Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: YA Fantasy, LGBTQ
Release Date: August 29th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for honest review
My rating: 3.5 stars
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.
So, this is a harder one to review. It was definitely interesting, and the main character was very unique and kept me interested in the story all the way through. Basically the main character, Sal, identifies as both male and female, depending on their mood. This comes in handy for Sal in this trial to become one of the Queen's assassins. Sal can use the different way they dress in order to keep attention off when they try to sneak and find out things to further the revenge plan. Sal also meets and falls in love with a woman at the court. A woman that doesn't seem to care whether Sal is male or female, and she is attracted to Sal in all different guises. And at first, she can only call Sal 23, which is Sal's number/name for the contest.
The ideas behind the tests and the fact that the contestants are kind of encouraged to kill each other to narrow down the competition field makes for a great story. While I'm not quite sure how I feel about what happens with Four towards the very end of the competition, the little twist at the very end of the book definitely was unexpected for me. It leads in perfectly to there being a sequel and more to come. I also liked having a gender fluid character as a main character. I know this is something that there is more and more of out there, or at least it is recognized more, so I can see that it could be a big hit with many readers.
In the end I only gave it a 3.5 because while it was definitely page turning as I was reading it, occasionally I had to stop and go back to find something that I missed or read wrong, and when I put it down, it wasn't that I was dying to pick it up again. Once I did pick it up, it was hard to put down, but I didn't need to go back to it constantly.