Jack of Spades
An entertaining spy story with a determined heroine at its centre..This is an interesting period of history and Sophie Masson has fone her research well. (Magpies magazine, March 2017)
Rosalind Duke is just the kind of plucky heroine I love at the centre of my historical fiction. She's happy to step outside the social norms of her time and she keeps a cool head about her in thrilling circumstances. And there are plenty to be found in this fast-paced adventure.
Sophie Masson is a champion at weaving intrigue and adventure with strong, memorable characters and a touch of romance. (Kids' Book Review, April 19, 2017)
Hunter's Moon(RHA 2015)
Hunter’s Moon has all the appeal of romance, action, magic and a fabulous frock or two which has been brilliantly constructed to not overwhelm or confuse readers in the early teens. (Jacquelyn Muller, Buzz Words July 28 2015)
Bianca has plenty of agency after those first pages, and Masson keeps the excitement going until the end. Teenage readers will love the romance. (Stella Lees, Reading Time, May 29, 2015)
In this lunarscape of disguise, dreams, revenge, curses and mirrors, we remember a lesson from Shakespeare: that things are not always what they seem. Surprises ride on the narrative device of giving readers a head-start in dramatic irony. We suspect that something is wrong, ahead of the protagonist, for whom romance weaves its own self-deception. (Louisa John-Krol, Victorian Fairy Tale Ring, July 2015)
Trinity: The Koldun Code(Momentum 2014)
The Koldun Code has all the elements of the very best romantic thrillers : an utterly gripping, suspenseful plot that's complex without being too complicated, a highly atmospheric setting, and a cast of memorable characters – a hero and heroine who you come to care about deeply, villains who surprise. What makes this novel even more extraordinary is the Russian setting and the clever blend of history, legend and mythology. And then there are the hints of the supernatural that give the narrative a darker edge - and kept this reader's heart pounding most pleasurably!
One of the things I really admire about The Koldun Code is that – as with all of Masson’s writing – it’s accessible and enjoyable to all: teenagers and adults of every age will love this book. I can think of only a few writers who have this knack – the great Mary Stewart, Tolkien, and our own wonderful Ruth Park – but Masson has it in spades.
Bring on Trinity Part Two! (Wendy James, on Amazon)
This new page-turner from well-known Australian writer, Sophie Masson, is a departure from her recent novels for children and teenagers which are usually set in France and/or Australia. This is her first novel for adults in quite a while, and it is set in Russia in the present, a country caught in the grip of its painful transition from communism to capitalism, bringing greed, ambition, corruption, and ruthless battles for power in its wake. But this story also invokes the Russia of the past, with its turbulent history and its rich tradition of magic and fantasy, with all of these elements combined in this explosive new mystery / romance from a master story-teller.
Helen Clement, recovering from a disastrous love affair, comes to Russia with her mother to visit her mother's old friend, a university professor who is currently engaged in researching and writing a story about a feral child raised by a bear - a story that seems to have some connection with the psychic direction that Trinity, a well-known and highly-regarded investigative company, has now embarked on, known as the mysterious 'Koldun Code'. Handsome Alexey is the new heir to Trinity, for his father has been murdered, as have two other partners of Trinity. After a chance meeting, Helen joins Alexey in an investigation into their murders, and into what is really going on behind the scenes, joined by a rogue policeman, Maxim, and Alexey's godfather (and key member of the firm) Volkovsky. The growing love and psychic connection between Helen and Alexey is a key element of this story, as Alexey finds new purpose in his life, and Helen learns to trust her heart.
A combination of fantasy, magic, romance and crime, this mystery will keep you guessing until the entirely unexpected conclusion - of this part of the story at least! (Felicity Pulman, on GoodReads)
The Crystal Heart(Random House Australia 2014) Notable Book, Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, 2015, Shortlisted for Davitt Awards, 2015.
