20 Books of Summer: Book 7

Because reading is magic!  It can transport us into other worlds or allow us to understand our own better.

The Mask of Aribella is a magical kaleidoscope of wonder, mystery and intrigue which absolutely enthralled me as I wandered through the streets and environs of Venice with Aribella and her friends, completely and utterly fascinated by the incredible events which unfold.  It is safe to say that this story kept me on the edge of my seat, gasping at revelations, and taking a deep breath of relief at the truly heart-warming ending. 

Aribella lives with her lace-maker father who has never stopped mourning the loss of his wife ten years previously.  She worries about her father, but also enjoys escaping from her unhappy home to help her friend, Theo at the fish markets in Venice.  Confronted by another boy, who makes nasty comments about her family, she discovers a latent power which has been revealed on the Eve of her thirteenth birthday.  When angered, flames burst from her fingertips …

This is not a secret which she can hide, and leads her and her family into danger. Her father is imprisoned in the dungeons beneath the Doge of Venice’s palace, and Aribella escapes with Theo on his fishing boat.  When they are attacked by a frightening force, they are rescued by a masked man who reveals that Aribella is a Cannovacci, a person with hidden powers.  He takes her to a seemingly dilapidated palazzo where Aribella’s life changes forever as she embarks on a mission to save Venice from a great evil emanating from the Island of the Dead which threatens to destroy the city …

The story-telling is dazzling as the reader is taken on a magical journey where secrets are revealed, revelations astound and danger is abundant.  I was intrigued by how the layers of the story would unravel to reveal its truths and, oh my, I was not disappointed.  This story is fast-paced, action-packed and gloriously intricate:  it kept me completely spellbound throughout.  

I found the premise of Cannovacci with their diverse powers, controlled by wearing a mask which chooses them utterly fascinating.  The descriptions of the masks were gorgeous, and I loved how each mask matched to its owner’s abilities.  Aribella’s mask fitting was not what she had expected as, instead of gaining a beautiful new mask, she is chosen by a previously used, ugly mask … Aribella must learn to harness the power of this mask as she begins her training.

Caring about others doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.

Aribella is an incredibly sympathetic protagonist.  She has lost her mother at a young age and lives with her depressed father.  When she discovers her power, she is scared of Theo’s reaction.  However, he is a loyal friend who supports her and she in turn protects and helps him when he is in danger.  I loved that she formed such firm friendships with Fin and Seffie, two other Novices, who help her feel a sense of belonging, and ensure that she is not facing her mission alone.  Aribella is kind-hearted and courageous with an inner strength and determination that helps her face difficult situations. 

This is a superb story of the strength to be gained from friendship and the importance of being true to yourself with the most gorgeous heart-warming ending which was just perfect. 

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