Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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Mask of Shadows 
By Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781492647492
Pages: 352
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

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.

(New) Thoughts

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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

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Learn more about the author at linseymiller.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)
By Rachel Caine
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
ISBN13: 9780451473134
Pages: 374
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

In an exhilarating new series, “New York Times” bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time. 

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. 

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service. 

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge is more valuable than any human life and soon both heretics and books will burn.

(New) Thoughts

I am utterly, completely hooked! This was my first encounter with Rachel Caine’s work and she has sunk her writing claws deep into my reading heart. I was up past the midnight hour finishing this book because I simply could not reach a point where I was ready to put it down.

The Great Library regulates the public’s access to knowledge through the use of alchemy and blanks (imagine e readers under the Library’s control).  To own an original work is strictly prohibited and comes with great risks. Jess Brightwell is a runner (deliverer of black market titles). Hi family supplies books to those who are willing to brave the potential threats if caught. When he is sent to the Great Library to train as part of his father’s efforts to place eyes and ears on the “inside”, he discovers his obedience and loyalty to his family will be put to the ultimate test. Jess thrives on knowledge and all that the Library aims to preserve. But when he uncovers just how far they will go and what they will sacrifice to protect this knowledge and their foothold, he will face the ultimate challenge.

Caine delivers a unique cast that is enduring and offers constant variety. There is a welcomed amount of diversity the works beautifully in engaging and connecting the reader. Jess Brightwell is intelligent and well-rounded but not without his own trials. His love for the written word and continuous struggle with family loyalty versus his morals and the Library provide a nice balance of tension and admiration that establishes him as credible, allowing a more personal link with the reader. The supporting characters are not without their own merit as they each contribute equally to the story.

While many of us are no stranger to dystopian worlds where books and reading are the center of conflict, Ink and Bone takes this familiar story and ups the ante to extreme heights. With an ever evolving plot that continues to thicken by the page, elements of a dynamic magic system and alchemy supply new facets that feed into what quickly becomes a truly original and compelling plot. Incorporating cultural factors and aspects of steampunk beautifully intermingled with libraries, black market books and even a war-zone in a constantly changing setting guarantee excitement.

I am including a note on the unabridged audio edition as I ended receiving this on audible as well, so I am reviewing both. Published by Recorded Books and narrated by Julian Elfer, it is approximately 10 hrs and 26 minutes in length. Elfer’s narration is outstanding and proved to add a deserved air and life to the story that only serves to enhance it. Accurately paced delivery and clear and concise dialog performance make this an ideal audiobook for fans.

Caine’s writing is clever and crisp. She sets a fluid and fast paced tone that fuels the adventure and creates an effortless experience. Events segue beautifully and her eye for detail leaves nothing for want other than the sequel! Ink and Bone is a fully immersive experience that promotes thought. It tackles and challenges the effects on society when governing systems attempt to manipulate or control knowledge. A must read for fans of dystopian fantasies who enjoy divergent stories!

*I would like to thank Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing Company for this book and opportunity. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Learn more about the author at rachelcaine.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

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Available 9/19/17
One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2)
By Kendare Blake
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN13: 9780062690456
Pages: 464
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

(New) Thoughts

I contemplated a reread of Three Dark Crowns before diving into One Dark Throne, but my curiosity and anticipation won, as is nearly often the case. But I fared surprisingly well! Picking up this continuation was like returning home (if home is shrouded in betrayal and death). I was instantly taken back to Fennbirn and the deadly ascension to the throne. Oh how good it is to be home!

The Ascension year has begun and the three sisters continue their “imposed” rivalry to reign. Only this time they have returned with even more ferocity and determination. Tables have turned and realities have set in. The girls now understand what must and will happen. Pitted against one another and uncovering new strengths and secrets, the stakes are at an all-time high. But only one queen can survive. Only one queen can occupy the throne. Who will rise to the top?

Please let it be Arsinoe!

OK, now that we know who my favorite is, let’s talk characters for a moment. Three Dark Crowns did an excellent job of setting this elaborate stage and exploring the sisters at great lengths. We learned of their fears, weaknesses and personal desires. We connected. One Dark Throne takes all of those facts and evolves them into something much larger. Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella now understand that there is no escaping their fates but this doesn’t mean they have all accepted this.

There is nothing left for these young women to do but grow on personal levels and make some hard decisions. And that is exactly what they do. Faced with an uncertain future, they seek answers and a means. The complexity of their situation allows for tremendous character depth. There is a multitude of emotions surfacing and each sister handles them in her own, unique fashion. This brings a lot of questions to the forefront as we soon formulate our own theories on each. Who deserves the throne? Who deserves to live? Add some new twists and developments that really expand on the supporting characters and you have intricate and engaging experience. So while the plot is stellar, for myself, One Dark Throne remains a character driven read.

But about that plot.. It is fierce and ambitious! Three young women raised together as siblings and then separated and trained in preparation to fight one another to the grisly, bitter end. Many heightened emotions are abound, feelings run amok and you know dark  secrets are likely to be revealed. As complex as it all is in theory and concept, Kendare Blake still executes it with incredible ease and finesse.

Incorporating a dynamic magic system and elaborate world building, One Dark Throne begs to be savored. It is ever evolving and with the constant element of surprise. Blake’s writing is smart, vivid and atmospheric. Eloquently detailed, she effortlessly creates a distinct mood and setting that lands you deep within the pages, fully immersed in Fennbirn.

The truth of the matter is that I entered One Dark Throne with some very high standards in place and they have all been surpassed. The story has not only improved but has progressed into so much more than I anticipated. I struggle to capture the full enthusiasm I hold for this book and the sisters. Blake’s ability to establish a solid connection between the reader and all three young women is a rarity and a testament to her writing.  A masterful and rewarding series that continues to deliver for fans of YA and fantasy alike!

*I would like to thank BookSparks and the publisher for this advanced copy. The review above is of my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

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Learn more about the author at kendareblake.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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