What a great book. From the first page I was totally engrossed. I loved the two main characters and their world. I was sorry when the book finished and easily could have read on for another couple of hundred pages. (Jody, Goodreads)
This is a very lovely story with appealing protagonists. Like all the best fairy tales, there is a great love story, and great hardship for the lovers...Middle to upper secondary students will enjoy this book, and there is enough fighting and adventuring to engage boys as well as girls. Recommended for high school and public libraries. (Rebecca Kemble, Magpies magazine, Sept 2014)
1914(in Australia's Great War series, published by Scholastic 2014 ):
Sophie Masson’s version of 1914 takes up the story of two brothers, Louis (16) and Thomas (19) who happen to be living with their diplomat-career parents in Vienna at the time of the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne. Both brothers are smart, interested in the world, and ambitious to write. They are ideal young characters to witness these events and help the reader make sense of them as both history and as part of the maelstrom of contemporary events around the boys. It is a challenge to explain simply and dramatically to young readers why such a major war erupted, and Masson does a mighty good job of it. The novel follows the first year of the war as Germany won many battles against the general expectation that they would quickly succumb to the forces of the Entente Allies. Instead, by the end of 1914 both sides had entrenched themselves behind barbed wire, artillery and machine guns. While Louis takes up a role as a reporter, Thomas enlists as a soldier. This gives the novel an opportunity to allow us to see a range of battles, the deteriorating situation, and sometimes to glimpse how the war might be experienced from the other side. Sophie Masson does not fail to make it clear to the reader the effects of young lives lost, of injuries that maimed people for life, and of the emergence of trench warfare. Interestingly, we learn of the intricacies of Allied attempts (especially British) to control the news that came from the front line. Like all wars, this one was fought hard across the territory of propaganda as much as it was fought in the mud and trenches. This is a superb novel, managing to be sensitive and exciting as a narrative, while also being respectful of the larger history it is touching upon. (Kevin Brophy, Reading Time online, August 2014)
An in-depth and human depiction of the friendships that are affected by the atrocities of war. An exceptional read for Years 7 and up. This book also includes some historical notes to explain the chronological order of the events that took place. (Donna Clark, Bug in a Book)
Sophie Masson has written a fascinating account of that first year of war, when the deaths of Ferdinand and Sophie triggered an event so shocking, it was known as 'The Great War.' What follows as seen through the eyes of Louis will have readers from upper primary to middle secondary glued to the pages as Masson includes a huge amount of detail so carefully entwined that it is only at the end the reader realises how much they have absorbed. ..This is a thrilling read. (Fran Knight, Magpies magazine, Sept 2014)
Emilio (Allen and Unwin, 2014)
Emilio is a dark and suspenseful novel..Sophie Masson's writing is engaging as always; the drama is intense and the suspense is sustained right through to the end. The characters are well-drawn and believable..Emilio deals with a heavy topic in a way that is sensitive and serious. (Jane Smith, Magpies magazine, July 2014)
Scarlet in the Snow is a beautiful, engrossing fantasy for teen and adult readers. Readers will recognise this as a retelling of the fairy tale most commonly called Beauty and the Beast, but should not expect that this means they will know what happens, as Masson has truly made the story her own, blending fantasy and intrigue in a wonderful tale of adventure and romance.
The exquisite cover is a good indication of the quality of the take within. (Sally Murphy, Aussie Reviews, Sept 9, 2013)
In Scarlet in the Snow, Sophie Masson presents a new styling of the old Beauty and the Beast traditional tale (La Belle et la Bête), first published in 1740 and gives it a new and engaging twist that will be sure to captivate the girls looking for something with rather more substance than the general pulp fiction in the romance genre.
Carefully employing many of the original elements of the story – a once rich family reduced to poverty, the enchanted forest, a mysterious mansion occupied by an apparently invisible owner, tables laden with magical food, and most importantly a beautiful rose plucked innocently without any malice – Masson weaves a complex but beautiful rendering of the story breathing real life into the characters and their circumstances.
Tragedy, revenge, intrigue and love triumphant are crafted into an unravelling of the story in which Masson has combined selected motifs of the many hundreds of versions of the original tale.
Taking her setting from Russia and drawing most heavily on the version retold in that country, the author has created highly believable and very human characters in Natasha, Ivan and even Old Bony. There is a definite tone of steampunk in the later settings/incidents in the book which this reader found highly engaging.
