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Literature / Masks of Aygrima

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Masks of Aygrima is a trilogy of young adult fantasy novels written by E.C. Blake. The Trilogy consists of Masks (2013), Shadows (2014), and Faces (2015). They take place in a kingdom called Aygrima which is ruled by an Autarch who requires all people over 15 to wear masks that reflect their jobs. In this world some people (known as gifted) have the ability to see and use magic which has many uses indicated by it's color. The main character is a young girl named Mara Holdfast who, unlike all other known people can see and use all kinds of magic. On her 15th birthday when she is masked the mask shatters and she is sent off to a large slave mine. On the way her wagon is destroyed and she and the other passengers are taken to The Secret City, home of The Unmasked Army, a group of rebels who wish to overthrow the Autarch.


Compare to Utopia 58, a similar dystopian story in which citizens are forced to wear masks, but more post-apocalyptic.


  • Abusive Parents: Keltan, Mayson, Grute, and Kirika had these.
  • The Ace: Captain Antrill is the best fighter out of Chell's men and possibly the entire Unmasked Army and is quite The Strategist.
  • Action Girl: Mara is a magic using one, Illina, and Tishka are Badass Normals from the first book. The Lady of Pain and Fire was this during the first revolution, and she proves to still be this when she allies herself with The Unmasked Army.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of the tertiary characters end up dead and quite a few of the major characters end up kicking the bucket as well. By the end The Autarch, The Lady of Pain and Fire, Ethelda, Charlton Holdfast, both of the Wardens, Guardian Stanik, Greff, Mayson, Katia, Grelda, Simona, Captain Gramm, Grute, Illina, Tishka, and Mara's Mother are dead.
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  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Antril was promoted to lieutenant due to his awesome handling of prates on his way to Aygrima. The Auarch, his circle, and The Lady of Pain and Fire have authority because of this.
  • Attempted Rape: Grute tries to Rape Mara in the Magic Hut while drunk, which leads to his death.
  • Badass Normal: Everybody in The Unmasked Army as well as Chell's sailors.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: An interesting example. The Lady of Pain and Fire and the Autarch fight inside Mara's mind over control of her body.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Betty and Veronica: Mara considers Chell as the Veronica to Keltan and Hayram's Betty. She ultimately ends up with Keltan as Hayram forms a relationship with Alita, and Cell turns out to be 25 and married.
  • The Big Guy: Edrik the general of The Unmasked Army and the best Badass Normal fighter. To a lesser extent his son Hayram, and Prince Chell are this due to being the other best fighters. Kirika was this for the girls from the wagon due to being the strongest and most aggressive.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The Autarch and The Lady are undoubtedly evil but between Mara's Sanity Slippage, Catilla's Jerkass tendencies, and Chell's questionable loyalty the good guys aren't that good.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Autarch develops new masks to make citizens more submissive and to make it easier to take magic from them. The Lady of Pain and Fire uses magic to control the villagers to fight for her against The Unmasked Army. Later The Autarch does this to citizens of Tamita who were masked n the last three years in order for them to fight The Unmasked Army.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When thinking about destroying Stonefell Mara says that the magic released would kill her, drive her mad, or drive her mad and then kill her.
  • Break the Cutie: Mara goes through this for the entire trilogy see Hurting Hero below.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: When Chell is recovering from his shipwreck he starts mumbling things and Hayram starts making fun of his accent.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Gender Inverted. Mara spends a lot of her time in Faces brooding while Keltan tries to help her through her problems.
  • Bittersweet Ending
    • In Shadows, The Secret City is destroyed, but the Unmasked Army is saved by the Lady of Pain and Fire.
    • In Faces, Edrik is made king and Mara is banished from Aygrima and leaves for Korellia with Whiteblaze and Keltan. It's implied that her desire to suck magic from people is reduced but also that Chell will eventually ask her to help with his war against Stonefell.
