In 1948, when he was just a boy, Jimmy Kalmaku trained with his uncle to be the shaman of his Tlingit village in Alaska. There he learned the old legends, the old myths, the old secrets. Chief among them was that of a mask locked in a prison of ice, and of the faceless god imprisoned within: a cruel and vengeful god called T’Nathluk, dedicated to the infliction of pain and suffering.
Now all but forgotten in a Seattle retirement home, Jimmy finds his life turned upside down. For when an unwitting archaeologist pries the mask free of its icy tomb, he frees T’Nathluk as well. Stuck in spirit form, the Faceless One seeks a human to serve as a portal through which he can enter our reality. The Faceless One can control—and mercilessly torture—anyone who touches the mask, which means there is no shortage of slaves to ferry it across the country to its chosen host.
Yet the Faceless One has foes as well: Stan Roberts, a tough New York cop whose pursuit of justice will lead him into a dark abyss of the soul; Steven, Liz, and Bobby, the family of the doomed archaeologist; and Jimmy Kalmaku, who must at last become the shaman of his boyhood dreams.
I’m sorry to say that this novel didn’t captivate me as I had hoped it would. A new release just in time for Halloween, hailed as a “riveting nightmare of ancient evil,” I was sad to find that The Faceless One fell a bit short in this category, for me personally.
The story itself jumped around from character to characters too much for my tastes, making it difficult for me to follow along with much clarity. While I felt the synopsis pointed to a story about Jimmy Kalmaku and his knowledge and attempt to defeat the Faceless One, the novel itself spends much time focusing on the lives of seemingly unimportant and random characters. The story introduces a huge cast of characters, some of which play a rather small part in aiding the mask in its search, and I, personally, could have done with them. There is only so much back and forth that I can stomach in a novel, and jumping from one side character to the next, then to Jimmy and off to another character without much connection between them all made for a hard read, especially in the very beginning when I was trying to make headway with the novel.
The novel itself is a bit long and, by a quarter of the way through, I found that, for me, it still hadn’t taken off. Jimmy was still an inconsequential background character, as were many of those I’d met and watched die or otherwise aide the mask, and the pieces just seemed to be taking too long to put together without throwing me anything to really keep my interest. The novel did get better as it went on, but I personally found this one just a tad too long, lacking the scare factor I really wanted it to have, and confusing me in terms of characters. Overall, this is a great premise, but it’s just not the book for me. Two stars.
Random House Publishing Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on October 28, 2013.