A face without a face. An unmasking that leaves the mask.
The Hidden Face has a great premise. Every several hundred years the “Face” of Akhen is unveiled. The likeness of the Face and the Face’s powers are either intentionally or magically never described, but invariably the Face’s powers shift political power toward the country in which the Face unmasks. It is always a different country, thus spreading the Akhen religion. It has been hundreds of years since the Face last appeared, which means that the Faustian Empire’s days are numbered. The Face always unmasks at 30. Locating the Face before unmasking could mean control over the Face and all the Face’s power. Dayraven, son of a legendary hero and former hostage, and Sunniva, a woman masquerading as a soldier in order to search for her missing father, get caught up in such a plot.
There is a lot here to like. Dayraven and Sunniva are strong main characters. The villains are interesting, threatening, and in and out of being at odds with each other. The worldbuilding in general, and the mystery that drives the plot, are all very good.
I just have two real issues.
My biggest sticking point is the writing style. Flynn’s last book (The Children of the Different) was YA and this book comes off very YA in style. Not in setting or storytelling, but just in the writing. There is a great deal of bluntness to it, with the annoying habit of having characters say something already made abundantly obvious by the preceding text.
Much of the plot involves Dayraven and Sunniva solving puzzles as they decode messages and clues left for them. The biggest problem is that they can only solve the puzzles using various bits of worldbuilding that the reader isn’t privy to until they use it. This doesn’t exactly allow the reader to follow along. (Your mileage may vary depending on how you view the use of puzzles—I’m not much of a fan.)
4 of 5 Stars.
Disclosure: Flynn sent me a review copy of The Hidden Face.