I love the idea of enchantments and enchanted items… swords and medallions and in the case of The Helm of Midnight, masks! In Lostetter’s outstanding debut novel, individual’s essence can be trapped in a mask before they die and the power will last within the vessel forever. If a healer allows their essence to be imbued into a mask, a wearer would learn healing techniques. But a mask embodying a devilish killer… we might have a problem!
The novel opens at the anniversary celebration for a high ranking police officer with all the items from his greatest cases on display. Krona Hirvath is there to guard these treasures and because of her adept skill, she is wearing all sorts of enchanted items to assist in her own policing as a state Regulator (See the beautiful cover). Distracted by a supernatural beast, Krona and the rest of the Regulators allow two of the enchanted items to be stolen. One is a bracelet that turns the wearer against themselves, and the other a mask imbued with the spirit of an infamous serial killer named Louis Charbon. Soon, it becomes apparent that the mask is being used and the bodies start piling up. Krona is going to have to use all of her underground contacts and her strength with enchantments to hunt down the killer.
There are so many things I enjoyed about this novel. First is the worldbuilding. It has a feeling of gaslight fantasy. I definitely saw those video games Dishonored and Thief in the writing. Lostetter does a fantastic job of explaining the setting and politics and culture of the world in so many different ways. Religious texts and a master’s instructions and an informant’s report… all these are able to give the reader further glimpses into this awesome world.
Krona is a truly memorable character. With her sister as her boss in the Regulators, it’s hard for her to get away with much, but she has an edge and she’s tough as nails! Although she has one weakness: a phobia of the supernatural beings called vargs because her father was killed by one. She has great skill with enchanted items which at times can fight for control with the wearer. Krona’s mental acuity allows her to level up with items that increase her strength and bravery.
There is another thread that follows alongside of Krona’s. I won’t go into it too much but I’ll just say that it adds greatly to the mystery. And gives a different perspective on the power of these imbued tools of magic.
I will be recommending this book all over. I really connected with the writing and there are some unique elements in the story that I latched onto right away.
5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Books and the author for an advanced copy for review.