With teaching notes available from the publisher this would make a terrific book for lower secondary students engaged in shared reading or book groups. (Sue Warren, Qld Teacher-Librarian networks)
Inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, Sophie Masson’s magnificent new novel Scarlet in the Snow is a magical, emotive tale of love, enchantment, tragedy and sacrifice, and betrayal. She has created an outstanding heroine in Natasha who leads a cast of spellbinding characters in an equally spellbinding story. It’s a mystery adventure involving hearts as cold as the frozen environment in which the story is set, and simultaneously, a romantic tale as warm as the emotion that compels the rational Natasha to embark on a hero’s journey. Heroism, strength of character, and determination, are the weapons she carries with her; the arrows that will point to answers with the power to release her love from an eternal diabolic enslavement. Scarlet in the Snow is a multi-layered novel with its shape-shifting, ancient witches and spells, challenges and resolutions. It has every element a reader looks for in a well-crafted and perfectly presented novel of great imagination. Brilliantly told in poetic prose, this novel won’t be put down till the last word is read. ( Anastasia Gonis, Freelance Writer, Reviewer and Interviewer.)
The accompanying blurb relates that this story has been 'inspired by two beautiful Russian fairytales - The Scarlet Flower (the Russian version of Beauty and the Beast) and Fenist the Falcon' and while it starts with the traditional themes that I was very familiar with, by the end of the tale, I was astounded about where the story led. It is beautifully told in rich, complex language and lovers of the fairy tale retold genre, as I am, will happily read the story of Natasha and her Beast.
Natasha is a combination of an intelligent, strong personality, overlaid with a goodness that I sometimes found a little difficult to take. However she is an intrepid adventurer, seeking the truth about the Beast, researching old newspapers and travelling to distant lands hoping for an answer that will break the spell that enchants the Beast. Natasha overcame many obstacles to true love, some of which were strange and quite compelling.
Masson has been able to bring alive aspects of the fairy tale setting and her descriptions of Natasha's stay with the witch of the forest was really vivid and memorable as were the sleigh rides and the Beast's mansion.
This is an enjoyable addition to a growing genre of retellings of fairy tales.
Pat Pledger, www.readplus.com.au
I just loved this retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, told with flair, dash, and panache, by one of my favourite Australian women writers (yay! Another AWW2013!) Sophie Masson has really found her niche with these books ('Scarlet in the Snow' is set in the same alternative-world Prague as Sophie's previous novel, 'Moonlight & Ashes', which was one of my BEST BOOKS READ IN 2012.) This is YA fantasy at its best - filled with magic, adventure and just a touch of romance. Loved it! (Kate Forsyth)
This part-historical novel, part fantasy and part-fairytale retelling (Moonlight and Ashes) is a strong display of the author's talents, both in the writing and the characters she has created. Max and Selena are only two of the many characters that continually surprise. Threaded throughout is the familiar tale of Cinderella, but given that the characters of this retelling have so much free will and determination, it will come as no surprise that they have steered this novel to a different place entirely. With a rich historical backdrop, this book has plenty of contemporary relevance, particularly the role of strong women throughout--women who know and use their minds, who aren't afraid to say no and who don't mind getting their hands dirty. In Moonlight and Ashes, Sophie Masson has taken a tale that is familiar to us all, stripped it bare of its lace and frivolity and turned the skeleton into something strong, rich, and full of life. (Bec Kavanagh, Viewpoint magazine, Summer 2012 issue.)
The retelling of fairy tales is a favourite genre of mine and I found that this beautiful version of the old Cinderella tale was very difficult to put down. Selena is a strong heroine who doesn't wait for a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand. Instead she uses her own magic and determination to find a dress for the ball where she meets the handsome Prince (whose actions are not as handsome as his face) and his friend Max. Through her skill and determination she sets out to rescue herself and her friends when they are thrown into the Mancer's dungeons. She must use her magic and her intellect to help the kingdom and save the Emperor when an evil plot that a section of the Mancers, who control all magic in the kingdom, is uncovered. Masson's vivid description of the Moon Sister magic and the idea of a hazel twig as a magical tool are quite compelling.
