Book Review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I actually finished the fourth book in the Magisterium series, The Silver Mask (Young Adult 232 pages) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare earlier this month but I was mildly distracted by other things that needed to get done.

I lack the ability to talk about this book without some massive spoilers concerning this book and all the books previous in the Magisterium series so if you haven’t read this book and you haven’t read any of the other books in the series and you want to be surprised about the direction of either, you probably shouldn’t read any more of this review and should come back once you’ve finished this book.

“Power over death is the ultimate power. A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed … but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to – and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he’s broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine’s plan is suddenly in his hands … and he must decide what to do with his power.”

One of the biggest components to this book is the new and budding romance and sexual attraction for Call and Tamara, which is fairly standard for most books in this age grouping, I think. I’m resigned at this point to so many stories, especially coming of age stories, where physical attraction becomes a key motivational factor throughout the story. I guess one of the things that is a little disappointing is that if you’re going to have new romantic and physical attraction, maybe include some queer representation, too. So far, only Master Rufus has any queer inclination and his is mentioned only in passing at the beginning of this book, where he talks about falling in love with a man he met in a library. Out of an entire school of young people, Jasper doesn’t lose Celia because Celia has a crush on Tamara (or any of the other named girls in the series), nor does any character in this series demonstrate any sort of feelings or romantic or sexual attraction for anyone other than the standard heterosexual pairings. I feel like the younger generation I know right now is a lot more in tune with “non-standard” pairings and that it’s fairly common with younger people, so not having explicit representation is frustrating.

Meanwhile, this story has a lot of really interesting ethical considerations and it’s fascinating to me to look at where the line between ethical decisions is drawn. On the one hand, you have a young preteen who misses his friend so much that he’s willing to try to bring him back from the dead, and not just as a mind-controlled zombie, but as a living person with his own personality. Call invests part of his own soul in order to bring Aaron back to life, but even then, it’s still just a shadow of who Aaron was when he was truly alive. Even Aaron says there’s something wrong inside him and Call tries to repair what might be wrong instead of fully accepting that death is something people shouldn’t mess with. Sometimes, horrible things happen and people we care about die or are killed and this series to this point, especially this book and the previous book, make it a point to acknowledge that you have to let people go or you risk doing them more damage.

My personal theory is that Aaron has now moved into Havoc’s body when Havoc was killed so it’ll be interesting to see in the next and last book in this series, The Enemy of Death (scheduled for release in September 2018), how things are tied up. The end of this book had a pretty solid conclusion until you read the epilogue, in which case, things went very badly, very quickly.

Overall, I’d rate this book as a three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and will likely reread it in the future. I’m highly likely to purchase the fifth book when it comes own later this year.

Black, Holly and Clare, Cassandra. The Silver Mask. New York: Scholastic Press, 2017.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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