Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: Mask of Shadows

 Title: Mask of Shadows (Untitled #1)
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC

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 (goodreads).

Mask of Shadows had too many loose threads, but I enjoyed the ride. 
Plot: I was sold on the idea of a competition to pick the next assassin; what I didn't expect was a multi-kingdom revenge story. I was really invested in the story for the first half - Sal was motivated and the competition was cut-throat. Slowly, Miller started adding higher stakes with different parties and something got lost in translation. I wanted more time to understand the world's politics and the intricacies of court life as well as the competition, but it all came across as shallow and underdeveloped. 

Characters: Sal's personality was everything I expected: unsympathetic, though, and goal-oriented. Their wants and needs started to get muddled with the introduction of the love interest - Elise. Their love story was shallow and didn't really strike me as necessary. I wanted to know more about the other characters who were being killed off a la the Hunger Games

And as the synopsis boasts, Sal was gender-fluid and they used the pronouns she/he/them depending on how they felt. I loved how respectful everyone was in terms of using the correct pronouns, but I couldn't help but see the irony in Sal assuming everyone else's gender.

Worldbuilding: For a fantasy world, the world of Mask of Shadows was run-of-the-mill, but in a good way. It had a lot of conflict with court intrigue - buzz words that I live for. Like I mentioned earlier, there could have been more explanation of the worldly conflicts so that I felt more involved had understood the stakes. 

Short N Sweet: Mask of Shadows was everything I expected in a fantasy novel, but needed 'more' of everything.


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