Title and Link: Masks: Rise of Heroes
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: GLBT Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult, M/M
Length: 279 pages
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Guest Reviewer: Kris
Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and high school goth boy Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc on the town, and on Eric’s life. The new super hero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right under his nose.
Peter is Eric’s best friend, and even if he does seem to be hiding something most of the time, he finds a way to show Eric how he feels in between attacks on trains and banks and malls. The two boys decide to start dating, much to the chagrin of their other best buddy, Althea, who has a terrible crush on Peter, and a secret or two of her own to keep.
As the fight between the villain, known as the Devil’s Trill, and superhero Magnifiman picks up, Eric’s relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins when Eric finds out about Peter’s special talents, which might just rank Peter as a superhero in his own right. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, too, Peter and Althea, along with Magnifiman and Eric’s normal, middle-class family all have to work together to keep Eric, and their city, safe. Can they figure out the super villain’s plan in time?
Honesty from the outset~
It’s got SUPERHEROES! I’m the kid who spent their afternoons and weekends watching He-man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers and Astro Boy cartoons. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve never looked back since. *GRIN*
*It’s YA! YAY!*
First things first~
This is a well written, extremely sly and humorous story about an ordinary teenage boy, who finds himself caught in the middle of a fight between newly empowered superheroes and villains.
Why sly? Think of the stories of superheroes you know and love and then think of the commonalities between them. The secret identity, the home base, the discovery of superpowers, the fight for good and evil, the love interest who always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the laughable police folk and other powers that be, the mysterious villain (complete with violin music), the typically seedy, city setting, and the ending which leaves the audience hanging.
Now imagine an author who takes all these tropes and conventions puts them in bowl adds a dash of teenage drama and a dollop of wit before giving it a good mix with tongue in cheek. You end up with a very tasty treat that all can enjoy!
This excerpt, in which the main character Eric is rescued by superhero Magnifiman (*snort* love that name), is one of many illustrating the author’s playful look at the superhero:
My jaw had long dropped to the ground. “Holy cow,” I breathed as I strained to watch what was happening above. “What’s that?”
“Are you all right?”
“What?” I blinked and turned to the person who addressed me. “Oh.”
“I asked if you were all right.”
He was a vision from head to foot. Strong, angular, dark features, his body sculpted by Olympian gods. If he wasn’t born this way, he probably was an obsessive-compulsive gym-bot. He had a cleft in his chin. God help me, he had a cleft in his chin. It was so pronounced that he could sideline as a letter-holder if he wished.
He wore a bodysuit in a green shade so dark that one could mistake it for black unless the light touched it at certain angles. He also wore a cape in the same color. That certainly cleared up a few mysteries. I stared, and I didn’t care. I wondered if, rather than have his costume already made for him, he simply stood naked before his personal tailor and had all that bottle-green spandex sewn on him, given his bulk and the mind-blowing physics required for it to get inside such a tight getup. His hair reminded me of Edwardian Cambridge undergraduates, but that might have been because I’d recently developed a fanboy obsession with E.M. Forster’s Maurice, and he had the coy-yet-windswept intellectual look down. I wondered what brand of mousse he used.
“I’m fine, yeah,” I finally stammered. It was certainly a good thing that I hadn’t been aware of how beautiful this man was when he caught me; otherwise, I’d have developed a boner while nearly plastered to his body, and it would have been embarrassing. Then again, he might not have felt it, anyway. It would likely take nothing short of an aroused stallion for him to feel signs of excitement pressing against his marble-like wall of muscles.
Eric is a wonderful, likeable main character through which the author explores the world of superheroes as well as teenagers, including what it’s like to be different, family and friends, and first love:
As though waiting for the moment for me to introduce it, the local news segment would take over, and we’d be treated to new adventures in heroism. If it happened to be BFM [Bizarre Flying Man] who saved the day, I’d be there, rooted to the spot, holding my breath as I ate up every word of the reports. If it happened to be Speedo, I’d force myself to listen, silently hating and envying the presumptuous tart, and then walk away like a puppy that had just been kicked.
I suppose the good thing that came out of this unrequited tragedy was the fact that my Golden Age of Haiku coincided with this period, and my journal nearly burst with gutwrenching exhortations on my bleak, windswept love life. I’d actually considered having my work published, but money and notoriety would be a slap in the face of art and the sensibilities of bleeding gay teen poets everywhere.
Although humorous with many laugh out loud moments, Eric’s feelings and the situations he finds himself in also conjured up some bitter sweet memories for me of the extremes and angst I did – and we all do – feel as a teenager.
It is such a time of seesawing between naivety and innocence, and growing up and dealing with adult issues that it actually lends itself very well to the setting of a superhero story.
A couple of issues/warnings~
There are those who will find some aspects of the description and development of the story repetitive. I’m not sure if this was deliberately done or not. However, it did make me think of all the times when watching cartoons or movies where certain themes or issues are emphasised more than others. This tendency has actually been picked up in parodies like Austin Powers.
Also, this is the first book in a series so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you fall for Eric and the characters of Masks and run off, as I intend to do, to pick up the second book. *g*
Masks: Rise of Heroes is a very entertaining read and especially one which those who have a fondness for superheroes will get a real kick out of.