Sallot Leon is a thief, but when they steal a poster calling for auditioners for the title of Opal, part of Our Queen’s Left Hand Assassins, they decide to try for it. Being Opal would give them access into the higher court, where the people who destroyed their home reside.
Why this book?: Genderfluid assassin. Just fuck me up, please and thanks.
I would like to thank the people at Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a copy of this book via NetGalley, as well as to Shauna at b00kstorebabe for sending me a physical ARC.
Books that blew me away are always hard for me to write reviews for. In truth, I went in with hesitant expectations. I wanted to love this book, but mixed reviews had made me cautious, especially with the genderfluid main character. I didn’t want to be hurt with harmful rep, specifically with a book that seemed right up my alley. Diverse high fantasy is something I’ve been dreaming of, so when I got an ARC of this one, I didnt’ know what to do. Jump in, and possibly be harmed, or wade in, and take it slow.
Mask of Shadows may seem like a stereotypical YA fantasy, and some may even say it’s a carbon copy of Throne of Glass, but in my opinion, Mask of Shadows is so much more. The way the assassin competition was laid out was much more logical for assassins, compared to others that I’ve read. The set-up the Left Hand had allowed for them to see each auditioner as they were, what their strengths were, and what they needed work on. The amount of detail and care Miller took to the development of the process is comendable, and one of my favorite parts. Actually, I had a lot of favorite parts of MoS, in case I end up saying that a lot.
Speaking of the development, I loved the divide between the characters. Miller developed the ones that she needed or were necessary to the plot, and then just left the others as they were. Despite characters literally going by numbers all throughout the novel, I was never confused on who was who. Five was Five, Three was Three, and so on. My only confusion was when auditioners would randomly disappear–but I guess that’s part of the who assassin vibe, right? The Left Hand themselves stole my heart. Literally all of them did. Even the previous Opal, who we literally never met. Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby were all so engaging people, all so different despite how they’re supposed to be seen as similar. They quickly became some of my favorite characters.
And the world building! Despite some info dumps, I found myself wanting more and more of them, needing to learn more about the history and the actions that brought Sal to where they were then. Miller wrote every scene with care, and didn’t let info dumps be just info dumps–everything applied to the characters or the plot.
There were also quite a few plot twists that I wasn’t expecting. So many scenes were painful or had me squealing with delight. Let’s just say this: don’t go in with the expectations it will be like Throne of Glass, because it’s nothing like it. It’s so much better.
And, considering people have complained about this, here’s a non-binary person’s opinion on the genderfluis rep. Sal isn’t genderfluid for you cis readers to “learn” more about them. Sal’s genderfluidity is just something that happens. Being non-binary isn’t automatically to educate people. So, Sal being genderfluid was amazing. I loved how they expressed themself to others and when someone misgendered them how others would come to their defense. It was really refreshing to see such amazing non-binary rep in a YA fantasy like this.
Final Rating: ★★★★★
Beware, because Linsey Miller will rip your heart out and stomp on it by the end of this book. That’s all I have to say about it.
Would I Recommend?
Yes, especially if you want diverse high fantasy. Not only is Sal genderfluid, but there is a background WLW couple, as well as implied aromantic and MLM rep. Oh, and maybe a pansexual or bisexual character! It’s never specified, but they outright say they’re “interested in more than guys”.
Trigger warnings for gore/violence, misgendering, kidnapping, murder, self-harm, classism.
Published: August 29th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count: 352
Genre: Fantasy/High Fantasy/YA
Synopsis: via Goodreads
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.