Here’s yet another orphan volume 1 I picked up at the recent Right Stuf bargain bin sale, and yet another Wink magazine alumni. I’ve actually been looking at this series for years because of the pretty cover… again, I held off because only the first volume was available, but I couldn’t resist the $4 price tag.
Incredibly, when I started reading it, I realized the artist was the same woman who draws Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, one of my favorite series from last year. Masca isn’t nearly as good as Evyione, but the art is still really pretty. You can see how much she improved from this to Evyione, too. I couldn’t believe my luck, I’m pretty happy about this.
The plot is something of a cross between Go Go Heaven, Bride of Deimos, and Gestalt. In a fantasy world of the far future, there is a race of wizards that protects everyone. The Archmage of the continent is a man named Eliwho, and the main character is his pupil Asarella. The story starts with Asarella venturing into the Devil’s territory to retrieve some hostages. The hostages aren’t actually being held against their will, and are in fact in love with the handsome Devil. The Devil of Sibilla couldn’t care less about the lot of them, and invites Asarella to take them off his hands. Asarella came looking for a fight though, and picks one with the Devil when she realizes her trip is about to be wasted. She winds up backfiring a potion horribly and takes the curse upon herself to relieve the Devil of the pain, and the Devil somehow falls in love with her because of this. The feeling is not mutual.
I compare it to Bride of Deimos since they have similar themes of the Devil falling in love with a reluctant bride and frequently showing up to rescue her from danger. The comparison to Go Go Heaven comes since this isn’t really a straight-up fantasy, there’s a little bit of bizarre levity inserted to lighten the mood periodically. It’s just enough though, and nowhere near the focus of the series or as over-the-top as the humor in Go Go Heaven. The heavy focus on spelling, classes, and abilities is what made me think of Gestalt.
The thing about Masca is that it is extremely disorganized in this first volume. The stories jump around quite a bit. At the end of the first chaper, it seems like Asarella is going to be held hostage by the smitten Devil. But in the very next chapter, she is again living with Eliwho. The last chapter in the book inexplicably has her trapped in the Devil’s castle again. The characters are kind of stereotyped and the story is all over the place, but I enjoy fantasy stories like this, and I enjoy anything having to do with devils for some reason, and I like the pretty art, so I fell very much in love with this despite its flaws. Based on how tightly structured Evyione is, I’m willing to bet the plot cleans itself up over the course of the 12-volume run.
The chapters here are kind of serial-ish, where most stand alone after the first chapter lays the groundwork. Two of the chapters in the second half make up a really long, epic story, where a Devil from a different territory comes to challenge Eliwho and winds up tangling with the Devil of Sibilla after he kidnaps Asarella. That story was actually a pretty decent dramatic sci-fi story and is probably more indicative of how the rest of the series would go.
But, for most people, this first volume probably isn’t worth reading. Too messy, not enough development.