  • Butch Lesbian: Kirika, the strongest of the unmasked girls from the wagon, who later starts a relationship with Prella, another girl from the wagon.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: The Autarch decides to not kill Mara in order to make her the next Mistress of Magic. In reality he wants to take over her body to extend his lifespan. The Lady of Pain and Fire does the same thing when she confronts her in the Magic Mine.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Mayson, who appears in all three books but only becomes important in Faces when his death breaks the block The Lady of Pain and Fire had on Mara's memory.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Keltan's crossbow from Faces is later used by Mara to kill The Lady of Pain and Fire.
    • Later the hole in Tamita's wall is essential to The Unmasked Army's final attack on the city.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Chell's skill a sailing helps him and Mara sail towards the Secret City in Shadows.
  • Cock Fight: Hyram and Keltan have an off screen fight over Mara near the end of Masks.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The properties of magic is indicated by it's color. Blue is healing, red is used to manipulate objects, and black is the magic of watchers for example. This extends to the people of Aygrima who have masks to indicate their jobs and magic proficiencies if any.
  • Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth: Hayram, the agressive fighter, Chell the Ambadassador who was willing to talk to The Autarch directly, and Keltan, who has experience sneaking around Tamita and is young enough to walk around unmasked.
  • Downer Ending: In Masks, Mara fails to save Katia, and her attack on the mine alerts The Autarch to the presence of The Unmasked Army and another powerful magic user.
  • Deus ex Machina: Greff randomly shows up in the throne room to stab The Autarch, saving Mara's life.
  • Elite Mooks: The Sun Guard, The Autarch's personal bodyguards though they are never seen fighting so it's more of a Informed Attribute.
  • Evil Wears Black: Justified, all watchers are required to wear black mask to show their status.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Downplayed. Aside from the two TimeSkips early on in Masks the whole trilogy takes place over about eight months.
"So much had happened in so little time..."
  • Eye Scream: Several watchers are shot in the eye by arrows due to their masks.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Dozens, ranging from stabbing, to Decapitation, to being shot in the head with a crossbow.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After The Autarch dies one of the Korellian sailors lets a Sun guard into the throne room to kill Mara before he is killed by Chell.
  • Fat Bastard: The man in charge of watching unmasked prisoners before they go to the mine, he forces the girls to pose half naked so he can sell drawings of them.
  • Female Gaze: When Chell strips to swim to shore Mara tries to not look at his body.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Chell is forced to kill the sailor that tried to kill Mara and Keltan attacked Hayram after he knocked Mara out.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Kirika, and Grute are more than likely as agressive as they are because of their Abusive Parents.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Two justified examples. Grute tries raping Mara in the Magic Hut. In Shadows Mara absorbs magic from a watcher which burns her clothes off. Some of the mind controlled people who attacked the Unmasked Army were naked.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Final Battle is a pileup of Mara's gambit to kill The Autarch, his gambit to take over her body, The Lady of Pain and Fire's plan to do the same, and Greff's plan to kill The Autarch. Ultimately Mara is the only one alive at the end.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Averted with the four girls rescued from the wagon with Mara who all have disfigured scars from their failed masking. Played Straight with Grute who was part of that group but was insane.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Mara's role in overthrowing the Autarch is, "deliberately obscured from general knowledge."
  • Groin Attack:
    • Alita gives one to Grute on the wagon to the mine
    • One of the many crossbow bolts that killed The Lady of Pain and Fire's father during the first revolution hit his groin.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The Trustees in the Magic Mine ally themselves with the watchers for better lives.
  • Hates Being Touched: Krika lashes out at anybody who touches her.
  • Hate Sink: Grute is the only boy in the prison Mara is put into. He acts lecherously towards the girls, nearly raping one of them and taking joy in their discomfort. He later kidnaps Mara, planning on taking her to a slave mine to trade for better treatment. Finally dying while trying to rape Mara, he's a perfect example of the kind of people that have no place even in the Autarch's brainwashed kingdom.
  • Healing Hands: Anybody who can utilize blue magic.
  • I Have the High Ground: Part of how the unmasked army survived their Offscreen Moment of Awesome mentioned below.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Mara accidentally gives Stanik enough information to attack The Secret City and everyone, including herself blames her for it's destruction.
  • Immortality Immorality: The only known way to live forever is to implant your consciousness into someone else which effectively kills their own consciousness.
  • In the Blood:
    • The Autarch's father was apparently just as cruel as his son.
