*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect my opinion, and all thoughts expressed in this review are unbiased and my own.*
Title: Mask of Shadows
Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
My rating: 5 hearts
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pub. date: August 29th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Synopsis: 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. (synopsis from Goodreads)
Wow. Just wow. It’s been days since I read this, and I’m still not sure how to do review this properly, because I still haven’t processed it. I absolutely loved it. It started out a bit slow, but the pace just got faster throughout, and I have to say, the slow beginning actually added to the plot, to the tension and excitement. Sal felt realistic and relatable, and I loved to see how they grew through the book, and I also loved the romance. It didn’t take any attention from the action or the plot – in fact, it only added to the tension.
I loved reading about Sal!
Despite Mask of Shadows being a High Fantasy, Sal felt very realistic. It was easy to relate to them and it was interesting to read about them. Sal also grew a lot through the book, and it was amazing to follow their journey. And I have to say something about the diversity in this book. Way too often in Fantasy, I feel like there isn’t any diversity, and if there is, it feels a bit like it’s there just for the sake of it being there. It’s the complete opposite with Mask of Shadows, it feels completely natural and it’s so important.
The romance was really sweet and so intense!
I really liked how the author portrayed the romance between Sal and Elise, it progressed slowly through the whole book, which made it feel realistic. Also, I have to say they are simply too cute together! I shipped them from the moment Sal robbed her, which is definitely a first for me. I just really love how they interact with each other, from the moment they first met – not to mention the tension that is there from the beginning. This is how romance should be portrayed in Fantasy books!
The world-building is what dreams are made of!
First of all, the author has created such an amazing, unique and utterly interesting world – from the first page, you just have to know more, making it impossible to stop reading, even for just a moment (who cares about school, anyway, I can study after I’m finished). I had no idea what to think about anything, because Miller breaks every single popular trope, and I loved it! And secondly, she does it in such a great way, leaving small hints and pieces of information that only leaves you wanting more. Any author who wants to know how to hook a reader should take lessons from Linsey Miller, because she has it down to an art.
The plot had me hooked from the first page!
As I mentioned earlier, the plot started out a bit slow, but not slow enough that it was ever boring. Instead, that slow start worked as build-up, and the tension and action only intensified from that point. It grew and grew and grew, until I had trouble breathing and reading at the same time.
The writing is bursting with tension.
The writing is seriously amazing. No matter what type of scene it is, there was always a ton of tension in the writing, and I swear my heart never stopped beating frantically in my chest. The writing just had that unique quality that is hard to put your finger on that has the reader on the edge of their seat, holding their breath, anxious for what’s going to happen next. I can go on and on about everything that was amazing about this book, but the truth is, no matter how great the plot, characters or romance is, in order to enjoy a book to this extent, that tension in the writing has to be there, or you won’t enjoy it that much. And Miller’s writing has it and so much more!
This is a book everyone should read!
It’s filled to the brim with emotion, and it is honestly incredible how well Miller portrays every feeling, making it hard to separate the characters’ feelings from your own. With relatable characters, world-building that is out-of-this-world, and tension from the first page, Mask of Shadows will take you on a journey that you won’t forget. But a piece of advice before you start reading (and you need to read it, okay? Just do it); make sure to read it on a day you have free, because you will not be able to put it down.