*First, a thank you to the author and publisher—I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest & unbiased review.*
Title & Author: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 384
To be Published: August 29, 2917
Sallot Leon is a gender fluid thief who auditions to be one of the Queen’s trusted assassins in order to gain access to the high court, get close to the nobles who destroyed their home, and exact their revenge. Sal quickly gets swept up in the deadly auditions, where the skills of the other auditioners are stacked against them.
Entertainment value: Rereader [ ★★★★ ]
Did I enjoy this book? Yes!!!
Do I think the read a waste of time? Not at all.
Would I read it again? I didn’t expect to, but I think I definitely will.
Bonus: Will I read the next installment? Yes!!
If you’re looking for something a bit more in depth, a bit more personal, feel free to keep reading. If not, congratulations! That’s it! You’re done! Now, go read a book (or not)!
“I was Sallot Leon—one of the last children of Nacea, orphan and street fighter, highway thief and Twenty-Three.”
Synopsis | GoodReads
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.
Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.
I gave the character aspect of this book ★★★★★ because YAY DIVERSITY! No, seriously—I loved the characters. I was immediately drawn to the idea of a gender fluid thief/assassin—those two things just compliment each other perfectly! I was also impressed by how believably Sal’s identity is blended into the story. It’s done in such a way that you barley even notice it and you just accept it, which is exactly how it should be! My only issue with character, which almost made me drop the ★★★★★ down to ★★★★, was that almost every single secondary character was an auditioner (or a member of the Left Hand) and that means that they were referred to by a number (or gemstone) only with virtually no other descriptions. It took me so long to get them straight and actually start caring about some of them—so long, in fact, that most of them were actually dead. BUT, this did fit wonderfully with Sal’s character and struggle to be understood and accepted by others—It made the characters themselves matter more than their gender or appearance. So, confusing… but not just for the sake of being confusing—the confusing serves a purpose.
I found that the plot was super fast paced and just when you think it’s over—nope! Surprise! It has murder, secrecy, and politics all blended together. I had one small issue, and it was a time:achievement-unlocked ratio-related issue. I won’t go into any more details, since the book won’t be released for another while. But it was only a small issue that I can easily overlook because the rest of the book was so good!
“They’d welcomed me into their house, and I was going to tear it down.”
This is the type of worldbuilding I love—the kind that leaves you wanting more…and then delivers on that with an amazing historical timeline at the end of the book! There is a fair amount of info-dumping in this book, which I personally love. But I know that doesn’t work for everyone, so bear that in mind if you read this book.
Like I said, this book flows really fast. What else would you expect from a book about people auditioning to be assassins? The only thing that slowed things down for me was the character-by-numbers problem, but that sorts itself out in the end. Sal’s true intentions behind auditioning keep things interesting—they didn’t just want to serve the realm. They had their own secret agenda that constantly kept them moving.
I’ve kept this review pretty brief since this was an advanced copy. But just know that Mask of Shadows is an incredibly entertaining read. It took me a bit to get into it, what with the numbered-character-confusion and all, but when I did get into I really loved it. So much that I preordered my own copy before I was even halfway through. Sal is a great, diverse character that we don’t really get to see a lot and the world is absolutely amazing! Plus, have you seen that cover!!! I’d definitely recommend reading this and I’ll probably even reread it at some point. I’m really looking forward to the second book in this duology!