    • Not exactly evil but the infamous gift that is known to be present in Aygrima's most infamous monsters is said to run in Mara's family, though it hasn't been seen in generations.
  • Invisible to Normals: Magic can only be seen by gifted people.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Mara briefly has this attitude towards Guardian Stank when he kills her father. She kills him in revenge for this as well as for his brutality earlier in the book.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The ghosts Mara sees look the same way they did when they died, this unfortunately includes their various fatal injuries.
  • Jerkass: Grute, Guardian Stank, and almost all of the watchers.
  • Keystone Army: When the Autarch dies all masks break and the Watchers surrender aside from a handful of them and the brainwashed citizens either stop fighting or die.
  • Kick the Dog: The watchers in the new magic mine killing all of the unmasked workers in the mine. Also them killing Mara's mother despite her not knowing about her husband's crimes.
  • Killed Offscreen: Grelda, Ethelda, Simona, and Captain Gramm are killed during the beach battle in Shadows and Mara doesn't see any of them, later it's revealed that Mara's mother was excecuted as well. see Offscreen Karma for possible examples.
  • Kill It with Fire: Mara incinerates the second warden by controlling the fire in his room.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: An interesting but Justified example of type III. The Lady of Pain and Fire uses magic to block Mara's memories of the day of their attack on the new magic mine, telling her that she went insane and almost killed everyone, and separates her from everybody in order to convince her of this.
  • Legacy Character: Keltan, the Autarch's horse is a name passed on to every white horse he owns in an attempt to convince people he's had it his whole life.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The trilogy has at least 12 major characters about 15 minor characters and around 13 named Spear Carriers
  • Love Triangle: Type7 Hayram and Keltan have a crush on Mara and she can't decide between the two.
  • The Medic: Ethelda the head healer of The Palace and Grelda the head healer of The Secret City.
  • Mook Horror Show: At the end of the new mine Mara flies into an Unstoppable Rage and goes on a page long rampage in revenge for the watchers slaughtering the unmasked workers.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Keltan, who was friendly and welcoming of Mara and is later her boyfriend, Hayram, who was much more mean and grows to hate Mara after the second book, and Chell, who, while friendly and nice, is only concerned with helping Korellia not Aygrima, as well as having zero interest in Mara due to being married.
  • No One Could Survive That!: The river that flows out of The Secret City is believed to be impossible to go down but Mara and Grute barley do.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Man-Engine in the Magic Mine is easy to fall into and is so dangerous that Mara has horrible memories of it later.
  • No-Sell: Mara is able to absorb magic attacks and use it herself, though this had a limit, she's also immune to lie detecting magic.
  • Not So Different:
    • The Autarch turn out to be similar to The Lady of Pain and fire, both being power hungry people that abuse their gifts, and both turn out to be Immortality Seekers.
    • The Child Guard turn out to be pretty similar to the unmasked slaves. Both are exploited to produce magic of the Autarch. and both are incredibly frail as a result.
  • Not So Stoic: Catilla shows some kindness and even tears up a little bit when exiling Mara
  • Not What It Sounds Like: When Mara changes on the beach, she mentions that Chell has seen her naked and the nearby Keltan thinks they started a relationship, in reality her clothes were destroyed by magic while on a boat with Chell.
  • Offscreen Karma: The Fat man is left naked in a cage surrounded by his freed prisoners. The members of The Circle are captured or killed by The Unmasked Army before The Autarch dies.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Keltan, Hayram, Chell, Antril, Edrik, and a handful of the best fighters in The Unmasked Army are able to fight off a much larger group of Elite Mooks and were winning before the Mooks gave up.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: The Autarch has a seemingly bottomless pool of magic in his throne room.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Simona and Captain Gramm are rarely mentioned after their introduction, they even get an off-screen death and aren't mourned much by Mara.
    • Captain March gets overshadowed by Antril and Chell in Faces, and Hayram shows up about four times over the course of the last two books.
    • Alita shows up once in Shadows for about one paragraph and is mentioned once in Faces, Prella and Kirika are mentioned twice in Faces.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Korellian Sailors and the Autarch are this to each other because neither of them even knew about each other before they started fighting.
