Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: fantasy, action, YA
Format: ebook (ARC)
Keywords: masks, assassins, LGBTQ+
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 Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.
Except 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. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.
*Since the character is gender-fluid, I’ll use the neutral ‘they’ when describing Sal.
Sallot, or Sal, has a bone to pick with upper society at. The ruling class let Sal’s town burn and now wants nothing more than to kill those connected and responsible. However they are no one but a thief until there is an opening for one of the Queen’s elite assassin squad: the Left Hand. The name may be a bit lame, but the assassins themselves are not: each are given jewel names, after the ring the Queen wears and no one save the assassins and the Queen herself know their true names and appearance. After a successful highway robbery, Sal discovers that auditions are taking place for the position of Opal and decides this is the opportunity they have been waiting for. For if they are able to get into court, Sal can exact justice on those who have killed the ones they’ve loved.
This story has everything that I would want: badass assassins, a queer, gender diverse character, great action sequences…but sometimes the devil is in the details. The action is brutally detailed, especially when it came to the trials the contestants faced. I loved the idea of masked assassins (totally my aesthetic) though I feel that would be cumbersome as hell (it’s fantasy, moving on). Sal’s genderfluidity is written as matter-of-fact and treated as a usual occurrence, rather than something that has to be introduced to this world. However as far as I remember, Sal is the only genderfluid character described. Are there others in this world? If you’re going to be inclusive at the very least make sure they’re not the only ones of their representation (if mistaken, I apologize ahead of time since I read this book over a month ago. Devil’s in the details indeed). I loved the queer characters, though I felt the “romance” between Sal and the girl (argh I’m sorry, I forgot her name!) was plain and was just dropped on the reader’s lap.
There wasn’t enough world-building for me as well. I felt like there was a lot of political backstabbing that led to the current events, but it could have used more fleshing out.
Verdict ★★★ I will most likely read the sequel from the library
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun read. It could have been so much more though. Read it for the action and cool masked assassins. If you’re looking for something more nuanced in your fantasy, especially when it comes to queer representation, look elsewhere.