Young girls in particular will love the story of a young woman who is prepared to leave the man she loves in order to fulfil her destiny and who is always compassionate and caring for the people around her.
A compelling story with plot twists and a feisty heroine, Moonlight and ashes will appeal to readers who like adventure, romance and an action packed plot. (Pat Pledger, ReadPlus blog)
Moonlight and Ashes is a brilliant retelling of the Cinderella story, though it is as unexpected as it is beautiful. There is not a fairy godmother or a pumpkin in sight. Instead, Selena is a strong young woman who draws on her own resourcefulness, and the strength of her new friends, together with her newly discovered gifts, to grasp her destiny.
There is magic in this book – it captivates and keeps the pages turning. (Sally Murphy, AussieReviews blog)
Sophie Masson's latest historical tale of Ned Kelly's Secret is a remarkable blend of fact and fiction: a tale which readily transports readers to the era of our history when the legends of bushrangers were born...The authentic descriptions of both the settings and historical figures are credible and engaging, while the dilemmas of truth and loyalty are thought-provoking. The appeal of the legend blended with adventure and mystery will engage Upper Primary and Lower Secondary readers and is a must-read companion to Masson's The Hunt for Ned Kelly. (Allison Patterson, Magpies, July 2012 issue)
The author has created a fantastic character in Hugo Mars. He is keen to help his father’s research and is encouraged by Mr Mars to make up his own mind about situations and people rather than follow others. He also longs to strike out on his own and does so occasionally, yet is reasonably cautious, not foolhardy. Masson manages to make the reader see the unfolding drama through the eyes and perspective of Hugo. The scene where he meets Harry Power and is torn between admiration and dislike is particularly powerful in this respect. The writing is evocative. In the wonderfully tense bail-up
scene, Hugo describes the kookaburra’s sound as the “long drawn-out cackle of a witch mocking our pitiful plight.” The bush, small country towns and the city of Melbourne in 1875 are well drawn and full of life.It is well researched and holds the excitement, suspense and drama of a great bushranging tale. Ned Kelly is not painted as evil, nor particularly good, and the openness of right and wrong works really well in this telling of Ned’s boyhood years. This book would suit boys or girls from the age of twelve, and I think boys in particular will connect with the brave and adventurous Hugo Mars. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and informative story about an era of Australian history. (Jenny Heslop on Ned Kelly's Secret, Buzz Words magazine, August 16 2012)
Masson's take on "what you know" is to write with emotional heart, while everything is processed through a bristling imagination, one in which mythology and the occult sprint alongside the modern masquerade of rationality. Masson's presence is striking, her voice clear as a bell and the self-disclosures are rewarding if double-edged...This collection has more structure than most, carved as it is into three neat organising divisions of Life, Literature and Legends. Masson never strays too far from her upbringing, love of reading, experience as a writer and her deeply entrenched fascination with fantasy, giving the work a resonance and connectivity that is sustained even though these pieces were composed across a 15-year period. ..
Whether it is an ode to libraries, a critique of Andrei Makine's Human Love, a "long literary mind-travel" in Russia where she spied"Chekhov's doomed families sitting at shabby tables", a defence of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, a cool swipe at behind-the-scenes shenanigans at writers festivals, a reflection on the fatherless heroes of the Arthurian legends or how aliens are the new angels, Masson's thoughts are opinionated, wry, erudite, amusing, nostalgic and, yes, from time to time overly peppered with fantasy and flamboyant metaphor. They are nonetheless intriguing.
Masson thrives on "following her imaginative nose" and looking "beyond the obvious" and her gift is in making the ordinary gleam and the well worn glimmer.
Any complaints echoing down the years about the fusty, over-polemical, fussily ephemeral, hollow and self-aggrandising essay are washed away with the reading of this book.' (Gillian Wills, The Australian, June 9, 2012, on Life, Literature Legends)
This fabulous tale, inspired by the Grimm fairytale Ashputtel, will capture young romantics' hearts. Like Cinderella, Selena is treated as a scullery maid when her cruel stepmother takes charge of the household. But Selena has a dangerous secret. Like her mother, she is a ``forbidden'' moon sister, capable of powerful magic -- if only she knew how to tap it. Werewolves, witches and princes provide ingredients for this fairytale, while a cunning heroine in Selena make this a great story for girls.
