Midnight’s Mask

Sometimes the hero’s journey goes horribly wrong, and in a way Midnight’s Mask is like that. It wraps up the Erevis Cale trilogy with a sensible ending that shatters the expectations of the typical reader. In a novel dominated by the sea, the characters reach their final transformations as they struggle against fates stronger than the tides themselves. Readers finally get to find out what the Sojourner’s master plan is. But in this three novel saga of adventure and evolution, the heroes find themselves on paths to a journey that leaves them anything but heroes. Jak’s giant heart does not lead him to save millions, Riven does not go on to become the savior of his friends, and ultimately Erevis Cale falls short of the idyllic hero he would’ve like to have become. If Star Wars was the hero’s journey for Luke Skywalker, then Midnight’s Mask is Cale’s Revenge of the Sith moment where all he holds dear is ripped away and his final battle is a hollow victory.

“For some people, a place is home. But for men like us, people have to be home. And not just any people. Friends. The friends who live through the changes with us, who grow with us.” –Jak Fleet

Friends play a big role in this book.  On one hand there is the strong friendship that has developed between Cale, Jak, and Magadon. Yet whether they like it or not, they’ve also developed a friendship with Riven. Riven presents a puzzling conundrum to the others because he’s not the most likable person. But they fought with him and they’ve spilled blood together. By sharing the same adventure, they’ve grown close to each other and because of that he’s a friend. Like Jak says they’ve lived through changes together so now he’s part of what they call home. Riven may be with the enemy, but he keeps giving them hints that he’s still on their side. The friends have to struggle with this, constantly wondering if he’s truly on their side still or if he’s playing them for his own selfish angle. Regardless, their journey in this book strengthens their friendships and puts them to the test. In the end the only home they can return to is each other.

Beyond the friend theme, the ocean also played a big role in this novel. The seas was one of the primary settings. The very first scene in the book takes place underwater, and the last scenes wrap up with the ocean in view. Whether the main characters find themselves on a long sea voyage, fighting on ships, tangling with sea monsters, or journeying down into the depths, the sea is a constant backdrop. There are a few adventures on land and in the cities, but the most of the action takes place near, on, or under the water. In fact there is a little bit of a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe at times with all the sea action and sailing. The theme is further reinforced when they all find themselves up against a kraken.

Another interesting subject in this book is how Kemp pushed the powers of magic. Throughout the series the characters have used magic, but in Midnight’s Mask those levels are pushed even higher. Some of the extremes they reach to are both entertaining and a little offsetting. Super powered characters have a way of being too powerful, and in this book that issue pops up a couple times. On one hand Cale is becoming more powerful as Mask gives him greater powers. Then there is the Sojourner who’s already been set up as an unfathomably powerful being. When he is unleashed in full combat it’s not so much a battle but a creative slaughter. For a reader it’s fun to read but it also disrupts all notions of realism and can break down the moment. There are a few points where the story corners itself into a perilous moment only to break free with some new magical outcome. Those moments can come dangerously close to Godmodding scenarios. Yet the story overall is still very good. The few parts that get a little dicey are balanced out by the rest of the characterization and action.

Cale thought of his words to Riven. ‘This is more than personal.’ He had been wrong. Riven had been right. There was nothing bigger than personal.

Beyond all the action and story elements, Midnight’s Mask boils down to a hero’s journey gone wrong. In the traditional tale the heroes venture out against the enemies of the world. They fight the bad guys and win. At the end of the day they save the world. Happily ever after. But this is not the case in this story. Cale and company most certainly have gone to great lengths to hunt down their enemies. As it turned out, their enemies were more powerful than they expected and were worthy of that epic villain status. The Sojourner is a being who brags about killing worlds in his younger days. Surely such a being must be stopped. Cale and Jak allow themselves to see this as their true mission. Deep down they want all the killing they’ve done to be about something more. They want was away their sins, or at least balance themselves out, by saving the world from what ever dastardly plan the Sojourner has in store. Great sacrifices are made in their quest. But reality shows its ugly head and challenges them and their lofty quest. The way the story plays out gives it a unique edge. It’s not what you’d typically expect, and though there is pain and loss, the adventure is still entertaining.

As a reader I thoroughly enjoyed Riven’s part in the story as well as the Sojourner. Some readers might relate better to Jak, but for me he’s too softhearted for my liking. However Cale is the star of the book and the key to the story’s success is how well he comes off. Personally I thought Cale suffered a bit from his internal struggle between Riven and Jak. Cale wants to be like Jak. He wants to be goodhearted. In reality though, he’s Riven. He’s a killer. The adventure he has put himself through requires people like Riven more so than people like Jak. And since I didn’t relate to Jak’s softness, I equally had trouble accepting Cale’s struggle to achieve his moral acceptability. Every time he tries to be the nice guy it comes back to bite him. I just couldn’t empathize with some of the decisions he made in the book, and that hurt my enjoyment of his character. For that reason I give it a four out of five metal bikinis. Even though I didn’t like Cale as much, the story still had a lot of strength and enjoyment to it.

Reviewed By: Skuldren

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