Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: August 29th, 2017
I successfully finished reading this before it’s release date, but I failed at posting this review before the release date. I’m a bad book blogger, I know. However, I’ve finally sat down at my computer so that we can talk about this interesting book that has gotten a lot of mixed reviews. Let’s get straight into it.
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 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 filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and 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.
This was the first ARC I was approved for on NetGalley and I was excited to receive a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. What first intrigued me about this book was it’s gorgeous cover. As soon as I read that Sal was a thief, I knew I needed to read this, because I love books about thieves. I also was interested to read a book with a gender fluid MC.
As mixed reviews started flooding in on GoodReads, I was hesitant to pick it up. It seemed like a book that people either loved or hated. After reading it, I can say that I found myself somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed reading it, but I have a lot of mixed feelings on some aspects.
We’re going to start off with the things that I really enjoyed. One of the best things that this book has going for it was it’s action packed plot. There was so much action in here that it kept me engaged. Also, it completely delivers on the whole audition to be an assassin thing. While this plot line is nothing new, Miller does not hold back with the violence and brutality that comes with trying out to be an assassin. In a way it felt fresh, because when I usually read these types of books the violence can be romanticized. I liked how how harsh it was at times, because it showed how brutal of a world these characters were living in.
Speaking of the characters, there were a few that really stood out to me. Sal, our main character, was certainly one of them. Their revenge plot line was interesting and I enjoyed the character growth in this book. I thought Miller did an excellent job handling that. I also liked that Sal was not good at everything instantly and we saw them become more skilled over time. It felt more realistic and showed us Sal’s vulnerabilities.
Two other characters that I really loved were Maud and Ruby. I felt that they were both standouts and couldn’t help but get excited every time they appeared on the page. I especially loved Maud, she was probably my favorite character. She was an atypical strong female character, which I appreciated, and I really loved her backstory.
I also really appreciated the representation that was in this book. I’ve never read a book with a gender fluid character before, so this representation was new to me. However, I thought Miller did a great job at explaining Sal’s identity without making it a big plot point. I loved the fact that the book doesn’t focus on it and it’s just a part of who Sal is. It was so refreshing, because often times I feel like books that try to represent different kinds of people are about what makes them different. This was just about a character who auditioned to be an assassin and is trying to get revenge. If your curious to read a review from an own voices reviewer, check out this one. I should also mention that there is some bisexual rep in here as well!
While I really enjoyed all of these things, I did have some problems with this book. All of my problems really stem from one thing and that is the writing. There were many areas that the writing could have been stronger. In terms of the plot, I thought that it could have been paced better. The pacing honestly was just all over the place. Also, the way that Miller did the ending was just strange. It almost felt like the book had two endings, and because of that I thought that it was a little too long.
Even though I thought that it was too long, there was so much that I wish she had expanded on. Like the world that she created was interesting, but she developed it in such a funky way that it took me so long to figure out all of the political details and magical elements. I get that she was trying to tie all of this info in when it was relevant to the plot, but I could have used more exposition in the beginning. Also, Miller could have done a better job at handling her characters. She had a ginormous cast, but the only characters that I really felt like I knew were Sal, Maud, Elise, and the members of the Left Hand. I could differentiate between the more prominent auditioners, but I wish there were better descriptions of all the rest of the characters. They all sort of seemed to blur together.
Honestly, I just wish this book had been better executed. It had so much going for it, but the writing really effect the impact. I really did enjoy the plot and certain characters, but the writing held this back from being a 4 or 5 star book for me. That being said, I did enjoy reading it. The action packed plot really was fun to read. I have a feeling that the next book in this series will be even better, as this is Miller’s debut novel. Also with the way that it ended, there is just a lot of different ways Miller can go. There is a lot of potential there.
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Anyway, I would love to know what you thought of this book! Did you love it or did you hate it? I would love to know all of your thoughts! Also, I know that I received an uncorrected proof, so I’m sure some of the grammatical errors were fixed. However, I’m curious to see how much changed. So if you’ve read a completed copy, please let me know what you thought of the writing itself!