Ahoy there me mateys! I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
mask of shadows (Linsey Miller)
Title: mask of shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: TODAY! (Hardcover/E-Book)
So this novel is about a young gender-fluid adult in a competition to become a court assassin for the purposes of revenge. Should have been a perfect catch but ended up being such a disappointment that I hereby decree that this book must walk the plank! Be forewarned dark opinions abide below . . .
Now this book is getting comparisons to Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo. Now as I thought that throne of glass was an atrocity of storytelling only worth existing so I could read Liam @ heyashers!, snarky read-along, I was hoping it would fall on the Bardugo side of the spectrum. I can definitively say that it did not.
It certainly is a better version of throne of glass. I mean the assassins at least compete and the clothes and romance are not the sole focus of the main character. Sal is assured of her skills and does use her brain occasionally which is nice. But overall she is not a compelling character. She seems to have no other major thoughts except for revenge and comes across as rather flat. Also for someone with no major education except street smarts, her lack of real struggling to learn and adapt to the court world and political society seem unrealistic at best.
The politics and world building also fall rather flat. I know that there is a young-ish queen struggling to keep her kingdom going but all the interesting political wrangling seemed to have occurred before the novel takes place. As does the magic. Magic has been banished from the land and the hints we get of it seemed tantalizing but nothing is truly explained. The info-dumping that does occur just leaves more questions. There is no real explanation of how the court functions, how any of the laws work, etc. The world structure seemed superfluous. I was hoping for more than that.
I wanted to abandon this book many many times because it was so not what I wanted. I kept reading for three reasons:
- Sal is gender-fluid. This is the first young adult book I have read with a gender-fluid character. I tend to see gender-fluidity dealt with a bit more in adult sci-fi. I wanted to see how this was incorporated for the main character throughout. I am not gender-fluid so I am not sure if this portrayal works for someone who is (and would LOVE to get that viewpoint) but overall I found this element lacking. I was glad to have Sal be gender-fluid. Inclusion of diverse elements is always wonderful. But with the exception of a couple of secondary characters, Sal spends most of the time being afraid of who she is. I would have liked to see more personal growth from Sal and those around them on this issue rather than just discussing how their outfit determined the pronoun used. Of course that may come in the next book . . .
- I rather enjoyed the secondary characters of Sal’s love interest and also Sal’s assistant. In fact I wanted the story to switch from Sal’s perspective to theirs. I knew it wasn’t going to but I was happy every time I got to spend time with either of those secondary characters.
- It was obvious who was going to win the competition, but I wanted to see what the set-up for the next novel was going to be. While there were twists in the story, (mostly because the assassin competition rules made no sense) I kept hoping that the cliche setting and flat characters were going to redeem themselves somewhere. I wanted a powerful ending. It didn’t happen for me.
So basically I will not be reading any further books in this series. The inclusion of diverse characters and me enjoyment of the secondary characters means that I may give the author’s future series/works a chance. But this one did not float me boat.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Sourcebooks Fire!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.
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, Emeral, 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.
Sal 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.
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