Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Series: Untitled #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: August 29th 2017

 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.


Mask of Shadows is Linsey Miller's debut young adult fantasy novel about a gender fluid character named Sal.  Sal is a thief that is still haunted by the 'shadows' of their past. During one of their robberies, Sal finds a flyer advertising an audition to be part of the Queen's Left Hand, if you can prove your worth. The Queen's Left Hand is a group of assassins that get their names from the rings that the Queen wears. Since the death of the assassin known as Opal,  the remaining members are Emerald, Ruby, and Amethyst.  Sal sees this opportunity as a way to seek revenge against the people responsible for the loss of their people, and a chance for a new life.

I had a love/hate relationship with the idea that the characters in the competition were referred to by numbers and had to wear masks with their numbers on the face.  I thought that it really added to the mystery and excitement of the story.  On the other hand, I also thought it made it a little harder to get to know the other characters since this was told from Sal's point of view.  There were a couple of the competitors that had a little more personality than others, but some of them we knew nothing about so it didn't feel like a huge deal when we lost that character.

This is something that people either loved or hated about this one, it seems, so I feel like I need to mention it: the way the author handled the "gender fluidity".  Honestly, I liked the way it was done.  When Sal dressed as a female, she was called "she." When he dressed like a male, he was called "he". Sal said that is how "they" wanted to be addressed. Sal was just who Sal was.  It wasn't a huge deal in the story and no one even questioned it.  This wasn't a story about bigotry.  The main focus of this story was the competition and Sal's revenge.

I have to admit that at times I felt a little lost.  I had trouble keeping up with all the political drama, different characters, and historical events.  A lot of  Sal's history revolves around the shadows and I wanted a little more history about all of it.  I honestly expected a lot more talk of magic and other fantasy elements.  At other times in the story I thought a lot of information was dumped on us all at once and it was hard to remember who exactly certain people were.  This could just be me though!

Mask of Shadows had some great action-packed moments and a little bit of romance sprinkled in as well.  This one ends with a lot of things up in the air and set up well for a second book.  While I didn't absolutely love this one and it had a few issues, I did still enjoy parts of it.  I'm still undecided on if I will be picking up the second book when it's released.

* I received an ARC of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own. *

Find It Here:

18 comments:

  1. I'm torn about reading this because I've seen so many mixed reviews. Plus the characters being refereed to by numbers would probably not be my favorite thing ever. However, it is good to hear the author handled gender fluidity well. Great review, Julie! :)

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    1. Yeah, I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one too. I didn't end up loving it as much as I expected to. I think I am probably going to be passing on the second book when it comes out. It just wasn't for me, I guess. Thanks, Lauren!

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  2. This book does sound like it has a lot going on for it Julie, I'm not sure if it'll be my sort of book, but I'm glad that you were able to enjoy it, despite having some issues with it. Thanks for the honest review! :)

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  3. I get lost a lot reading fantasy so this probably isn't the book for me but loved your review Julie.

    For What It's Worth

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    1. Thanks so much, Karen! There was a lot going on so I found myself trying to figure out who someone was again and stuff like that. It wasn't too bad but from the Goodreads reviews that I checked out, I wasn't the only one. lol

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  4. I want to read this book because we have a gender fluid MC which is so very rare and sounds really interesting. There do seem to be some flaws to the book, I don't like the fact you were both wanting more info whilst also experiencing info dump but I want to check it out and see what all the fuss is about with this one.

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    1. I really liked the idea of a gender fluid MC too. I haven't seen too many of those around, and I thought this one was handled well. I hope you end up really loving this one when you get to check it out!

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  5. This book has been on my radar because I'm intrigued by the gender fluid main character, so I'l definitely be picking it up. Sorry to hear you had a few issues with it, but glad you still enjoyed it overall!

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    1. That was one of the things that had me really intrigued by this one too, and I thought it was handled really well. It was brought up a few times but wasn't the main focus of the story. I hope you end up loving this one if you decide to check it out

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  6. I'd been hearing some mixed things about this book. Honestly, it sounds A LOT like Throne of Glass and some other books I've read. I REALLY enjoyed your review, it was awesome.

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    1. I actually haven't gotten a chance to read the Throne of Glass series, but I've heard a lot of comparison to it to. So glad you enjoyed my review! Thanks so much, Sophie!

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  7. Sounds like this book had a few issues but also did certain things really well. I can see why the mask/number thing would be interesting but also kinda difficult. I've read one other book about a genderfluid character, but I can't remember how the pronouns were handled now. I feel like, in real life, it would be handled any way the person wanted, so it seems like it makes sense the way it was handled here.

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    1. Even after it's been a while since I read this and really got a chance to soak it all in, I'm still undecided how I felt about it. lol! Yeah, I liked that it was mentioned, explained, but then didn't become the main focal point of the story. The main focus remained the competition. Thanks, Kristen!

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  8. Ahh, three stars! I raced here to see if you'd read this one and reviewed it yet! I'm catching up after about two weeks away... Sigh. Always behind is this blogger!!! :)

    I didn't mind the numbers thing to be honest - they were just like names to me - especially considering some names in YA! :)

    I also completely agree about the way the gender fluidity was done - it wasn't the focus of the story and I enjoyed that aspect.

    I think the author has a bit of polishing to do with keeping readers up to speed with the political dramas and different characters - I know it's a fairly complex book, but I've read a lot of complex books following a lot of characters and this one had me feeling a little more lost than most. But overall I thought it was good enough to go with the 4 stars and I'll definitely follow on with the series.

    Sorry it didn't quite work out for you but I'm glad you enjoyed it for the most part!

    Great review!

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    1. hahaha! I'm really behind lately too! I've been a bit of a slacker this week and have so much catching up to do.

      haha @ the names in YA. So true!

      I agree. The writing was bad, by any means. I just thought we needed a little more information sometimes, but then less at other times. lol! I'm usually able to follow along pretty easily with complex storylines/characters but I found myself a little lost a few times.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this one and plan to follow along for the next book. I can decide if I want to read the second book after checking out your review! hahahaha!

      Thanks, Di!

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  9. Im in the middle of this book right now. I was so lost at the beginning and not really feeling the story, but once the competition started, I fell into a good groove. I am liking it a lot more right now. I really enjoy Sal and I like how the author is handling the gender fluidity, but so far I kind of feel like it is being brought up a lot. So i'm not sure if I am going to feel like it was being pushed in my face the whole time or not. But so far I am enjoying this one. (Its a work in progress 3 stars at the moment for me too!)

    great review!

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    1. Yeah, it took a little while for me to really get into it too. Sorry that you feel as if the gender fluidity is being pushed at you a lot. I remember it being brought up a few times but don't remember it being too much after that so hopefully it eases up soon. Can't wait to see your review when you are finished.

      Thanks, Michelle!

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