Author: Kylie Fornasier
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Page Count: 340 Pages
Masquerade is the debut novel for Australian author Kylie Fornasier. I first heard about this book in June at the Sydney Penguin Teen Australia Live Event. I was lucky to get to hear Fornasier talk about this book firsthand, and she instantly had me wanting this book. I am normally not the biggest fan of Australian authors – it honestly is nothing personal but I have never managed to find an Australian book that I can rave about. Masquerade changes this, as it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoyed it so much, that I’ve decided to set myself a little goal. Each month I want to read and review at least one Australian book, and I’m starting this month with the one and only Masquerade.
Masquerade is set in 1750’s Venice, and follows seven teenagers whose lives intercross with one another. All seven characters are hiding something, whether this deals with their loves, desires, loyalties, or beliefs, and the Venice setting of ballrooms, theatres, palazzos, and promenades mean that the drama is intensified with gossip, games, and schemes threatening to have it all come crashing down. Everyone is being played by someone who knows more than they do, and coincidentally they too are being played. This is everything you could want in a novel – mystery, scandal, drama, and romance.
This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read this year, possibly ever. The setting is so fleshed out, and very well researched that I honestly feel like I have been to Venice and have seen exactly what is being described. I desperately want to visit Venice now and see these sights that have been so beautifully described. I love how passionate the author clearly is with this setting, and I love being able to see this passion in her writing. I’ve mentioned before that world building is one of the most important aspects of a book for me, and Fornasier has really succeeded in crafting a world that is equally realistic as it is beautiful. I would go as far as saying Fornasier is the queen of world building – that is how much I love the way she has written this book. Here are some examples of Fornasier’s beautiful writing;
“Eyes the colour of the Canal Grande on a sunlit day.”
“That was not all the gondolas carried. Their cargo were the rich and richer, the young and old, the moral and immoral, all heading towards a night of masked fun and frivolity.”
And here’s just a quote that reminded me of Gossip Girl (season one, episode three, the hockey game where Serena and Blair are fighting – yes I apparently am skilled in remembering scenes in Gossip Girl).
“It begins when I say it beings.”
It’s not easy to be able to easily slip between the perspectives of such a large group of characters, but I really feel that Fornasier has managed to achieve this in an almost effortless way. Third person narration is not my favourite style, and yet I have no complaints with it in this book. I think what makes this book even greater is that all the characters manage to have very distinctive voices, and manage to be likeable. Normally in books with a large character list it is common to have at least one hated character, but with the exception of Claudia and Marco’s mother, I really didn’t dislike any of them.
Orelia is just sweet, and naive, and just an honest and kind person. I loved that even though she was starting to have romantic feelings towards Bastian, she tried her hardest to put Angelique’s feelings first. In many young adult novels that share a similar story line of a conflict between two friends and a boy, I have yet to find a book that deals with it in such an honest way, and in a way that honors the friendship of two characters. I loved that friendship was important to her, and that she went along with all of Angelique’s crazy plans even though she knew they weren’t going to work. I think young adult novels need more characters like this, characters that put friendship before boys. I also loved that Orelia was very determined to uncover the mystery of her mother.
Angelique is definitely one of my favourite characters in this book. I love how outrageous she was, and how she had so many schemes that even though they went askew and most definitely did not work to her favour, she was still so determined to act on her beliefs. As a book that will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Gossip Girl, I see similarities to both Blair Waldorf and Jenny Humphrey. Angelique was just a fun character to read, and I’m so happy that she got a rather happy ending.
Claudia was the character in which my first impressions of her changed immensely. In the first ballroom scene, everyone made this big fuss about how the first dance is always between her and Bastian (especially her mother) and this made it out to be that she was the typical bitchy popular girl. This could not have been further from the truth. Claudia ended up having a kind heart, and was in no way as invested in wanting to climb the social ladder like the rest of the family. I think her relationship with the family gondolier was sweet, and even sweeter was her relationship with her father. Her ending was the most tragic, and I was very touched with her story as I really feel that she was a strong character, and I think this is because she went against the typical young adult genre character that would be expected.
