Samantha Shannon’s The Mask Falling (2021 Bloomsbury Publishing), the highly anticipated fourth book of the Bone Season series, is without question my favorite of the series. The series is now more than half-way complete (there will be seven books), and we’re getting the thump! thump! of its heart in this novel. I have said since the first of the series that Shannon is an extremely talented writer, and each book is better than the one before it. Her writing was already noteworthy back in 2013, but how she’s grown as an adult and as an author is noticeable evident in this fourth installment.
Shannon is a master at world building, but what pulls me to her writing has always been how she writes her flawed and brilliantly broken characters – especially her women. Paige Mahoney turns a mere twenty in this book, but Scion was never a place to be a child or a teen and she’s wrapped in the brittle hardness and distrust common of a forced early adulthood. The Mask Falling starts to show the chinks in her mask as the reader sees just how fragile she is both physically and mentally.
Paige was tortured in The Song Rising, and she’s suffering both from pneumonia due to the water aspiration and from PTSD. The Mask Falling affords her some brief time to rest and heal in France, where she falls further in love with Arcturus and that flame continues its slow burn. But she’s not on a romantic holiday, and she knows she is expected to assist the Domino Program to earn her keep. She also knows that their financial assistance would be crucial to the success of the Mime Order and she must convince them that their two causes can fluidly coexist. Driven by a sense of duty and a rashness of youth, she sets out before she is ready.
It’s reckless, and Paige’s emotional fragility results in her doubting something she’d always believed to be true. By the time she remembers the red drapes, the wheels are already in motion. It would seem a bit out of character had Shannon not done such an excellent job of character development – by the time Paige makes that particular misstep, we know she’s physically and mentally spent.
The Mask Falling is both the warmest and the most chilling of the series. As with the other three, I’m avoiding too much detail as these books deserve to be devoured without spoilers.
Read this book.