Ｔｉｔｌｅ：Mask of Shadows
Ｓｅｒｉｅｓ： Book 1
Ｒａｔｉｎｇ： ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：I received a free copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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.
✩ Ruby has to be my favorite character because of how sassy and sarcastic he was the entire time. I think out of all the Left Hand, Ruby was definitely the one most willing to show his personality from the beginning.
✩ Sal and Elise take second. And I’m keeping them together as an item because their exchanges when they were together was the funniest thing. Their dark humor was totally perfect for me.
✩ Rath and Sal were next. I’m a little sad they didn’t have more moments because they were funny.
❝ […] They must make you kill someone or something.”
“The gentle way you say that sets my soul on edge.❞
First of all, I’m absolutely in love with this cover. It’s seriously gorgeous. Anyways, moving on, haha.
I found the genderfluid character to be a really nice touch. I was just so excited to have this diverse character, and I wanted to see how people reacted to them, and how the story went. Unfortunately, I think the author missed out on some chances to create tension/drama with this. Everyone was just so accepting of Sal. I think there were only two or three times in the book that someone–I think it was the same character every time–offended Sal by getting their gender/pronoun wrong. It would’ve been nice to have more of a balance. Yes, I liked that not a lot of attention was given to it–but I still wanted it to be more part of the story, to create conflict.
The competition aspect added tension, sure, but it made it hard to get to know the characters. I kept trying to remember which number was who and had done what. However, it did get easier later down as the competitors were whittled down. This was kind of the same with Ruby, Emerald, and Amethyst–it was hard to get to really know them when they showed up so rarely but it was better towards the end. When Opal was chosen they relaxed more and their personalities showed more.
❝ Using me as a human shield? Really?”
“It was a pitcher.” I shrugged. “I was improvising.❞
I think one factor that really dragged the story down was Sal’s obsession with getting revenge. It made the whole story feel really plot-driven. I guess that wouldn’t be too bad if there was more of a balance with well-written characters. I think being the first book probably limited it to how much they could get done. I think the sequel would open it up more for the author to really let the characters shine and balance out the focus on plot. I just didn’t feel like I really got to know any of The Left Hand really well besides Ruby.
Overall, I think the book had some flaws that could be fixed easily in the next book. The story itself is interesting enough, and I’d be open to reading the sequel.
If you’re interested, this book comes out on August 29th!