Anna was my least favourite female teenager. She was very troubled, struggling with the burden of her depressed sister who is all she has left in the world, and struggling with the her future life and how she will never be able to do the things she loves simply because of her social standing. She easily betrayed people, but she trusted even easier and this was her downfall, and even though whilst reading this I was annoyed with her character and irritated that she made the decisions she did, she was such a realistic character that I could easily empathise with the decisions she made. I hated how she was mistreated by Claudia’s mother (I really feel like I should just go and look up the mother’s name since she has been mentioned this many times in the review).
The female character I connected with the least was Veronica. I must say, in the early chapters of the book I had some theories about what Veronica was up to, and I was completely wrong on all accounts. So thank you Fornasier for creating a book that was not predictable. I love being surprised with books and I also love having my predictions proven wrong. I loved that Veronica was passionate about art, and I loved her little revenge plans, however I could not empathise completely with the reasoning behind her revenge paintings. To me, it seems like marriage was an inevitable part of her society, and that she would have been better to be slightly less chaotic in dismissing suitors. I did ship her and Luca. A lot. And I also loved her relationship with Angelique – their constant bickering reminded me a lot of the relationship I have with my older sister.
If I had to pick one of the main seven characters who I disliked the most, it would be Marco. I hated how he betrayed Bastian, his lifetime friend just for a chance to better his own situation. I don’t like people like that, and I certainly don’t like characters like this. I did enjoy when Bastian challenged Marco to make the drunk guy believe Marco was his wife. It was nice to see the funnier side of him, and it was also such a believable friendship between Marco and Bastian that I really enjoyed seeing the dynamics of their relationship.
And this brings us to Bastian. Beautiful Bastian. He most definitely can join my list of favourite book boyfriends. I’m not going to lie, I really ship Bastian and Orelia, and so it made me frustrated to know that Bastian possibly ruined his chances with her. I love how he was so wanting of living outside of his father’s rules, and that he wanted to be his own person, making all the decisions of his life. I’m really hoping that there is a sequel so there can be some more Bastian time. Not going to lie.
I thought it was interesting that whilst reading I picked up on a total of four typos. At first I thought I was just skipping over words, but no, they were definitely typos. I particularly loved the typo in which one whole line of the book had no spaces in between the words.
This book was also helpful in providing both a list of characters and a glossary to Italian words. I wish that I had found the glossary sooner, as I didn’t see this list until I had finished the book, and by this stage I had roughly worked out what the Italian words meant through the context each time the words were used. My suggestion would have been to put this at the front of the book immediately after the list of characters.
I thought it would be only appropriate to mention how beautiful this cover is. I am definitely a fan of book covers that are more artsy in their origins, and this cover is perfection. I love everything about it. Props to whoever was the designer of both the cover, and the page designs for both the chapter headers and the act headers. I love books that allow design to be celebrated not only on the cover.
Currently this book is only published in Australia by Penguin Teen Australia, but I am hoping that the rights get picked up for this on an International scale, as I truly believe this book is one of the best books I have read this year. I can definitely see this being enjoyable with an international audience, and I hope they get the opportunity to read this fantastic book also.
With so many books in the young adult genre these days being very similar, it is refreshing to read a book that I can honestly say is nothing like anything I have ever read before. Masquerade is a beautiful and elegant read that is well deserving of 4.5 stars. I recommend this book wholeheartedly to everyone, and I am so glad I have finally found a book by an Australian author that can be classified as one of my favourite books. The ending of this novel is a little abrupt, in that it seems like it could have the potential to have a sequel. I am praying for the success of this book as I would love to read a sequel, and also I would really love for Fornasier’s work to achieve the recognition it deserves. Go and support an Australian author, and pick up Masquerade next time you are in the bookstore. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.