Mask of Shadows
By Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA Fantasy
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 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.
Mask of Shadows presented with great aspirations and blurb that promised a dynamic plot. Unfortunately, I failed to establish any form of real connection with the writing or characters. I am honestly at a loss on how to discuss my experience as I believe that while I may not have been the proper audience, it is sure to find one. I will keep this review on the lighter side, omitting the normal recap and simply highlight a few Pros and Cons.
- An ambitious plot-line featuring my first encounter with a gender fluid protagonist. There can never be enough diversity in reading! Ever! The simple fact that the author made a point of tackling Sal’s preferences on how they were acknowledged by others warrants appreciation. Sal offered some moments of insight and wit that I admired.
- An element of romance that avoided the normal clichés and was delivered at a welcomed, steady pace. I tire of instalove in YA fantasy. It feels like an all too common theme of late.
- Maud! Sal’s attendant during their audition is spectacular. I simply adored her and all that she contributed to the story.
- For all of Sal’s greatness, there was a feeling of missed potential. They deserved further exploration and development that the story never managed.
- The setting while held in high court, felt very isolated and vague at times. There was no true sense of world building or the surrounding environment. I feel that this could have enhanced the reading experience tremendously. I struggle with any fantasy that fails to construct rich and vivid settings.
- Given the concept, this felt like a title that should have pack a very heavy political and magic system, but the brevity of the back story left a lot to be desired and much unexplored.
- The story became redundant. Too much time was focused on Sal’s audition and inessential details. While I understand the auditions were of significance, there was a lot of untapped potential.
- Predictability and slow pacing.
In the end, it felt like Miller was onto something great that fell victim to ill-timed execution and a somewhat uneventful narration. There are a lot of interesting factors presented that could possibly receive a noteworthy redemption in a sequel if they are properly evolved and expanded. While Mask of Shadows fell short for myself, I would hesitate to sway others away. I feel this is a title to explore on your own accord as it will most likely be a love or hate relationship.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with this title. The above review is of me own, honest opinion.
Learn more about the author at linseymiller.com.