Title: Dr. Morbid’s Castle of Blood (Masks #6)
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 61,667 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Superheroes, Genetic Mutations, Funny Guys, Established Relationships
Rating: Really Liked It
**Contains spoilers for those who have not read the Masks series, as well as a few for this book**
Following the attacks on Vintage City by the Deathtrap Debutantes, life quiets down, and the superheroes are temporarily without work. Unfortunately, unemployed superheroes mean bored superheroes, and with Peter’s birthday just around the corner, Eric asks for help in coming up with the most creative gift he can give a boy who’s got everything. Tapping into everyone’s fondness for computer games, Eric enlists the heroes’ help in experimenting with a video game in a desperate bid to amaze Peter with something unique.
What they don’t expect is a game that’s been sabotaged by an old nemesis. Eric and the heroes suddenly find themselves trapped in a horror game, forced to advance against the clock or be stuck in it forever. With three of their friends vanishing from the group, Eric and Ridley are forced to use their wits and their limited abilities to fight their way through monsters that are meant to keep them from finding the others. Outside, Althea as Spirit Wire, along with unexpected allies, scrambles to keep a delicate connection with her friends as she tries to save them all.
I absolutely adore this series and Eric is one of my favorite characters of all time. This is the sixth installment of the Masks series and everything I love about Hayden Thorne’s writing is once again present here. While this book was truly the first different book of the series than all the previous ones, it also held it’s own and I found that I liked it very much.
After the havoc wreaked on Vintage City by the Deathtrap Debutantes, the city is in a lull of blissed out peace, leaving time for Eric to once again become concerned by his lack of present for Peter’s upcoming birthday. Even though his job at Mrs. Chang’s chinese restaurant has earned him his first paycheck, finding something to gift his incredibly wonderful superhero boyfriend who is incredibly rich and already has everything is next to impossible. And when he does come up with an idea, that uses his own love of video games and Althea’s interference to pump up the experience, he and the gang of heroes fall into a trap made by a past villain. Now, they’ll have to find new ways of using their powers (or in Eric’s case no powers) to find themselves out of an electronic maze.
The major difference with this book is that Eric and the heroes (except Magnifiman) are separated from the rest of Vintage City and the colorful characters we’re used to seeing. Though they do all show up at some point in the story, this book exists in a void and against a villain that isn’t directly battling them. The change in setting, tone, pace and even dynamics among the group all make for a story that will probably jar some readers. It will certainly be a book that you’ll probably love or hate. Thankfully, I was hoping for a change in the series, and I got that. It wasn’t in the way I expected, but I was able to roll with the punches and once I did, and decided what I hoped I’d get out of the story, I was happy and satisfied.
What I most loved about this book is that Eric finally gets his chance to become a hero. It is more than the few scenes in the past where he’s felt part of the group or gotten to make some form of direct impact for the good of the whole. Here, we see the two underdogs of the main characters (Eric and the new hero Ridley) get their chance to make a real impact on the story. I appreciated this not only because it was satisfying for me as a reader who always rooted Eric on, but also because Eric has really matured over the series. After his time as a supervillain under the Noxious Nocturne in the original trilogy, Eric has been forced to become satisfied with being a bit of a hangers on, the only normal human among his friends with powers. And with that maturity, I had hoped that there would come an opportunity for him to be rewarded for that, instead of feeling like the (even subtle) angsty outcast.
That is really what this book is all about, and situated at this point in the series (roughly the middle point) it proved a turning point in the series (at least it’s looking that way). The game they become trapped in makes their characters into a two dimensional representation of themselves, and as such, Eric is rendered even more impotent. The story is a vast metaphor for their lives, and by Eric heroically taking the lead and seizing the opportunity to solve the obstacles in front of him (of course, not without help), he’s triumphing over his own place in the world and instead of only seeing the limitations of that world for him, he’s finding his place.
This makes me so excited to see what is to come! I’m hoping to see more overarching plot. There is one, even though at this point it is rather slow moving and sparse. Even though the first three books were hard to read, I appreciated and now miss that they had that connection from book to book. The last couple of books have felt rather like episodes, and while they’re very enjoyable to read, I’m less invested in them than I was previously. I’m hoping that as the series turns into the final stretch, we’ll start to get that connection back and see real progression in the relationships from book to book. I suppose the relationship between Eric and Peter is rather solid at this point, all that is left to move forward is their sexual relationship and with Eric at 16, we probably won’t be getting any smexxin anytime soon
As always, I recommend this book and more importantly, this series to everyone. I love it and continue to look forward to each new installment!