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.
Plot – This book’s plot is essential “last person standing,” meaning Sal has to kill everyone to become Opal, this big-bad assassin for the queen. The plot is the only thing that kept me reading. There’s sneaking, killing, and all that fun stuff. But that’s pretty much all this book had going for it.
Character – I liked Sal in the beginning. By the end, I hated “them.” (Because Sal is gender-fluid.) Now, I don’t have a problem with gender-fluidity. That’s not why I hate Sal. I hate Sal because their were whiny, narrow-minded, and pissy. Sal had no depth or personality, other than being gender-fluid. I can’t tell you what Sal even looked like. I can’t tell you what sexual organ they had. I don’t know. I wasn’t given that info. Sal felt so… flimsy of a character, personality bending depending on the scene’s needs.
Sal’s motivation felt weak most of the time; they wanted revenge? Cool. But I didn’t feel like that played a role in this entire story. And then there was this romantic thing between Sal and Elise, which was rushed and awkward. Sal is the main reason I didn’t like this book. Had they been a bit more flesh-out, this book would have been better.
And, the society that Sal lives in seems to accept her sexuality/gender, and yet Sal made it sound like no one accepted her. It didn’t make sense. I feel like their gender was a little too “propaganda” and “in your face” with that “accept me or else” attitude, which I didn’t like.
Setting – The setting was okay. I think. There wasn’t a lot to go on, other than assassins are a thing and there’s a queen. I don’t know how this world works.
Writing – The writing was not very good. It read jumpy. The thoughts weren’t connected smoothly. It felt like every other thought had been taken out. In one sentence, Sal is on the roof looking into a building, and in the very next sentence she’s going through drawers – when did she move? Things like that irritated me.
The writing was mostly action, very little internal narration to provide details to Sal’s character and motivation. It was a quick read, but I had to force myself through the last half because I lost the feeling of wonder very quickly in this book.
Overall – So, for the choppy writing and poor character, I’m giving Mask of Shadows a 3 out of 5. It was alright, but I’ve read a lot better. Will I be reading the second in this duology? No. Will I be reading anything else by Miller? Probably not.