Ace of Shades
- Author: Amanda Foody
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: April 10, 2018
- Publisher: Harlequin Teen
- Series: The Shadow Game #1
CONTENT WARNING: blood, violence, death, murder, addiction, gore
Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets … and secrets hide in every shadow.
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city …
And she’ll need to play.
I haven’t seen this book hyped very much on social media, and after reading it, I honestly have to wonder … why not? I loved the story, the characters, and the vibe, and I’m definitely going to be checking out the next book in the series as soon as I’m able to. What originally drew me to this book was the stunning cover and that aesthetic is carried into the book, with chapters denoted by the suits featured on playing cards. Pretty fitting for a book set in a city that makes me think of Las Vegas — if it was much darker, full of magic, corruption, street lords, and organized crime.
The chapters are divvied up between 2 POVs — Enne and Levi. And the characters are as different as night and day. Enne is a finishing school girl, working as hard as possible to be a proper lady. Levi is a street lord, up to his neck in New Reynes business schemes and trouble. Clearly, this is the perfect pairing for a YA story. Even though Enne is kind of prissy and uptight at first, I loved getting to know her throughout the book. She is tough as nails on the inside, and even though it doesn’t come through on the outside at first, she really comes into her own as she stays in New Reynes. Pretty early on, she realizes that just being in this city is going to change her immensely, although it isn’t clear if that is going to be a good thing or a bad thing:
“Her mother had been right to keep her daughter in the dark, because each hour spent in New Reynes formed a new crack, and there was no way Enne was going to emerge from this city unbroken.”
But just being in New Reynes makes her question everything. She arrived in this dangerous place to get answers that can help her find her mother, Lourdes, who is now missing. A woman who kept secrets from her. A woman that she never questioned, despite the fact that she knew there was information missing. Because regardless, she trusted her. And now it might be too late to get the answers that she needs.
“Now Enne wanted to understand, and she regretted, more than anything, avoiding these questions before.”
But like so many mysteries where the person with all the answers isn’t available, every time Enne learns something, she winds up with more questions than before. Which is what kept me reading this book late into the night. I wanted answers to the questions, too!
“Before Enne left Bellamy, she’d already had a list of questions to ask Lourdes. Since arriving in New Reynes, she felt like the city had handed her two new mysteries for every question answered.”
But the story isn’t just about Enne and her questions. Levi was another interesting character, and seeing the same world through his eyes was an entirely different experience. While Enne was viewing New Reynes as a brand new place, one that is scary, mysterious, and potentially dangerous yet the only place she can find the answers to her questions, it symbolizes something else completely to Levi. It’s a town that he’s grown up in, a place where he’s accumulated some sense of power and influence. He’s got a bit a pull in the city, and he’s well-known. He worked hard to get his reputation, but he’s got his own demons to struggle with. And while Enne throws a wrench in his plans, she also offers him the possibility of salvation.
“Enne took another sip of her drink. ‘How am I supposed to go back?’ After the things I’ve done, she added silently. ‘Sometimes we’re not who we want to be because we’re supposed to be something else,’ he said.”
There’s an unusual magical system worked into the story — everyone has two talents, inherited from both parents, although one is dominant. Sometimes these talents work together, while other times they don’t exactly mesh well. And while some of these talents are everyday things, like dancing or counting, others are significantly more magical — seeing through lies, have extraordinary physical powers, or seduce someone someone without them being able to resist. It was an interesting system and I liked learning about it. It added an intriguing depth to the story, along with the political aspects of the story. While everything all sounds complicated, it’s actually explained clearly and there are no info-dumps, so it’s easy to understand. I’ve already requested the other two books in this series, and honestly can’t understand why this isn’t a more widely read series!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 12
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