Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a not so warm and fuzzy read. Linsey Miller released a gritty YA fantasy earlier this fall, and I really liked it! MASK OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced kill ride of challenges for a gender-fluid hero bent on having their revenge at long last. This is the first book with a sequel in the works.
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.
Sal Leon is a gender fluid thief who’s also the last of their people. When Sal was a child, Magic ruled their land, but some wealthy mages created the soulless shadows that gobbled up the humans in their path. It took the might of Queen to halt all magic in their realm brought an end to the shadows.
That was a decade ago, and Sal only survived because they had been playing in a tree in the instant the shadows swept the land. Sal’s sister at the base of the tree was a casualty Sal hasn’t forgotten. They made their way through semi-slavery into another land where Sal was trained in theft to survive. Sal’s handler is a well-known criminal, and when Sal learns of auditions to join the Queen’s Left Hand, a band of masked assassins, Sal makes their first killing–turning their handler’s head in as proof of Sal’s deadly might. As a Queen’s assassin, Sal would be able to cozy up to the nobles who have profited from the death of Sal’s homeland… and kill them.
So, Sal must survive a literal bloodfest, where twenty-two other applicants are also vying to be the last person standing, and take the single spot as the Queen’s Opal–all the assassins are named for gems. Under the guidance of Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst, the auditioners are gaining skill and picking off their competition. Sal is no match for the might and skill of the others, but they are wily, and used to living hard. As it stands, Sal makes it through two rounds of death, and gets the chance at a formal education; the Left Hand are part of the QUeen’s court and need to be literate. Sal’s tutor, Elise, is the daughter of one of the nobles Sal hopes to slaughter. Not easy thinking on these things, but Sal’s bloodthirst for revenge helps uncover a plot to overthrow the Queen. Expect intrigue and constant motion, as Sal works hard to stay alive and keep their eye on the rifts within the court.
I really enjoyed this one! It’s gore, but in the good way. I totally identified with Sal, and their need to avenge their family and homeland. It got a little confusing, at times, with all the names–because everyone has an alter ego it seems, and the formal names are long and twisty. There is a tiny bit of romance with Elise, and don’t expect any revelations on the gender front. Sal is equally comfortable in trousers or dress, and it’s common for men to wear tunics/skirts in this world. The end is not pleasant, another bloodbath of folks we’d all probably grown to love. But Sal has a new mission, and it involves saving both Elise and the Queen from destruction. I’m really looking forward to it!
About the Author:
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!