The Last Mask – Tradition by Stephen Winterflood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephen Winterflood’s, The Last Mask is a dark adventure with traditional fantasy elements presented in a very unique style. Fantasy readers looking for a break from the norm will love the asymmetric structure and artistic writing approach. Traditionalists will likely feel less thrilled because early on the plot builds in an unusual way that can seem a bit complicated. You’ll see the value in his approach later as characters and plot find their convergent path.
Winterflood establishes a structure with what feels like three indirectly related sets of mysterious characters and story lines. Despite small peeks behind their masks, more secrets are left for the reader to puzzle with each discovered truth. That is the nature of this unnatural world he’s created, called the Joke, where the homicidally sadistic find humor.
The simple pleasures of our world are turned on their axis and cast into a place where the inhabitants are predator or prey and quite often both. The characters who bring fun and laughter to our world are instruments of horror and mayhem in Winterflood’s Joke, a place where the best punch line is a quick death.
Start with plenty of sinister, add a pinch of whimsy and a full helping of fantastic poetic flair and you’ve begun what may be one of the most uniquely crafted and diabolically creative circus stories to be published in a very long time.
Be warned, this first in the trilogy will likely not sate your appetite for answers, but it will certainly tantalize your hunger for more. Four stars for Winterflood’s debut and definitely looking forward to book two.
Tom Clementson (Kindle Book Review)