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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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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Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

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Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms #1)
By Erin Summerill
Narrated by Helen Johns
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Duration: 11.5 hrs
ISBN13: 9781520032047
Genre: YA Fantasy

Blurb:

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow.She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, a legendary bounty hunter that is, until her father is murdered. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father s former apprentice. The only friend she s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magicto find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a force to be reckoned with.


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Ever the Hunted was reminiscent of several YA fantasies with elements of forbidden magic and feuding kingdoms. But yet it still commands attention with a unique deliverance of plot and solid cast of characters.

Following 17 yr old Britta after the death of her father, we learn her once dearest friend  and father’s apprentice Cohen has been charged with his murder. With insurmountable evidence offered to support this claim, she finds herself agreeing to track down the only person she has left in her life. Unbeknownst to her, what will ensue is a journey that will reveal many larger secrets and uncover powers she never knew she held. Will she find the truth behind her father’s death? Will she embrace her newfound abilities?

Character development is a steady process within Ever the Hunted. Britta is young and strong but lacking in certain securities as she has lost her father and soon her land. Alone and struggling, there is an air of hopelessness surrounding her that slowly evolves into a will and desire to overcome and seek truth. With this  growth, our main protagonist cleverly blossoms into an admirable force that feels viable. Summerill’s consistent approach to character growth lends a welcomed amount of relatability and credibility to the somewhat limited ensemble. Ever the Hunted is unique alone in just how limited the cast is.  Aside from the main protagonist Britta, we are offered only a small handful of supporting characters, of which merely 3 make a regular appearance. But there is something to be had in the simplicity, as it creates a more personal and close connection between the reader and the stars of the story.

The plot is basic and straight forward at first glance. Gathered around the mystery of her father’s death are well-known aspects of the fantasy genre; hidden magic and warring kingdoms. But that is wherein Ever the Hunted’s deception lies. As the story unfolds, each revelation leads the reader deeper into a discovery of family secrets that continually grow and surprise, turning the ordinary into something more extraordinary. Discussing the story in further depth would be detrimental to the reader’s experience, so it would be best to sum this tale up as one that relies heavily on an unhurried but not unappreciated exposure to hidden truths. The reader is allowed to absorb the events taking place at a leisurely pace that is inviting and comfortable.

Summerill’s writing is atmospheric and tempting. Her picturesque approach encourages exploration while avoiding an over abundance of flowery details and fluff. Her direct approach to character thoughts and interactions is honest and creates an effortless read that feels complete and yet begs for more.

Narration for this audiobook greatly contributes to its success. Helen Johns supplies a smooth tone to the story that sets the atmosphere and pacing with ease. I felt she lent an appropriate voice to Britta and carried the story in a clear and concise manner that was easy to appreciate (especially as someone who struggles with hearing).

Long story short, I found a lot of beauty within this small title even though it might be labeled cliché or too familiar. I quickly developed a fondness for the author’s ability to weave a tale that relied on characters and setting while refusing to over-complicate matters. The simplistic magic system and cleaner story telling will make this ideal for younger YA readers and anyone seeking an easy yet rewarding read. This would be an ideal choice for fans of The Queen of Renthia series by Sarah Beth Durst. I will be enthusiastically adding the sequel to my mountainous pile.

*I would like to thank audiobookjukebox.com and Dreamscape Media for this copy. The review above is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Learn more about the author at erinsummerill.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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