My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Street Team ARC Review & Giveaway: Mask Of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Please Note:  I received an advance reader's copy as part of the Sunday Street Team Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

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 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.

One of the reasons I adore YA Fantasy is that
the genre tries very hard to show the diversity that teens experience in their own lives.  The protagonist of Mask Of Shadows, by Linsey Miller, is gender fluid, something I know nothing about.  This was a fun, action-packed book in its' own right.  I did find some small issues with the novel.  But it also helped me to understand a group of people I am unfamiliar with, which is why I read books in the first place.

What I Liked: 
Gender Fluid Character:
While I find it difficult to explain gender fluidity, author Linsey Miller does a credible job of helping the reader understand the subtleties of what this means.  Some people in the book respectfully have questions as to how to address Sal (look at their clothes for clues), while others deliberately ignore who Sal is and assign a gender to this person to insult Sal.    This is fascinating, and shows the daily issues a gender fluid person faces, even from well-meaning people.  

Sal is also complex, fighting a war within themselves between wanting revenge and wanting to serve the queen.  Sal feels guilty that they are the only survivor of a massacre by the Shadows (creatures created by mages that torture and kill their victims), and they are haunted by nightmares of the violence they witnessed.  One of the things I loved about Sal was their longing to belong, to be loved, and to be part of a family.  These are what most people want, after all.  Sal has to learn to let go of some of their vengeful plans in order to achieve some of these other needs.

Other Characters:
Sal's servant, Maud is a wonderful character.  She helps Sal understand how things work at Court, but is not a doormat.  She is upfront about the fact that if Sal becomes the winner of the audition and becomes "Opal" Maud will move up in the world, too.  But she is not heartless.  Maud is smart, resourceful, and demands respect.

I also loved Elise, the noble who catches Sal's eye.  She is able to see Sal for who they are and finds Sal attractive in all genders.  She wasn't perfect, though. She was more fearless about sexuality than about social status, not wanting to have Sal court her unless they became Opal (she is a noble after all).  But this made sense in the reality of the book.

The Queen is also a complex character.  At first Sal sees her as a saint, and it is hard to accept that she made some morally ambiguous decisions during the war, and afterwards.  Like any politician, she must make choices that will affect the whole kingdom.  Sal is devastated to learn that the queen looks the other way on the behavior of some nobles, if she needs their support.  But she is also caring and willing to sacrifice her own well-being for her subjects.

What I Was Mixed About:
The idea of a competition to the death to be an assassin is very similar to Throne Of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas.  I do think this story is more nuanced than Throne of Glass.  For one thing, there is no question that the king in TOG is evil.  In Mask Of Shadows, the Queen is not perfect, but she ultimately wants what is best for the kingdom.  

Celeana (in ToG) seems to have no qualms about murdering people.  But in Mask Of Shadows, Sal feels remorse for the lives they have taken.  All of the assassins feel some regret for what they are called upon to do.  I think it will be interesting to see in future books if Sal makes more moral compromises in their role of serving the Queen.

The author made a point in the first half of the book to make Sal's gender fluidity a part of the story.  But at a point in the story related to Elise, they seem to remain one gender for the rest of the book.  I wish this had not happened.  I can understand if the author didn't want this to be the main focus of the story.  But Sal's ever-changing gender would have added to their flexibility as an assassin.

Full disclosure: I do get a small fee if you purchase the book with the link above.

Giveaway Time:
 One copy of Mask Of Shadows by Linsey Miller.  Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  


Release Date:  August 29th, 2017

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Length:  384 pages

Source:  Sunday Street Team Blog Tours

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendations:  A book of adventure, revenge and political compromise.  Wonderfully diverse and complex characters make this a novel you will want to devour.

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  1. Yeah, the similarities to Throne of Glass raised my eyebrows a bit and ultimately lowered my rating -- I wanted something different!

  2. Hi Ardis,

    Thanks so much for being a part of the Mask Of Shadows SST Blog Tour. I'm so glad you liked this book, and you review makes me more excited to read it when my copy arrives!

    Thanks for your continued support of the Sunday Street Team!



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