I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review
The Hidden Face is a fantasy, the first book in S. C. Flynn’s series The Fifth Unmasking.
We are plunged into a world where empires rise and fall according to the unmasking of a chosen one, The Face of Akhen. We follow Dayraven and Sunniva as they unravel a mystery foisted upon them as their enemies gather ever closer around them.
Firstly, I’d like to say how much I was looking forward to reading this book. My reading lists have been a little low in the fantasy department lately; not only was I looking forward to being back on comfortable ground but also I loved the sound of this book. This idea that their god, Akhen, returns to earth in human form and his doing so signifies the end of one era and the beginning of another as he (or she, as we’re reminded) raises a different empire in a different part of the world each time.
Without wanting to give too much away, the story line didn’t actually involve the Face of the Akhen; we enter the story in between “unmaskings”, but I look forward to this story line in future books. Flynn has created an interesting world here, I enjoyed the myths and history surrounding this religion, and much of the other world building. There is a wealth of different cultures and histories which I hope get explored further in future books of the series.
I struggled to get into the book at first, to really find my rhythm. The narrative is split throughout between different characters; but the splits happen quite regularly and the characters themselves, to begin with, reminisce often. There is also quite a lot of exposition to wade through at the start. The book is quite dialogue heavy throughout, and the writing itself was quite hit or miss for me. There are some wonderful analogies, for example;
” ‘Why is the emperor taking a bath now?’ Dayraven asked as the walked.
‘Oh, these days, he bathes he feels like it and talks business with his advisers at the same time, Says he can’t sleep at night and doesn’t like to be alone.’
… And now it seems the emperor has conquered much of the world while sitting in the bath.”
And then there are lines that feel less well crafted, such as;
“The cold licked his face like a giant slimy tongue.”
However, the story soon began to grab my attention, and I was able to overlook any issues I may have had with the language thanks to the driving plot line. The story gathers pace well; the action starts quite early and builds nicely throughout to the conclusion, with some good twists and turns on the way. There is plenty of mystery and puzzle solving; I felt the detailed step by step instructions of solving some of the puzzles perhaps unnecessary, it made of tedious reading. But it was exciting following Dayraven and Sunniva as they tried to figure out this secret without letting their clues fall into the wrong hands. It reminded me of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in those aspects.
A straight forward adventure story.
Recommended if you enjoy puzzles.
Stay clear if you don’t have much patience for multiple points of view (at least seven).