Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, YA Fantasy

Number of Pages: 352

Link to Buy:

Synopsis on the Cover:

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper class- especially 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 only have if they survive.

My Review:

Stars from Goodreads– 3.64

My Overall Recommendation– Difficult to get into, with a complicated history, but has some great elements and overall plot

Other books by the same author: Ruin of Stars, Belle Révolte, The Game

What is it about?

A story of revenge, a Robin Hood-esque protagonist with a dark side, and a murderous competition. The true plot twist is the fact that there is a romantic storyline at all, because the narrative stands on its own without it. The turns this novel takes will have you questioning whether or not you really know how things will shake out in the end.

The Good, The Bad, and the Magical

Good– The representation in this book is PERFECT. There are not a lot of characters in modern writing (or in any writing) that portray LGBTQ+ characters, let alone successfully. But Miller’s choice to make her main character gender fluid was a stroke of brilliance and one step further into the future of literary inclusivity for all. I will admit that it took me a few chapters to acclimate to a lack of pronouns, and that does speak to the level of passivity other series have to changing the identity of characters in that sense.

Less Good– While I LOVE the representation, I do wish there had been a marker, or a note of some kind, to indicate Sal’s gender identity earlier on in the story. Instead, there was just a complete absence of pronouns, which did change the writing a bit. The plot line was overshadowed a hair by the added complexity of the reader’s need to identify the main character. Love is love, and Sal and Elise make for a very tantalizing undercurrent to the main story line, but having some earlier context for Sal would have made the beginning a touch more enjoyable (in my humble opinion).

Good– The character development. Wow. Not understanding the milieu for Sal from the beginning makes it hard to understand their motives or choices, but when you finally get that information, it makes the character that much more provocative and penetrable. And not only is Sal a character with a demonstrative growth arc, but as you get to know Sal, you get to know the other characters as well. It’s a very well-done element of storytelling that Miller uses to flesh out her characters.

Bad– It’s hard for me not to notice certain similarities between this book and one of my favorite series (I won’t name which one, should anyone disagree). While I understand that I do most certainly have a type when it comes to picking out my next read, I have to admit I have not seen quite as many similarities in any other books within this genre that I have read. I can appreciate that original ideas are hard to come by, and even rarer when put side by side with other novels of the same genre, so there are bound to be some elements of likeness, but a few too many leaves me feeling a bit blue. I enjoyed the original parts of this book, but I drew more than a couple of comparisons betwixt the two series while reading it.

Final Thoughts

A truly pleasing story has it all: intrigue, drama, romance, murder, mystery, humor, the list goes on, and this novel does have each element. A perfect novel has the right amount of each, and hits each note at the right time. While I don’t think it quite hit the “perfect” mark, it is quite a good read, if a bit similar to some other stories and maybe not as well done. Miller reached quite high with this novel though, and hit some great marks along the way. It is the next phase of writing, and of the world, to recognize and represent characters of all backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, etc. I appreciate the boldness and heart that Miller demonstrates in this particular foray of hers into fantasy fiction, and look forward to reading her ending for this duology.


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