Miller combines fiercely motivated characters, with a beautiful romance, and a mashup of fantasy plots which result in a fast paced read in Mask of Shadows.
Sallot Leon is a common thief, robbing carriages and fighting matches ringed with spectators. All that is about to change, when they find an open audition call for a spot which opened up in the Queen’s Left Hand, for a select few assassins. Sal jumps on the chance to escape the life of crime in order to serve Our Queen. But the games are their own matches and danger full of soldiers, shadows, and heartache. Does Sal have what it takes to navigate the murky waters, beat the competition, and win the girl?
To begin with, Sal was my favorite aspect of the book. Not only is Sal nonbinary, but the romance aspect is superb. It is full of complexity, if not also some cheesiness, and genuine tender feelings. Additionally, Sal has a very interesting history, one that will be even further developed in the sequel. In the end, all the actions sort of came together and I enjoyed the end of the novel more than the rest of it because of all these interlocking pieces. There were some times where I didn’t feel like I truly knew Sal, so I was still struggling, at the end of the day, with what Sal’s quirks were.
The only side character I genuinely liked was Elise, because she was an intellectual. I am very much looking forward to seeing her in the sequel. But besides that, the others were difficult to hang onto (Except Maud, Sal’s attendant. Maud is a gem). I would have loved to get attached and more information on her fellow competitors, but they were wearing masks. This made it difficult to tell the difference or get a feel about their personalities. I wanted Miller to show us that these people behind the masks were also people.
While you may recognize some elements of the plot from other books, gang backgrounds or a competition, this book integrates these tropes into a different plot line with a diverse and colorful character. The story is fast paced, and once the action starts, it really gets going! (Also hats off to the marketing team at Sourcebooks. They did some great promotion and giveaways that kept popping up on my Twitter timeline).
I know I’m not talking about many other aspects of the book, but for me Sal was the biggest reason why I enjoyed the book. There was action, totally bad ass spy stuff going on, and romance. And never take anyone for granted! At the end, there’s all sorts of twists and plot upheavals that you may not see coming, I didn’t.
For me, what made this story so unique was Sal. Just in terms of diversity alone, it’s so great to read about a genderfluid protagonist and with the love story. I mean, come on! Bring on all the diverse fantasy please. I am so intrigued by the sequel, because I hope we’ll get the chance to see Sal more, to see their identity during court, and for the plot to deliver on all the promise that develops at the very end.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
Any other nonbinary recs? I really also enjoyed The Tiger’s Watch
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