Book Review

Mask Of Shadows

Mask of Shadows

  • Author: Linsey Miller
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: August 29, 2017
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • Series: Mask of Shadows #1

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, murder, gore, misgendering (challenged), torture

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that.

But genderfluid 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 her home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of the Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But 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. And as Sal succeeds in the competition and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Linsey Miller’s debut novel, the first in a duology, is filled with immersive world-building and captivating characters that will pull you in and won’t let go until the last page.

This one was a really cool story that kind of felt like a cross between The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass, but also felt entirely unique. I didn’t know much about it, and I was a little nervous going into this read since I had read a different book by the same author and didn’t love it, but I was open to trying again, and I’m glad that I did.

To start with, Sal is genderfluid in a society that seems relatively accepting of queer and nonbinary people, but the story doesn’t generally focus a lot on this aspect of their identity. There are queer characters in the story as well, and they’re free to live their lives openly, even in the upper classes of society. Although Sal’s nonbinary identity doesn’t seem to be well-understood by everyone, they are misgendered at multiple points and it is challenged by another character. While they aren’t asked directly for pronouns, they are asked how they want to be addressed, and think about their own identity in these terms:

“…I always felt like Sal, except it was like watching a river flow past. The river was always the same, but you never glimpsed the same water. I ebbed and flowed, and that was my always.”

The story was fast-paced and full of action. There was a competition between many competitors, and while it focused on some of the competitors, we didn’t really get to know most of them. The story was more about Sal’s growth and development throughout the book, and they did show a lot of progress over the course of the story. At first, they were (understandably) filled with rage, and acted out on it a lot of the time. There’s a lot going on in the world, and we get to learn more about it over time, with the author providing information a bit at a time until we get a fuller picture about Sal’s history and the overall picture of what was happening in their world. The world-building turned out to be fantastic, with history, religions, languages, and customs that varied depending on which part of the world they came from.

I was impressed with this debut, and can’t wait to read the sequel. It’s got plenty of action, and there were many plot twists that I didn’t see coming, although the romance was rather predictable, and there were definitely a couple of twists that I could see a mile away. Overall, I’m really glad I grabbed this book off the shelf, and highly recommend it.

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: 10

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