Verdict: spellbinding (Clare Kennedy, Herald-Sun, Melbourne July 28, on Moonlight and Ashes)
This is a reversioning of the Cinderella story. Selena’s father is a wealthy nobleman who lives in a provincial city called Ashberg. When his wife dies and he remarries, his new wife persuades him to annul his marriage and so Selena is banished below stairs because she is now not a legally recognised daughter.
In this story magic is banned in this land and there is a group of people called The Mancers who are very sinister and powerful and who seek out any magic. Selena is a Moon-sister, one of a secret race of magical people, who have been hunted out of existence, and she has to keep her magic secret.
She dreams regularly and her mother gives her advice in these dreams. In one dream she is told to ask her father for the Hazel twig he has collected from her mother’s grave as a birthday present.
This twig is of course magical and its leaves provide all the things Selena needs to get to the ball where she meets Prince Leopold, who turns out to be obnoxious and very self-centered. She does however strike up a friendship with his best friend Max, and when she and Max find themselves locked away in a Mancer prison with a werewolf their adventure begins.
Fabulous, I loved it, couldn’t put it down. Fesity main character who does a lot more for herself than normal. Great interpretation of what magic actually is.(Sarah Cox Mayor, Goodreads, also on ABC radio, on Moonlight and Ashes)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Moonlight and Ashes largely due to the fact that this novel was enriched by many convincing and believable characters. Masson was able to successfully develop these throughout her story and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring their personalities who were often shaped by past experiences. These believable characters convincingly held the magical and mystical plot together to make this book both intriguing and exciting. In particular I loved the way the main character Selena perfectly matured throughout the novel into the true epitome of Cinderella. I also admired her streak of extreme impulse and eagerness to escape the past and discover her role as a moon sister. At the end of the novel she was ultimately able to take charge of her own destiny and help other characters discover theirs along the way. (Emily Barker, Inside a Dog blog)
This isn’t the first fairy tale Sophie Masson has used as the base for one of her enchanting novels. Clementine, for example, set Sleeping Beauty during the French Revolution and a century later. My own favourite, Cold Iron, took the British version of Cinderella, Tattercoats, and set it in Elizabethan England, mixing in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night Dream. This novel is set in an imaginary country, but the era is nineteenth century. There are newspapers and photographs and steam trains. And it works. Selena (appropriate name for a young “moon sister”) is not the passive Cinderella of the fairy tales. She stays in that house both because her dying mother made her promise not to leave her father and because, without money, she knows she won’t get far before she’s caught and dragged back. When she is alone and having to plan ahead, she shows intelligence and courage. It’s interesting, really, how much like Cinderella the current paranormal romance is. You know - ordinary teenage girl meets gorgeous paranormal guy, falls in love and is rewarded by his return of her love. That, or she saves his life and finds out she is the Chosen One and then he falls in love with her. But Selena is a believably strong heroine and while there’s a hint of Chosen One, she has to put up with an awful lot before things work out for her, and she’s only Chosen because there’s nobody else available at the time. I finished this in a couple of hours, being caught up in the almost non-stop action and delighted by the beauty of the language. Yet it’s easy, comfortable reading and should appeal to girls from about fourteen up. (Sue Bursztynski, The Great Raven blog)
'Masson cleverly weaves traditional beliefs about these creatures(boggles) into the modern fascination with computer games, and the result is an absorbing mystery.' (review of Boggle Hunters, in Good Reading, April 2012.)
Author Sophie Masson turns from her more familiar worlds of fantasy to historical fiction with The Hunt for Ned Kelly. Her picture of life in the Australian bush is well-researched and she expertly captures the energy and chaos of the gigantic manhunt. Bookish Jamie and feisty Ellen are both strong, engaging and distinctive characters. A recommended read for upper primary and above, particularly those with an interest in history, storytelling and the power of myth.'(Australian Bookseller and Publisher, December/January 2009-10)
'This is a skilfully written book—a mixture of fact and fiction in which the reader becomes increasingly involved with the lives of Jamie, Ellen and Ned Kelly. A fascinating book.'
