The Paper Masque takes place in a world very like the early 20th century in England, except that the structure of the monarchy is very different, and history has been slightly altered. In this world, Elsie Wembley is a privileged, spoiled, but compassionate princess. Her days consist of social appearances and public relations responsibilities, while her nights are filled with glamorous and decadent parties, and a number of bed partners.
As a character, I did not find her at all compelling or sympathetic. Most of the first part of the story is actually taken up with descriptions of her nightly escapades, which felt meaningless – in the sense that they meant nothing to her, and in the sense that they had little to no affect on the plot. They just seemed to take away from the plot. The experiences don’t change her in any way, none of her partners seemed to be fully characterized or have a strong role to play, and the “suitable” one who proposes seems to be nothing more than a foil for unsuitable Laurence. (more…)