My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: ARC courtesy of Penguin Australia
Masquerade is the masterful debut from Australian author Kylie Fornasier. It starts, Shakespeare style, with the list of characters, and the Shakespearean theme runs quite heavily through the book. Elements of The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and others are present in the story. I loved picking out these elements, it felt like an inside joke between the author and me.
Masquerade follows the fate of a group of Venice's teenaged population, but starts with the recently orphaned Orelia as she arrives at the Venice palazzo of her Uncle. Forced to masquerade as his god-daughter, she is unable to reveal her true identity to anyone, even her cousins, Angelique and Veronica.
Angelique is desperately in love with Bastian, the son of the Doge. Bastian and his best friend, Marco, can't help but make increasingly outrageous wagers with each other. Veronica is of marriageable age, but uses her talent and wit to avoid accepting a proposal. Claudia is being pressed into a suitable marriage, but is desperately in love with someone else. Anna is a servant with a good heart, but a desperate secret.
Venice is in many ways a character itself in the novel, it plays such a large part and is so well rendered by the author. I really felt myself transported to 18th century Venice, and was reluctant to leave at the end of the story.
The ending seems to have divided readers a bit, and I won't comment other than to say that I thought it was perfect, and showed just how far Orelia had come.
Masquerade is wonderfully written and I am really looking forward to seeing what Kylie Fornasier produces next.