Just one glance at the cover of Jala’s Mask hints that this book will not be the usual fantasy novel. Cover gives us tropical tribe vibe and no medieval looking castle, metal armor or swords in sight. And, trust me, the cover does not make empty promises.
Set on a group of tropical islands, Jala’s Mask stands out in a row of boring same-old fantasy novels. The people of Five-and-One Islands are fierce and reminded me of Ironborns from A Song Of Ice And Fire. They are pirates who attack ships and coastal towns for loot. To them, this is not regarded as stealing, it’s the way of life.
But while Ironborns are all stone and rigid rules, culture Mike and Rachel Grinti invented is full of colors, exotic birds, dances by the fire and interesting customs. And don’t get me started about ships! Five-and-One islanders grow their ships out of corals… I won’t talk about the details, because I want for you to experience all the fun of this new culture by yourself.
Jala’s Mask is centered mostly on Jala, a young girl from noble family raised with a hope that she will be a queen one day. And, surprise, surprise young king Azi picks her (although maybe not for the expected reasons). Jala dreamed to be a queen ever since she was a little girl. But will reality fulfill her expectations? When she needs to act will she do what is good for her family, her people or hide in the corner?
She hated that, hated feeling confused and hurt and lost. Better to just jump in and hope everything worked out. Well, maybe not always better. But easier.
Jala’s decisions might not be always be right, but they are never boring. She is not afraid to try. She proves that she is strong and resourceful woman.
A lot of other characters seem pale and shallow compared to Jala, even her husband King Azi. I would have loved to find out more about them. For example, her father was most intriguing character. But since this book is a standalone fantasy novel (a rare beast indeed) I will not complain… much.
The only other person who stood out for me, beside Jala is her childhood best friend Marjani. This is awesome for so many reasons. First because strong female friendships without malice are rare in books. Second because Marjani is kinda having a crush on Jala. LGBT theme is handled extremely well and feels like part of normal live on the islands. Same sex marriages are nothing uncommon.
When you are bored with fantasy novels with medieval vibe, Jala’s Mask will be a quick break from the usual. Lovely tropical islands and their charming inhabitants will be like a breath of fresh air. And since it’s a standalone, you don’t need to worry about a sequel. Although there is a chance you will keep an eye out for next book by Mike & Rachel Grinti.
Recommended if you like fantasy novels with dark-skined characters, island setting, pirates, royals, conspiracies, …
Disclaimer: I received this ebook from publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.