  • Pair the Spares: Hayram and Alita pair up as well as Prella and Kirika. This leaves Captain March and Lieutenant Antril as the only important characters that aren't confirmed to be in a relationship b the end of the series.
  • Panty Shot: When Mara is watching The Autarch going through the city, a child guard looks up at her, and the then realizes that she's wearing a short tunic.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Mara, The Autarch, and The Lady of Pain and Fire can become this if they absorb too much magic, the Lady tries to become this to kill The Autarch but is killed before she can pull it off.
  • Power Nullifier: The iron prison masks used on gifted prisoners that cancels their magic, Watchers also have the ability to briefly do the same thing. The Mask is unable to withstand high amounts of magic and breaks when Charlton Holdfast dies.
  • Power-Strain Blackout: Mara sometimes has this when she uses too much magic
  • Praetorian Guard: The Sun Guard, The Autarch's bodyguards.
  • Predecessor Villain: The Autarch's father was such a bad ruler that a revolution broke out that killed him and led The Autarch to create the masks.
  • Room101: The watcher barracks in the Magic Mine, it's the ultimate punishment for female prisoners and, while never explicitly stated, it is very clear that the watchers rape the prisoners.
  • Red Shirt: All of the Guardians of Security.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Chell is the youngest child of the King of Korellia, and leads an expedition to the long forgotten land of Aygrima. He also proves to be a great sailor and fighter.
  • Running Gag: Mara hates horses and is always sore after riding them
  • Sanity Slippage: Mara slowly goes through this due to her constant exposure to horrible deaths and the fact that she sees dead people.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Downplayed, Keltan is the sensitive guy with more emotional baggage, and Hayram is the manly man being more aggressive.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Mara wears one to her Masking.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Mayson, Mara's childhood friend who became a watcher Is accidentally killed by Mara during her final attack on the Magic Mine causing enough shock to break The Lady of Pain and Fire's memory block.
    • Greff, the Child Guard that Mara befriends, later allows her to impersonate him to break into The Palace, He later attacks The Autarch, distracting him long enough for Mara to kill him, though he dies in the process.
  • Shameful Strip: Anybody who goes to the traitors gate has their clothes torn off as a last form of embarrassment.
  • Shadow Archetype: Grute is one to Kirika, as he's basically her without any morals. They both had Abusive Parents and are definitely not fit for Masked society due to their aggressive nature. The difference is that while Kirika has some level of empathy and wants to get better, Grute relishes his role as The Sociopath.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Unusual due to the presence of magic, possibly Unrealistic if Mara's meteor theory is true.
  • Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy:
    • The Emperor: The Autarch
    • The Right Hand: Shrela, at least as far as magic's concerned.
    • The Guard: The Warden of the Magic Mine.
    • The General: Stank The Guardian of Security, who is in charge of all watchers.
    • The Oddball: The Palace Healer, The Master Masker, and the Master Maskmaker.
  • The Strategist: Lieutenant Antril, one of Chell's best men, who leads the sailors through the new mine and proves himself capable of being two steps ahead of the watchers.
  • Take the Third Option: Attempted, Mara tries having sex with Chell, but it turns out that he's twenty five and married.
  • Teacher's Pet: Sala, Mara's childhood friend is made fun of for being a "Tutor's Pet."
  • The Exile: Mara and Keltan are exiled to Korellia due to how dangerous she is
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy Krika, and girly girl Prella.
  • Torso with a View: Mara does this to a watcher who almost kills Keltan at the Magic Mine.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Out of the members of The Autarch's circle Shrela and Ethelda are the only women we see.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: While the first two books had images of important masks on their covers, the cover of Faces features a woman with the bottom half of her mask crumbled away, this image never appears in the book, the closest we get is the last Sun Guard who attacks Mara who has a similarly crumbled mask but is male.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Lady of Pain and Fire pulls one when Mara confronts her in The Magic Mine, she wants to absorb so much magic that she can steamroll The Autarch's forces but if she dies she can (and does) posses Mara which is her overall goal anyways.
  • Zerg Rush: This is effectively Chell's plan for helping Mara overthrow The Autarch by sending the much larger Korellian army to Aygrima.

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