REVIEW: Black Face, White Face by Mara Li

blackfacewhitefaceNineteen-year-old Juliet has been suffering from nightmares ever since she survived a brutal attack on the Fallhallow National Bank. But she hopes to put those terrifying memories behind her on the day of the court trial. After all, with the criminal known as the Half-Face locked in chains, she will be perfectly safe… Until he manages to break free, that is, and grab the nearest hostage he can get his hands on.

What follows for Juliet is a long, exhausting journey through the harsh and unknown plains of Mongolia, forced to accompany a man who is as unreasonably violent as he is obsessively searching for his redemption.

Is the Half-Face insane and beyond hopes of rehabilitation? Or should she believe his own words, supported by the traditional shamans that this tattooed man seeks to consult, and accept that he is possessed by a dangerous spirit? –

Black Face, White Face is as much an internal journey as an external one. Half-Face sees Juliet as his savior, while Juliet shifts between anger at him and compassion.  There’s a lot of push and pull in their relationship, naturally, but I found their relationship to be believable and fascinating.

The pacing is perfect, which is impressive because it would have been easy for the traveling part of the narrative to drag. Li manages to work in enough drama, both internal and external, that this is not a problem.  Her writing is beautiful, at once evocative and simple. I was impressed with her execution of Half-Face’s signature speech pattern. It gave a unique color to his character, without being used often enough to be distracting.

This book never takes the easy way out. Li doesn’t cut corners in her character development or in the relationship between Juliet and Half-Face. It would have been easy to fall into the familiar tropes of kidnappings: Stockholm Syndrome, a tragically misunderstood captor, or even “fated” love. Li gracefully sidesteps all these pitfalls, presenting us with a complex, all-too-human dance of good and evil, hatred and compassion.


Title:  Black Face, White Face

Author:  Mara Li

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

Publication: Dutch Venture Publishing (April 1, 2014)

Price: $2.99 (ebook, all formats), $6.29 (paperback)

Author’s Website:


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