Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Mask Of Shadows from the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review.
Sallot Leon is a highway thief who wants nothing more than to escape his dreary life. Gender fluid Sal wants to get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed his home.
An announcement sweeps across the kingdom, The Queen is looking for a new member for The Left Hand. These are a powerful bunch of her personal assassins named after the rings she wears on her left hand – Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal.
Apart from receiving training from The Left Hand, the auditioners must follow one rule: kill your competition and do so discretely. All this must be achieved without harming royals, nobles, servants, and other members of the royal court.
The audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A life as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the competition, but Sal must survive to put his real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.
Mask Of Shadows by Linsey Miller is not like anything I have ever read before. Yes, a commoner seeking revenge from the upper-class for destroying his home is a common theme. However, there is a lot of originality in this story. As soon as I read the first line at the beginning of the story, I was instantly hooked to this well-written tale. Mask Of Shadows is a gripping and suspenseful story that makes you glad you are not an assassin due to the amount of people they have to kill. At the same time, you feel glad that Sallot Leon is because he is doing it for a cause.
The ending is somewhat predictable but I was hit with numerous surprises. Due to the originality of the story, I could not quite figure out what was going to happen next. Linsey Miller has created an intriguing world with fantastically compelling characters. She has given Sallot’s world a rich history and a slight backstory, making this enchanting world believable.
To be honest, I have not read very many stories with a gender fluid character as the protagonist. Gender fluidity, other sexualities (minus heterosexuality), and different races (minus white) have often taken the backseat in stories. The only roles such characters have are sidekicks, enemies, or victims. However, over the years, this seems to be changing as more authors and publishers are paving the way for diversity in books.
Sallot Leon is a charismatic, charming, and likeable, regardless of his need for revenge. It is pretty obvious at first glance that each auditioner has their own agenda. Whether it’s revenge, the thirst to shed blood, or their dislike for another provenance or different group of people. Despite the personality and likeability, Sal is not someone you would want as an enemy. Having no family, alliances, makes him dangerous as he has got nothing to loose. The fact that Sal is gender fluid only adds to the danger since you only know him based on what gender he is (he would like to be addressed as ‘he’ or ‘she’ depending on how he is dressed). As he spends most of his time hiding behind a mask during the auditions, no one knows Sal’s identity at all.
Elise, a daughter of a noble whom Sal seeks to take revenge from, is not phased by Sal’s gender fluidity. It was pretty obvious that the two would end up developing feelings for one another since the first time they met. Although, Sal had robbed Elise when they first met, there was still a spark. However, I was not expecting Elise to be a daughter of Sal’s enemy. Although that particular scenario is common, what made it more touching was the fact that Elise did not care that Sal is gender fluid, an assassin in training, and does not care that Sal is a commoner. It would be interesting to see how this relationship develops in the second book in this delightful series.
Mask Of Shadows is a gripping, compelling, and suspenseful read that will have you hooked from start to finish. The originality, and the gender fluid protagonist is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to reading what happens next, and what other characters Linsey creates in future.