The Hidden Face is the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn and my second book by the author. I enjoyed Children of the Different, however, The Hidden Face failed to thrill me and I was oftentimes about to abandon it.
But first things first, I enjoyed the setting. Even though it is fantastical, it reminded me of ancient Greece and the Greek mythology. I could really imagine I was somewhere warm and sunny, bathing in a stream or travelling on horseback. Furthermore, I liked the female warrior Sunniva, more than the male protagonist Dayraven. She takes matters into her own hands and while Dayraven comes along a little bit whiny sometimes, Sunniva is tough and determined. Even though it is only a small aspect, the novel includes a list of characters and a chronology of the setting which I find very useful.
Still, there were major aspects I disliked. Most of all, I could not get into the story and find access to the characters. Sunniva is overly sexualised in some scenes and I do not see this as pivotal to the plot. The story would have well worked without her being reduced to her body. Other parts of the novel show that this is possible and Sunniva is an independent woman and a good fighter making any such reduction not only counterproductive but unnecessary. Thus, I was disappointed when reading her being exposed to the male gaze in that way.
Moreover, the writing was at times rather obvious and failed to thrill me. Especially one scene that included a series of riddles that had to be solved is more boring than exciting and the outcome is already foretold in the beginning. While the different ways in which the riddles have to be solved are interesting enough, the scene lacked passion and emotion. I believe this to be partly due to the fact that the novel tells more than shows. In my opinion, the dialogue is rather halting and emotionless and, thus, the story would have benefitted from being narrated to the reader more than being told by the characters.
I also wish the story world would have been more extended. Despite the outlines of the world being huge, we only get to see a small bit of it in the story and the centre on Sunniva and Dayraven, although understandable and needed to bring the story forward, could have included a little more of the setting and to provide a bigger picture. I would have enjoyed reading more about the societies of the different cultures and have more characters interacting with one another. Nevertheless, I believe that Flynn will write more about these aspects and extend them in his sequels, so this is something I am looking forward to.
All in all, I believe that some characters and the story have potential, but I fear this was not fully exploited and there is definitely room for improvement regarding the writing style. I really tried to give The Hidden Faces a chance, but as it turned out the story just did not connect with me.