Review Detail

 
Young Adult Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0

A Great Debut Fantasy Novel

MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller features Sal Leon, a genderfluid thief who wants nothing more than to exact revenge on the Lords of Erlend—those who ensured the annihilation of Sal’s country of birth, Nacea—and left them as its only survivor. The book starts with a robbery that introduces Sal, and as a result of that robbery, Sal learns of a competition to determine the newest member of the queen’s Left Hand—four bodyguards/assassins who are charged with protecting the queen and removing anyone who is a threat to her or Igna, the country created from the war that destroyed Nacea. Sal decides to enter the competition, and that adventure continues the book’s initial break-neck pace.

Upon entering the competition to be Opal of the Queen’s Left Hand, Sal becomes known as Twenty-Three—their number/name having been assigned based on the order the competitors were accepted into the competition. Sal is accepted based on fighting skills and a willingness to kill, and though Sal shows signs of being kind and caring at times, they are also ruthless. All of the competitors are ruthless, but beyond that we only know them by their numbers and the skills that will make them able killers.

The early competition scenes were my favorite parts of the book. The fight-to-the-death premise of MASK OF SHADOWS is one that is found in many fantasy or historical fiction novels, but the execution of this book is interesting for many reasons. Sal’s genderfluidity is mentioned at times, and an attempt at explaining genderfluidity is woven into Sal’s initial interview with the three members of the Left Hand running the competition, but it’s not the reason for this novel, just an aspect of it. MASK OF SHADOWS has many (many many) strong female characters, but gender plays such an insignificant role in every character that the world built by Miller seems somewhat utopian when it comes to equality and the understanding that the sexes are equal. Women are just as likely as men to fill any roll, and it’s not remarked upon at all. Gender roles are definitely not a thing, and the lack of them is not a thing either. A flaw in the tale is that Sal is the only characters who is fully developed by Miller--and that’s a shame because there’s such potential in so many others. In particular, Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby—the three remaining members of the Left Hand—are people readers want to know more about, and I hope the second book expands on their stories. The lack of character definition also made it difficult to keep track of many of the secondary characters as they stepped in and out of scenes.

The love story woven into the book is sweet, but not all that interesting. That’s not something that bothers me—I don’t read adventure novels with an eye toward a good romance. The action scenes are really well written and they are constant, and the competition aspect of the book is well plotted. There are moments of far too much explaining as the book winds to a close, but that’s understandable as the author sets the stage for book two. The world building is strong except for the aspects surrounding magic and its removal from the world, and although the conflict that lead to the creation of Igna is repeatedly mentioned, more history on that would have been helfpul. Again, that could be something that will be developed more in the second book.

All in all, I recommend the book to those who like sword and sorcery books—though all sorcery takes place in the past—and a lot of action. I’ll be looking forward to the second book and revisiting Sal’s world. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Good Points
A world with no gender roles
A genderfluid main character
Was this review helpful to you? 

Comments

 
 
Ordering 
 
Already have an account? or Create an account
 
 
 
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Let's Investigate with Nate #1: The Water Cycle
Bill Nye the Science Guy meets The Magic School Bus!...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The 12 Dares of Christa
Christa is a holiday junkie. What’s not to love? There’s...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes
Things are looking up for Abbie Wu: this year she’ll...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
See Fred Run
Learning to read has never been more fun than it...
 
3.5
 
0.0 (0)
The Monster of Selkirk Book I: The Duality of Nature
Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Where's Waldo? 30th Anniversary Edition
The amazing original that set off the worldwide search for...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed
The internet’s “World’s Best Father," award-winning photographer Dave Engledow, makes...
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Being Fishkill
Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Goldeline
Perfect for fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Last Namsara
Kristen Ciccarelli’s debut fantasy explores an intricately woven world of...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Speak Easy, Speak Love
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Mr. Biddles
A funny picture book about friendship, in the tradition of...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager reunite to bring us...
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Black Bird of the Gallows
simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear,...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Not Now, Not Ever
The sequel to The Only Thing Worse than Me Is...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Prince and the Dressmaker
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age: ...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)

Latest Member Reviews

The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power
 
4.5
"James Meredith was a ground breaker in the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African-American to graduate from The University..."
Isaac The Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd
 
4.0
"Isaac The Alchemist is a very quiet book. Much like Isaac the boy. There is something powerful and inspiring about..."
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
 
5.0
"The first sentence of this book sets the stage for Douglass' impact on history: "This is the story of how..."
Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born
 
4.3
"When Cassius Clay was 12 years old, his brand new bicycle was stolen. When he went to report it to..."
When I Grow Up: Misty Copeland (Scholastic Reader, Level 3)
 
4.7
"Young Misty loved to sing and dance, and started studying gymnastic at the age of seven, after seeing a movie..."
The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero
 
4.0
"There is no end to stories that could be told about the bravery of ordinary people during World War II...."
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow (Backstories)
 
4.0
"DC Comics BACKSTORIES – SUPERMAN: The Man of Tomorrow is a brilliant look into what made the Man of Steel..."
Batman: Gotham City's Guardian (Backstories)
 
4.0
"Much like the Superman’s Backstory, DC Comics BACKSTORIES – BATMAN: Gotham City’s Guardian is a superb look inside one of..."
You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!
 
N/A
"In this lengthy picture book, the life and times of the inimitable Stengel is given complete coverage. From his less..."
Ira's Shakespeare's Dream
 
4.0
"Becoming an actor is one good way to irritate your family, and in the early 1800s, Ira's father would really..."
Women Who Changed the Wolrd: 50 Amazing Americans
 
4.7
"Starting with Pocahontas and continuing through Margaret Bourke-White and Misty Copeland, this brightly illustrated book introduces readers to fast facts..."
The Hero Two Doors Down
 
4.0
"When Jackie Robinson rents an apartment in Steve Satlow's predominately Jewish neighborhood, some of the neighbors are not happy. Steve,..."
Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist
 
4.0
"This picture book starts out with end papers that show Harriet Powers' applique quilt, which is an excellent example of..."
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
 
4.5
" “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” –Malala Yousafzai A momentously important..."
Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior
 
4.5
"I thought the book was hard to put down."
Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues
 
4.3
"In this picture book biography, we see how long it can take for a dedicated and talented baseball player to..."
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story
 
3.0
"What I Liked: I’m not sure to what degree We Should Hang Out Sometime is non-fiction and how much of..."
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist
 
5.0
"I picked up John Muir: America's First Environmentalist, because I have always had a deep appreciation for the natural world..."
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin
 
4.3
"In the tradition of Childhood of Famous Americans, this biography of Darwin starts with an examination of his formative years,..."
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
 
4.5
"This is a book based on the real life story of how Navajo used their own language and a code..."