Series : Untitled #1
Publisher : Harmony Ink Press
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 384
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. (From Goodreads)
I received an eArc of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review
CW: Murder, gore, violence, misgendering, self-harm
I went into Mask of Shadows very weary because I heard as much good about it as I’ve heard bad, people seem to either really love it or really hate it, so I expected to fall in one or the other but… No. I fall in the middle. As much as I loved some aspects of it, some others needed a lot more work and substance. Overall, this was a pretty decent, fast read, that I’d recommend if you’re just starting out with high fantasy or if you’re looking for some uncomplicated books in that genre.
The writing is simple and yet gorgeous, witty and well tailored to the world’s vibe, Lindsey Miller’s writing style flows easily and feels effortless, the descriptions are clear and make it very easy to imagine the world. Sal’s voice was also very distinct in the narrative, their personnality shone through and I really loved when I’m able to know the MC’s personnality through the writing because that way I’m able to focus on other aspects of the story without worrying about who the main character is.
The worldbuilding at its core is good, the nations, customs, magic systems, etc… well defined, none of it leaves any place for confusion or wondering. There’s one thing that bothered me about it though, it’s the fact that politics wise, it was very lacking, when the whole conflict seems to be based on politics. I would’ve loved if the politics aspect got more attention because I had questions. Like, why Erland and Alona go to war? I know that at the end, there’s a time line with all historical events but those were still pretty hazy to me, and raised more questions in my opinion.
Now the plot is what I really loved, it’s nothing we’ve never seen in YA fantasy, in fact, it’s a lot of the same tropes, but it was still refreshing in a way. The tournament was so well fleshed out and every step of it was given the time and care it needed. What I liked about it is that we discover it at the same time as Sal who knows nothing about it which means that as they try to grasp every detail of it, we also get all those details. That being said, that is a double edged sword because it made for quite the number of info dumps.
Here again I had a problem, not with the plot itself but with how easily Sal got out of the trickiest situations. I never felt any sense of danger or urgency because they got out of evey situation very easily so I was never on the edge of my seat, worried for their safety. Like I said, they knew nothing about the tournament and yet had no real difficulty to get through it which made things pretty predictable. There was a surprise or two but none actually related to Sal themself.
I liked the characters overall. All of them go either by number from one to twenty three (the competitors) or by code name (the left hand assassins) and I was impressed by how easily distinguishable the characters were without having actual names, each one of them has a specific trait of character that sets them apart from the rest and makes them easily recognizable even before their number is given.
Sal is one heck or a character, I loved them so so much. They’re genderfluid and use “he”, “she” or “they” pronouns depending on how they’re dressed. They’re smart, resourceful, sarcastic and driven. They’d do anything to get to their goals and what was good about it is that they did not feel remorse about their kills which made them really interesting to read about because they’d kill and move on, never dwell on anything, since it’s a kill or be killed kind of situation. Aside from that they show kindness and compassion and an amazing sense of justice.
Sal strikes to types of relationships with two different girls. The first is with Elise, his love interest, she is either bisexual or pansexual (unprecised) and really witty, other than that I felt like her character was severly under-developped and their romance too rushed for me to care for it. The second is their friendship with Maud, they tease each other a lot and fall into easy banter rather quickly. They’re not into the touchey-feeley stuff but the reader never doubts that they care about each other. They show it in other ways. I loved Maud’s personality, she is so caring and quite the down to earth cynic, and that’s the kind of characters I love.
Seeing how this book ended, I am excited about what happens next and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. I have really high hopes for it.
Leah @ Small Queer Big Opinions
Eme @ Words are Rainbows
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Mask of Shadows? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.