(Reading Time, May 2010.)
'Masson has created a moving and exciting story, and it is easy to get involved in the story of Jamie and Ellen and how their lives intersect with the notorious bushranger. The re-creation of the town of Beechworth during the 1870's feels authentic, and both characters are likeable and resilient.' (Viewpoint, Winter 2010.)
'What's good about the Phar Lap novel is that young readers aged 10-plus don't necessarily have to be horsey fans to enjoy it; the book introduces the novice to various equine terms such as the role of bookmakers and includes interesting facts..Masson has used original newspaper articles and interviews as sources and kept the names of key figures, which give the novel an air of authenticity about it even though the whodunnit aspect is obviously fictional. Set during the Depression years, the novel reflects the straitened times well, and relationships between father and daughter and their circle of friends and family are also beautifully depicted.' (Australian Bookseller and Publisher, September 2010.)
This is a delightful mix of adventure, mystery and historical fiction. Masson brings to life both the landscape of France and the era of the Great War. (Good Reading Magazine on My Father's War, April 2011.'
Annie is a strong, resourceful character with a distinctive voice...This is a recommended read for those in upper primary and lower secondary wanting to understand something of the Anzac experience...' (Australian Bookseller and Publisher on My Father's War).
The Understudy’s Revenge is an exciting book of historical fiction for middle school readers. Millie Osborne is an errand girl for King’s company, the famous troupe of actors who, beset by tragedy and misfortune, have decided to put on a spectacular performance of Hamlet to announce their comeback. When Oliver Parry shows up to audition, Millie is intrigued by him and, driven by her desire to become a writer like the famous Charles Dickens, befriends him, hoping to find out more about his travels and mysterious life. But Oliver has many secrets, and there is more to his arrival than he lets on. Millie and her friend Seth suspect a devious plot, drawing parallels between Oliver’s appearance and the story of Hamlet, and set out to bring him to justice. The plot moves quickly, making this a great story for young readers new to the historical fiction genre. There is a touch of romance that connects the characters, but it is not the focus of the story, and is never sickening. The Understudy’s Revenge is a pacy, entertaining read that is perfect for girls who are bored or disinterested with fantasy, but who enjoy a richly imagined story that they can lose themselves in. (Austtralian Bookseller and Publisher, Jan/Feb 2011)
'Like all of Sophie Masson's work, Snow, Fire, Sword, has a real storytelling intelligence directing it, and a true and vivid sense of what makes a fascinating narrative. And what I like especially is that it isn't the usual fairytale setting but something quite original. (Philip Pullman)
Sophie Masson combines her unique gifts of marvelous storytelling, high drama, and poetic intensity(Lloyd Alexander on Snow, Fire, Sword)
The Secret Army is a striking new departure from one of Australia's most original authors—a compelling, fantastical boy's own adventure, a blend of X-Men and Indiana Jones, a graphic novel that works on many levels. As we have come to expect from Sophie Masson, it's multi-layered, blending history, literature, fantasy and even sporting heroes(Anthony Horowitz on The Secret Army: Operation Loki)
Styled like an Agatha Christie story, The Case of the Diamond Shadow is a twisting-turning-twisting mystery, with plenty of subtle humour. Recommended for 12+ readers. (Aussiereviews.com)
There is a beauty and poetry about the style of this novel and it is, at the same time, wonderfully visual; I kept imagining an Arthur Rackham painting. The Forest of Broceliande, where the wizard Merlin is supposed to have been locked in a tree, is almost a character in its own right. The cover shows a brooding face with owl eyes and beak over dark waters -- beautifully done, as long as young readers don't mistake this for a horror novel. In Hollow Lands is highly recommended(January Magazine)
The Thomas Trew stories (this is the fifth) are always evocative and exciting, but this is one of the most thrilling – Thomas is in the greatest peril, and the suspense is maintained right to the end. The loyalty and love of Pinch and Patch are tested to the utmost, and Thomas has to reconnect with his mother’s gift of song. Sophie Masson’s version of the Flying Huntsman is magnificent. (Write Away, UK, on Thomas Trew and the Flying Huntsman)