Review: These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

I received this book for free from Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly ZekasThese Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks #2
Published by Swoon Reads on March 14, 2017
Genres: Historical, Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.

As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears...

As I’ve been doing with most books lately, I reread These Vicious Masks before embarking on the sequel. I was again impressed with the humor, the characterization, and the fast-paced sheer fun of the plot. All of those wonderful elements appear in spades in These Ruthless Deeds too, only, you know, turned up to ELEVEN, with an even more intense and shocking conclusion that left me in shock.

One of my other favorite current series, Lady Helen, has a similar-ish set up; both are historical fantasies about people with powers, centering on fabulous young ladies. The differences are myriad, and I’m not here to compare the too (though I will a bit), but where Lady Helen is Austen-esque in the wit and detail, These Vicious Masks takes more of a Tessa Dare approach (only much darker) with constant overt humor. Both are amazing and highly recommended, but pick wisely for your mood.

Evelyn’s such a queen. I just could not love her more than I do. Her observations are consistently hilarious, and I was laughing out loud through a good portion of this book. I sent endless quotes to Gillian as I read. Shanker and Zekas are so good at keeping the humor going consistently, only to suddenly slam you with sad or shippy feels in a way you were totally not prepared for, and then to make you laugh again.

The plot of the book totally worked for me, though the characters are definitely the shining light. The blurb essentially gives away the “twist,” but it happens about a third of the way through and is well handled so I don’t mind in the least. And, basically from the moment that happens through to the end, the book is fast and furious with constant painful surprises but the ever-present beat of amazing humor.

In These Ruthless Deeds, you get to know everyone better, and the cast expands to include a bunch of new characters. It’s a super painful book for, well, everyone, and oh my god I don’t know how Shanker and Zekas are going to resolve everything emotionally because MY POOR BRUISED DARLINGS.

Evelyn and Sebastian continue to be the cutest ship, and I absolutely love that Evelyn continues to see him as this handsome broody guy, and everyone else is doing the Victorian version of OMG WUT HE IS SUCH A GOOBER GIRL. And he really is just such a goober. There’s an absolutely fantastic chase scene and a shirtless scene and basically Shanker and Zekas know exactly how to play my shipstrings and oh how they do.

This series has maybe my favorite love triangle ever (though don’t quote me on it, since I don’t actually have a list). Mr. Kent’s amazing, and he becomes ever more so. He’s a bit much in book one sometimes, but the more you get to know him the more lovable he is. He wears his negative qualities openly, and I’ve come to admire that (and him) so much. Also, lbr, if I had his powers I would totally fuck with people by asking sensitive questions and watching them deal with it. He lightens every single scene he’s in, even when he’s hurting.

The reason I love this love triangle so much is that Mr. Kent doesn’t end up having his character assassinated. And, I like that he’s an actual good option. He’s a great guy and they get along so well, and, were Evelyn’s heart not already engaged, they totally could have been a thing. Unfortunately for Mr. Kent…

Given the fact that the cast has like a million people in it, it’s fucking impressive that I care about basically all of them a lot. I got serious feels from a beautiful scene between Emily and Evelyn. (And Emily and Laura should so totally be a thing.) Oliver’s a precious moppet, despite my general feelings on moppets. Evelyn’s kinda forgotten bestie (who was on a grand tour in book one) Catherine shows up and she’s fabulous and bookish and the trust between her and Evelyn deserves a million stars tbh. Lord Atherton, though awful, is the perfect straight man to the rest of the cast. I really can’t list everyone because there are so many but this cast is FABULOUS.

Because it’s a sequel, I don’t want to get into details about plots or anything. I DO want to talk about how much I love the way the powers work in this world. Shanker and Zekas make such clever use of everyone’s various powers. Mr. Kent has an obvious power on the surface, but he comes up with some creative applications I’d not anticipated. Miss Chen pulls out a hilarious application of her power in the midst of a battle. It’s another example of how good Shanker and Zekas are at humor of absolutely all sorts. Battle scenes often are a bit like in those fantastic old kung fu movies where Jackie Chan would get creative and use whatever comes to hand as a weapon.

These Ruthless Deeds lulls you into this false sense of security. It’s this flufftastic bantersplosion of all the best shiptrashy tropes, and it’s so completely unapologetic about every single bit of that. As it should be. But this book is also intense, dark, and heartbreaking, and you really don’t see that gut punch coming because five seconds before you were laughing at a hilarious joke. Even though I knew something was coming, Shanker and Zekas totally shocked and horrified me (in the good way). This series is surprisingly brutal, and that’s why I love the fuck out of it. But also, HOW COULD YOU?!?!?! That last battle scene was so intense that I actually couldn’t always tell quite what was happening, View Spoiler » and that’s basically the only qualm I have with this book at all.

This series is fucking fantastic. If you enjoy laughing a lot and getting gut punched, you absolutely must buy these because they are the best. (Even if they are the reason that I will never ever be able to quit Swoon Reads.)

Favorite Quote:

View Spoiler »

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


 

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