Mask of Shadows is a fantasy book that follows Sal, a genderfluid thief born in the land that was once called Nacea. When the Queen announces the auditions for a place in the Left Hand – a powerful collection of personal assassins named for the rings she wears – Sal decides that they may have a chance for a new life.
Mask of Shadows is the first book in a series and Linsey Miller’s debut. It came out August 29, 2017 and it was getting mixed (mainly bad) reviews since before its release date.
Mask of Shadows is your classic fantasy book about assassins, competitions, and assassins competing. Yes, it’s the same premise than Throne of Glass, but this book is ten times better than everything SJM has ever written.
Sometimes it felt like a generic YA fantasy, but there are books that are far more generic than this one, and they didn’t get all these bad reviews. Ruined, Snow Like Ashes, Hunted – all the predictability with none of the diversity.
Mask of Shadows is really diverse. This is a fantasy world were people of color and queer people aren’t erased. It’s the first fantasy book with a non-binary main character I’ve ever read, and in this book there is the second aromantic character I’ve ever met. Maybe diversity is not enough to rate a book higher, but it’s… interesting that the only generic fantasy book that gets really low ratings is the diverse one.
And it’s not even that boring? I get it, the worldbuilding is awfully cliché and naming the competitors with numbers (Four, Five, Twenty-Three) wasn’t the wisest choice, but I was never bored.
This is a book about assassins where the assassins actually kill people, a book about assassins competing where the competition is described in more detail than the pretty dresses the MC wears. Sal actually has to make difficult choices and to question their morals.
I liked the romance. It wasn’t the main focus of the story, and there wasn’t a love triangle. I was there for the assassins, not the kissing, but the kissing was fine too. The banter between Sal and Elise was great.
This book may not be revolutionary in the fantasy genre, but it was fun, and it was diverse. The character’s identities were not what drove the plot, and I loved that (genderfluid people do not need a reason to exist, not more than cis people). I still think that the premise “competition of assassins” doesn’t make any sense (kings and queens of fantasy books: it’s a terrible idea. Really.) and the worldbuilding could have been better, but I liked what I saw of this world – especially the court and the Left Hand of the Queen. Emerald was the best.
My rating: ★★★½
Have you read Mask of Shadows? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments.