH! This would have been a great opportunity for Flynn to help educate his potential younger readers about male rape and how to appropriately deal with it. Instead, I read about victim blaming with little emotional fallout from Dayraven. There are certainly some opportunities to improve upon how all of these moments are expressed.

Maybe we have slept too long in the darkness. The world has changed and our time is over.

While The Hidden Mask didn’t astound me, I understand there is certainly an audience for this book. A fun, fast-paced, puzzle-solving adventure story, there is a lot in store for our characters and this world. I hope to see S.C. Flynn work to deepen his characters and their relationships with each other as this series continues. With the intriguing and fresh plot, I know this series can go places.

I received a copy of this novel from S.C. Flynn ins exchange for an honest review. Check out more about S.C. Flynn on his website.


What do you think?

  • What are your experiences with blogger-author relationships? Are they good? Share your stories!
  • Have you read The Hidden Face? Have you read any of S.C. Flynn’s other works? What do you think?
  • What is the last fantasy novel you read and adored?
  • How do you deal with problematic content in the books you read and review?

16 Comments

  • Grab the Lapels November 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Is The Hive a small or vanity press? There seems to be an unpolished vibe about the book. I noticed it in the synopsis, which also tipped me off that the women would not be fully realized. The Goodreads synopsis says, “…together with a female warrior named Sunniva…” Why didn’t the synopsis say Dayraven, a male political prisoner? Anyone who points out the race/gender/sexuality of all the characters that aren’t white/male/straight is going to write problematic characters, in my opinion.

    Mostly, my relationship with authors has been good. There is the lady who makes comments on/challenges my review of her book in every venue possible (I reviewed her book years ago; this year, again, she left a comment on my review). There’s the author who told me she would never write a negative review and couldn’t believe I would be that kind of person. There was the author who tried to become my friend and thus thought she could provide edits for my reviews of her books.

    • Jackie B November 25, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      Both Goodreads and my eARC list The Hive as the publishing company— and on their website they define themselves as a “boutique, independent publisher”. As someone who only recently realized that there are different types of publishing, I didn’t think to look into this until right now. They are definitely Vanity press. I would agree that there is an unpublished vibe about the book. Did you read my spoiler text? I definitely struggled with problematic content.

      I’m so glad your relationship with authors has been mostly good! So many of my blogger friends have had negative experiences, such as you mentioned about being challenged for an unfavorable review. All in all, I find authors who are open to critical reviews to be the most fun to work with. They are engaged and committed to their craft and improving their story. I’m a bit surprised someone suggested edits to your reviews, though…

      • Grab the Lapels November 26, 2017 at 11:17 am

        I did read the spoiler. I’ve read rape scenes and attempted rape scenes in YA, but it’s always vague on purpose to protect the reader without coddling them. Readers may have experienced sexual violence, so to leave it out completely doesn’t seem right to me, but it has to be very, very careful.

        • Jackie B November 28, 2017 at 11:01 am

          I think the rape is tastefully done, particularly since it involves mind-altering drugs which make it less violent. No more consentual, but it does mean we don’t have kicking and screaming and being held down and all that. Instead, our male protagonist just gets pulled into a mental fog and wakes up naked and longing for his succubus. It’s the way the other characters react to Dayraven’s situation which I struggle with. And Dayraven’s lack of emotional fallout as well, which I struggle with. He should be far more emotionally affected by this event. Or, well, by everything. O_o

  • LizScanlon November 26, 2017 at 7:46 am

    I usually prefer the character driven novels myself, but was happy to find that I rather enjoyed this adventurous story for a change.
    I also loved Twister- I thought exactly the same as you did about him and I called Malombra a femme fatale in my review as well.. hahaha… nice to see things clicked similarly there!

    Interesting&important thought about your ‘hidden spoiler’ part… Honestly? I never even analyzed it so deeply… hmm… you make a good point there, especially if it is aimed at YA. This will be on my mind for the day now…

    • Jackie B November 30, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      I adore character-driven novels. However, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a character-driven fantasy novel… I do love me some fantasy. Have you read one? If so, please recommend!!!

      I have a note next to my review schedule to check our your review and Drew’s review, I haven’t gotten to those yet, though. O_o I’m glad we were on the same page about those characters! I can’t wait to see how Twister grows and develops.

      Yeah… Drew pointed out that this book isn’t supposed to be YA. I will admit, the reading level feels appropriate for 7th grade and above, but not the content. Reading level rarely indicates the market audience these days, however. Even if this is geared for adults, I still struggle with the depiction of non-consensual sex. Can we call it rape? It feels like rape… but doesn’t… if that makes sense. Is there a better word for it?

      After a few days of pondering do you have any new reflections?

      • LizScanlon December 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm

        I think for character driven fantasy.. try Karen Grey’s books… For King and Country is the first book and there’s 4 out at the moment and I swear the twists just kept me gasping! 😀

        The non-consensual sex… I would say, yes, we can call it rape. It would count as rape in reality.
        I can imagine how some readers would have an issue with this… and I do have an issue with this in reality but in books, I don’t analyze it as much, for some reason… believe me- I’ve read worse. Much worse! Maybe that’s why i didn’t pick up on it as much as you did…

        • Jackie B December 7, 2017 at 11:03 am

          Oooh. The Saga of Thistles and Roses sounds great! I struggle with reading Scottish names, but this will be a good opportunity to practice. I love the premise. Thanks for the recommendation, Liis! It’s now on the TBR. 😀

          I’m sure you have read much worse when it comes to rape! I don’t read any grimdark books. In fact, I rarely read anything with violence in it. This wasn’t shocking to me, but I’m particularly sensitive to how sexual encounters are treated in literature. #MeToo

  • Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek November 27, 2017 at 1:48 am

    It’s not a YA book, it’s adult fantasy. The author offered it to me to review but I’m closed and told me it’s definitely adult fantasy. His previous book was YA though, which I read and I don’t do YA but did enjoy.

    Ha, sex, have you read Nevernight and Godsgrave? So many people stated that they are YA just because Kristoff previously wrote YA and they aren’t, I have a tweet from him saying that too. Point is, I get what you are saying about the sex, when I read Nevernight I was like damn, how are people calling this YA when it’s gratuitous and Godsgrave is worse, a fantastic book and while there are only a couple of sexual encounters they last for pages and are very explicit!

    The male rape definitely sounds like it needs to be improved and as you say, it would have been a good chance for an author to broach the subject that I don’t think is seen much in fantasy, a missed opportunity by Flynn.

    Last fantasy book I loved, The Fall of Dragons by Miles Cameron.

    Author relationships, mostly good but a couple of recent issues. One I wrote a post about as they tried to offer me second hand content and when I politely pulled them up on it, or polite for me anyway they kicked off in the reply, which shows more about them. And another, they were hard work. They wanted a cover reveal for a book that was released in July! It was that original cover too and they sent the cover, nothing else and when I went to get more info the book was from July! Which isn’t a cover reveal, they could have offered a guest post or excerpt so I told them I wouldn’t reveal a cover that was 6 months old. They informed me that they didn’t realise that bloggers were so precious and that they are new to writing. Fair point but I emailed them a few times, to ask about the cover, then ask about other things and they were hard work! I tried with them and damn, I remember emailing and being polite asking about the cover and if it’s a new cover, etc and all I got was a “yes, it’s the original” likewise when I wrote back saying sure I’d host a cover reveal as my reply to the initial contact all I got was in reply was “the cover, thanks”. Hard work.

    On a whole though most authors have been fine and some fantastic.

    • Jackie B November 27, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Thanks for the YA vs Adult clarification, Drew! The reading level definitely felt more YA, but that could also be a readability choice from Flynn. As far as content is concerned, this helps a lot. I haven’t read any of Jay Kristoff’s works outside of The Illuminae Files. I don’t read anything grimdark or even contains graphic violence. It’s so easy for an author to write for one reading level and transition– I’m not surprised that it’s a hard assumption for people to break! Plus, the Goodreads metadata tags don’t help. Readers assume the “common tags” on the far right are truth statements. Nope. Just the most common tags. O_o

      I would love to see Flynn explore what happens with male rape, the fall out of this event, and how it affects people long term. You’re right– a bit of a missed opportunity, but I have faith it can be revitalized in the next book.

      Oooh. I’ve seen you talk about The Traitor Son Cycle on your blog. As someone who avoids graphic violence (I don’t mind violence; it’s the details about tendons tearing I struggle with) but loves fantasy, do you think I’d enjoy this?

      It makes me so sad that a few negative experiences with authors can really spoil developing these relationships with others long term. I’m sorry you’ve had a few recent issues. That 6-month-old cover reveal is a strange request. But, it sounds like you handled it well.

      How do you even up developing most of your author relationships? In my case, authors have just fallen into my lap. O_o I love the idea of helping authors and promoting new works, but I struggle to make any meaningful connections with most authors. That’s really what I’m looking for.

      • Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek November 27, 2017 at 11:57 am

        I don’t know about meaningful connections! A lot of authors seem to appear on the blog and then just disappear. Or, they do for me anyway and then come back around asking to appear again the next time they have a book out. I think a lot of the time they are just like people and bloggers, some are sociable, always around and some aren’t. I don’t even think it’s a difference between published and unpublished as some published authors are very appreciative (of course some aren’t too) likewise some indie authors are very appreciative and some aren’t.

        It’s a hard one, I guess it depends on the individual author and whether they want to develop meaningful relationships with bloggers or not.

        It sounds like a fantastic idea for a blog post though! I’d like some meaningful relationships with them too so if you find out how then let me know.

        No, I do love The Traitor Son Cycle and while it’s not grimdark per se, it is dark and violent and for someone who stays away from grimdark/grimdarkesque books then I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s got a historical influence to it and it is great but like most fantasy it includes the details like as you mentioned tendons tearing and appendages being severed.

        • Jackie B November 28, 2017 at 8:46 am

          That’s a good observation– authors really are real people, for sure. And not everyone wants to try to make a meanngful connection with others over the internet. I guess I am just interested in doing so. This must mean I’m projecting. 😉

          I’ll ponder more about what meaningful relationships with authors mean and how we might develop them. You’re right– that might be a fun post!

          Thanks for the tip about The Traitor Son Cycle. I’ll just have to keep looking for more fantasy which is my style!

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer November 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    It’s great when an author is willing to put in the effort for those who have read their books… There are many authors (cough YA ones) that won’t even like a tweet you wrote about THEIR book!! This is so rude to me! In fact anytime ANYONE tweets about my book I would pass it on to my followers… just because of the effort made on my behalf. Or at the very least a like of the social media! One guest author I had came and answered questions!! That blew me away… that’s the kind of authors I want to interact with NO MATTER what I feel about their book.

    I’m sad about this book because man rape is NO JOKE and is just as shameful to the victim as woman rape. I LOVE a great puzzle book but honestly I want to feel like I’m helping to solve it even if it is as a backseat one! <3 Great analysis Jackie!!

    • Jackie B November 30, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      The interesting thing about authors and social media is I wonder how many authors are forced into developing accounts for those platforms because their publisher told them to. Or agent. I recently was corresponding with Tiffany McDaniel about her book The Summer That Melted Everything (review coming tomorrow!) and asked if she had social media accounts since I couldn’t find her. I wanted to tag her and her book in all my photos/tweets/snaps, etc. But she said she didn’t participate. She’s gotten some slack for it, but it’s not her jam. And I can respect that.

      That said, if you have a social media presence in a meaningful way USE IT. The internet allows for so many brilliant connections to be made. Even though this book wasn’t a slam dunk for me, I think I’ll keep reading Flynn’s works because of my personal connection with him. That’s so meaningful.

      Who was the guest author? Is this a post on your blog or an interaction on social media? I’d love to read the interaction!

      Right?! Rape is rape is rape. End of story. I wish this was better dealt with. 🙁 And puzzle stories are so fun! It’s been a long time since I’ve read one… any recommendations, as long as we are on the topic? I’d love to read a new one!

      Thanks, Dani. <3 <3 <3

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: