“You should only stare at the ground if you’re giving up.”
Official Synopsis from 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.
GENRE: Young Adult FORMAT: E-pub / Kindle Edition PUBLICATION DATE: September 5th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire GET A COPY: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
If you know me especially in real life, then you probably are aware of the fact that I love Sarah J. Maas. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller is so much like Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass and it sometimes felt a little bit like Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games too. However, this book, to me, is familiar in so many ways. I feel like I’ve read it a couple of times already in different books and this quite eliminated the excitement and thrill I was supposed to be experiencing while I was in the middle of reading an extremely anticipated book.
World building. The world building in this book is slightly underdeveloped for me but I think this would improve in the next book because it’s not bad at all. The setting is not hard to visualize. The palace, chambers, and the world itself where the story took place feels completely real, even for a fantasy book. And it’s pretty impressive.
Characters. Oh right. Sallot Leon, the first gender fluid character I’ve encountered in a literature (or maybe I just wasn’t reading that much), is flirty, witty and can sometimes be annoyingly arrogant. Both an assassin and a thief, Sallot Leon could pass as Celaena Sardothien and Mare Barrow’s (from Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen) love child.
Sal also likes to be referred to as he/she/they depending on what they’re wearing.
“I dress how I like to be addressed—he, she or they. It’s simple enough. “
“And you can call me a “she” when I dress like this. I dress how I am.” Which was fine by me. I wore a dress, and people treated me like a girl. I wore trousers and one of those floppy-collared men’s shirts and they treated me like a boy. No annoying questions or fights over it. “And if you dress like neither?” Emerald asked. “They,” I said.
Most everyone else wanted me to pick one, make addressing me easier on them by denying myself. I was already dressing so they could get it right. The least they could do was try. I didn’t see why had to choose.
“Address me however I look.” I was both. I was neither. I was everything.
Sal gave a voice—and a loud one—to gender fluid people in real life and this is what I love the most about this book. Gender fluid, Bisexuals, Gays, and Lesbians aren’t new in this society. They existed long before and have now gathered all the strength to not take a shih from anyone anymore. Proper representation is very important especially in the world we live in right now and this is done right in this particular novel.
On the other hand, the supplementary characters didn’t make a huge impact on me. The way Sal and her opponents are called by numbers (Sal is Twenty Three and others are called Two or Four) instead of by their real names is really confusing. I think this is the reason why I didn’t feel attached to them at all or even remember some of them. I wish they were called by their regular names instead. Others, like Grell da Sousa, Elise de Farone, Lady dal Abreu and Nicolas del Contes have really elegant names so Sal and her rivals being called by numbers is a major disappointment for me.
The instant love between Elise de Farone, the one they robbed at the very first chapter of the book who ended up as their tutor, and Sallot Leon is tolerable at least but there are some scenes that has put a frown on my face. This too, like the other aspects in the book, could’ve been alot better and I wish there were other love interest for Sal to level up the excitement and to have at least a sense of wonder in this book.
Plot. Clichés. Almost everything that happened here I’ve seen/read before both in real life and in different novels. Again, this feels like Throne of Glass but Sarah J. Maas and Linsey Miller have different writing styles and both are good in their own ways but as an unbiased reader, I found Maas’ writing more captivating and professional not because I like her so much but because it really just is. But considering the fact that Maas is not new in this fantasy writing thing, Miller’s writing style is not appalling or dreadful by any means.
Just like the Throne of Glass and other fantasy books, this book is filled with trainings as well. Even though this is a satisfyingly fast-paced book, I felt like nothing big really happened here and the disappointment I felt when I realized this is the same as the disappointment I felt while reading Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark. Mask of Shadows is filled with just trainings, eating, and Sallot Leon’s repetitive rants and musings about how she hates Erlend, the land of her enemies, for the same reasons other hero/heroines in other books rant. Another thing: the ending was given away in the synopsis. The ending was expected and predictable already and giving it away made this book less interesting since you’ll know what will and is supposed to happen.
Despite my complaints about this book, I think this is still worth reading if you’re in for a fun ride. The representation is amazing and this is overall entertaining however cliché this is. It wasn’t that bad if you can tolerate familiarity. I still recommend this book and I think I am still going to read the next book as I am curious about what would happen next, especially to Sallot and Elise. Maybe the Mask of Shadows #2 might be more impressive than #1. Who knows, right?
I recommend this book to people who enjoyed reading the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and to anyone who likes assassins, bloody competitions, diversity and strong protagonists.
MEET LINSEY MILLER
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.