Author: Linsey Miller
Series? Yes, a duology
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: I received Mask of Shadows via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions are my own. Thank you!
Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.
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.
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Mask of Shadows is Linsey Miller's debut novel, and I was so excited to read it. When I read the synopsis, I knew I had to request it. The idea of a gender fluid character auditioning to be a part of an elite group of assassins completely drew me in. Unfortunately, I didn't like Mask of Shadows nearly as much as I hoped.
Though Mask of Shadows has a great premise, its execution was unfortunately lacking. I can take into account that this is Miller's first novel, but nothing drew me in, and much of it had to do with the writing. Miller obviously has talent to be published, and I don't want to come off as rude, but there was nothing that grabbed me when I read this. The descriptions were dull, and the world-building shaky, confusing, and similar all at once. I felt as if I was reading just another fantasy novel, but if you actually asked me any specifics, I wouldn't be able to tell you any. Miller didn't grab me enough to pay attention to the story, and the world itself wasn't nearly as enticing as the idea of finally having a gender-fluid MC. Mask of Shadows never held my interest, and it didn't have it to begin with.
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The one saving grace of Mask of Shadows is the gender-fluidity of Sal, the main character. As gender fluid, Sal doesn't identify as male or female, and uses pronouns they/them unless dressed specifically like one gender, and accepts the pronouns of that gender. Sal's gender-fluidity is shown as a generally accepted fact in the book, which I appreciated. There are only a couple characters that treat Sal differently due to their fluidity. I liked how being gender-fluid is normal (because it is) and how it was generally accepted (as it should be). However, I would say that I am pretty uneducated on gender fluidity, and part of the reason that I was looking forward to this book was because it would be a learning experience. The fact that Sal's fluidity was accepted and normal was great and an example of what we should strive for, but I don't think I actually learned anything from it. I don't know anyone who is gender fluid, and I would have liked to have learned more by reading this book. I think Miller missed a great opportunity by not delving into it.
The ending of Mask of Shadows was..good? To be honest, there was this (what I assume) huge reveal, and yet it had no impact on me. I had a hard time distinguishing among characters, as none of them were really developed. When there was a major character death, I wasn't affected and when some character was revealed to be evil, I didn't even know who the book was talking about. The slow pace and bland world building was what made all characters mold together.
In case you couldn't tell, I didn't enjoy Mask of Shadows. What I thought would be a unique fantasy was just another run of the mill novel that was pretty dull. I won't be continuing on with the series, and I just couldn't make myself care. However, don't use this one review as your decision! A lot of goodreads reviews are mixed. There are a lot of two and five star reviews and not a general consensus yet.
With that, I give this book
1.5 out of 5 Stars!