Author: Linsey Miller
Page Count: 384
Published: September 5th, 2017
4 Stars ★★★★
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.
Sal is a thief, living in a world complicated by politics and war. Still haunted by the 'shadows', they steal for Grell, but they're tired of it. After stealing from some nobles, Sal finds a flyer that could change their life. If they prove their worth, they can audition to be part of the Queen's Left Hand, a group of assassins that get their namesakes from the rings that the Queen wears. Opal has died, and this may be Sal's chance for a new life, and vengeance.
The competition is deadly, and the stakes are high. With a romance blooming and drama between contestants, Sal will be lucky to survive with their heart, and their life.
So this book was really awesome. It was close to perfect, I am so happy that I received an ARC from NetGalley!
First off, Sal was genderfluid. I am genderfluid, and there are so few people like me in books that its incredibly exciting whenever I come across a nonbinary character! Not to mention the way that Sal's genderfluidity was incorporated into the book.... I loved it because it wasn't the focus of the plot. Sal was casually genderfluid, kinda like how most genderfluid people just wake up and live their lives like everyone else, eh? While I think stories about identity and coming out are great as well, I want to see more of this, more books with nonbinary people just existing as nonbinary individuals, not necessarily on display for their identity. I loved the casual way that Sal's pronouns were discussed, and the way that most characters just complied. It was quite optimistic and a great break from the real world where just the mention of singular "they" will spark a fight. I also loved the way that Sal described genderfluidity and I thought it was really accurate. I won't quote it since this is an ARC and the final manuscript may prove to have minor differences, but when you read the book, you'll get what passage I'm talking about. Anyways, this was an awesome aspect of the novel, I really appreciated the diversity!
Then there's Elise, the love interest. Elise is a noble of Erlend, a nation whose people haven't been kind to Sal's people. Elise is smart, assertive, and likeable! At first, Sal is a bit wary of Elise, almost using her, but I love how later in the book they realize their feelings for her! Alongside Elise is the idea that a person is not the sum of their heritage, or their nationality, and I thought that was a really great message. Sal realizes this and it adds to their growth as a person throughout the novel, in my opinion. This just made me love the book, and Sal, more.
I also have to mention that there are some emotional scenes in this book. I can't say much without giving it away, but if you get attached to characters, get ready to potentially have your heart shattered!
I also loved the beautiful descriptions throughout the novel. Metaphors and such really added to the way I visualized Sal's world. I loved this fantasy world, I loved getting lost in the danger of the shadows and the life that Sal was escaping, and the life they were ultimately working toward. However, this book lost a star because sometimes the world-building was confusing. Maybe this is because I'm new to this type of fantasy, but I had trouble keeping up with all the political drama, national tensions, and historical events.
Overall, this was a really awesome fantasy novel! I loved the inclusion of a genderfluid character, and I really like Elise and the messages that accompanied her character. While the world-building could use a little work, the author's descriptions were often beautiful.
I absolutely recommend this book! If you're a fan of fantasy novels, this book is for you. If you are interested in a book featuring a genderfluid person, you'll want to pick this one up. I know that once this is released in stores, I'll be picking up a copy!
Find Mask of Shadows on Goodreads
Find Mask of Shadows on Goodreads