The Last Mask by Stephen Winterflood – It’s Certainly Nothing To Joke About …

This is long overdue, but as I wrote a few posts back – I am waaaay behind with my blog posts. However, my resolution is to improve.

I bought this on Amazon for my kindle back in January. I think it was £1.74, which I thought was pretty good value and having spoken to the author briefly on Facebook – I was intrigued. Stephen Winterflood (SW) has a dry and yet very witty sense of humour and I thought “hmmm, I wonder what his book will be like?”

It sat in my virtual “to read” pile for a few weeks and every time I went to read it – I was distracted by work, play or my own scribblings. … but, one rainy night in Feb I managed to lock myself out of the house (yes really) and had to sit in the garage on a giant outdoor beanbag and wait for my husband to return home from work to let me in. Cold and at a loss, I started reading.

And then I kicked myself, severely and repeatedly – I’d had this book for nearly a month and not started??? Boo.

I was immediately drawn into a well crafted and developed world. As a lover of all things fantasy, I was initially uncertain where to place this in a genre that often ends up with the dregs and left-overs: after speaking to SW he described the book as “theatrical decadence” and he’s absolutely 100% right.

The two main characters (Joe and Kelly) are well crafted, with depth and individual personality traits. I had absolutely no problem visualising them and following them on their journey to “The Joke” – a place where nightmares and dreams can come true, but a place so dark and twisted that it bewitches the reader and seduces them, dragging them along for the ride – which isn’t always pleasant. With echoes of Gaiman and Burton in visualisation I found myself really loving this story, more so an any other self-published book I’ve read (*** see end of review for explanation). But it didn’t end there, not just a linear story involving one set of protagonists and one set of antagonists, I counted at least three separate stories all coming together. No, wait … four maybe? Each one hinting to something more and involving relationships, betrayal, secrets and loss. The book ends without a natural conclusion, the stories are unravelling fast but nothing is concluded; now, some people will find this frustrating – but I personally love book series and think this is a great thing! I can’t wait to read the next one 🙂

Structure wise – I felt it was spot on, at around 80-85k (I think) it’s a nice length and the pace is steady. We have enough “breathing time” between action and revelations and the balance between prose and dialogue is great. I do have one criticism (just one!) – with the dialogue and the speech of Joe and Kelly – I thought that more contractions were needed, purely because of colloquialisms, patterns of speech, I think most people say “don’t” “couldn’t” and so on – that’s my only grumble though, and I’ve mentioned it before, so I won’t harp on.

I adored the layout of chapters, slices and reflections – very clever, very well done and incredibly effective.

Overall, I can honestly say, this to me is a 5* book.

A lot of people give high stars and raving reviews for people that they know – mostly because they are afraid of giving a critique and hurting their friend’s feelings; but in this case – it’s thoroughly deserved. I usually think to myself when I review/crit “what would I change?” and apart from the one thing mentioned – there’s nothing.

I’m wishing the author the very best of luck, I really hope that he starts to actively promote this book as it needs and deserves to be read, he’s tapped into a niche and individualised corner of the fantasy market and this trilogy is creative and fresh enough to attract attention.

Now … on a final note – I emailed Mr Winterflood and asked him why he wrote the  book and his reply was:-

“You mean apart from the fame, fortune, and bevy of beautiful ladies following me around.

I did the Last Mask as I wanted to write a book with no limits on the imagination. I felt that a lot of fantasy wasn’t fantastic enough and so created the world of the Joke to allow me to write a story where you were never sure what you were going to bump into around the next corner.”

His wonderful book can be found on amazon here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-Mask-Book-ebook/dp/B006NWQYVI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335037443&sr=8-1

And his blog and deviant art sites are here:

http://stephenwinterflood.blogspot.com/
http://winterflood.daportfolio.com/   (seriously, his artwork is beyond cool)

***

Explanation as to why I differentiate between self-published (SP) and mainstream published (MP) books…

MP’s have a team behind them, editors, publicists, marketing, artists and illustrators, professional reviewers with “links” and so on … they are crafted and honed to what the publishing house believes is perfection.

SP’s are usually managed by one person – the author. Sometimes the author will employ an editor and maybe an illustrator for the cover – but 9/10 times they take on all the above roles as well as working full time in the job that “pays the bills.”

So, when I say this is the best SP book – it really is. It is UNDOUBTEDLY as professional as a MP book – but I do like to separate the two when reviewing. I can’t help it.

My review of this can be found on Goodreads and on Amazon – each review is unique and not a copy and pasted job!