Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Publish Date: August 29th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: 4 Stars
Summary: Sal 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 robbery 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 with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and a 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 got this ARC from Miss Print’s ARC Adoption in exchange for an honest review.
Honestly, books about Assassins will get me every time. Mask of Shadows follows Sal a thief who wants to enact revenge on those who abandoned their home and let it fall to the shadows. After losing their entire family and their people, Sal knows the only thing that will make it better is to get revenge on those who turned their backs on them. When Sal robs a upper-class coach and stumbles upon a poster for auditions for the Left Hand, they know this is their chance to get everything they want. What Sal doesn’t prepare for is the people they meet while auditioning.
There was a lot I really loved about this book. The first being that Sal is gender fluid. In the book, it’s something that is a part of the character and I really liked seeing a gender fluid character in a fantasy novel. I myself am not gender fluid but to me, it felt like Linsey put in a lot of time and research to make Sal as authentic as possible. And that definitely comes across, with the way Sal explains it to the Left Hand and to the other competitors. The way it was handled was amazingly well done.
The second thing I really loved was how fast this book moved. Within about 4 chapters Sal has their proof of entry and is on their way to the auditions. I read quite a bit of fantasy and I always find that the first book is a bit tedious because of how much world building goes on (which isn’t a bad thing) but I loved how quickly it moved. It was what kept me so intrigued and made me not want to put it down. That being said with how fast this book moves I felt we lost a bit of the world building and getting to know the character, which is made up for later in the book and overall it doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed this book. Sal was a great character and I would have loved to know more about their thinking process. I felt like we weren’t given a lot of insight into Sal’s mind even though the story was told from their POV.
I did love Sal though. I thought they were a brilliant character. They start off trusting no one and with time they let a few people in. I loved Sal’s relationship with Maude his maid for the competition. I loved that they became friends and Maude worked to help Sal win this competition and that in turn, Sal began to care for Maude. Another thing that I loved was how Sal was not good at a lot of things. They could run and steal and sneak, but shooting an arrow and fighting with a sword was not their strong suit. It made me like Sal a lot that they struggle with things and it didn’t come naturally to them. This book I will say is pretty violent. The competition is them killing each other off, so you get a few the details after a kill. It’s not horrible but if you don’t like violence and senseless killing, you most likely won’t like this one.
A couple things that bothered me a bit was some chapters did some weird jumps. Something big would happen and they would jump to a few days later. It didn’t happen a lot but when it did it was jarring. I would have to flip back to see if I missed something. It would get explained a couple paragraphs in but I thought those jumps were a bit weird. Then there was the fact that some of the names and people were a bit confusing to follow. Sal or other characters would use someone’s full name and then a couple sentences later use just their first. Which for me had me confused, again I figured it out but it took me a second. And a lot of characters had long names! And the last thing is that I wish we got to see more of Sal’s process. I’m not sure how to explain this but I felt like Sal thought differently than everyone else, especially with how to handle certain situations, I felt like we were told but not shown. I would have loved to have Sal’s thought process or their moves explained later.
Overall though I thought this book was amazing and really well done. This is the first book in the series and I’m excited to see where this story goes. I would also love to get a more in depth look at Sal. I think they were such an interesting character but I would like to have them fleshed out a bit more. Mask of Shadows was awesome and it was everything I look for in a fantasy novel. If you get the chance definitely read this one, it’s quick and it’s a fun read.