Mask of Shadows is the story about a genderfluid main character, Sal, who enters an audition to become part of the Queen’s Left Hand. The Left Hand is a team of assassins whose identities are secret. Going in, I was excited to read a new fantasy with a diverse main character. But it just did not live up to my expectations.
Comes out August 29th.
I wanted it to blow my mind, but it’s nothing new or groundbreaking. To me, it is a very average young adult fantasy. The fact that it follows a genderfluid thief is what drew me in, but Sal is boring and unlikeable. Sometimes unlikeable characters are great, but in this case because of the utter lack of character development I just don’t see the appeal.
By playing it safe and never trying something new, it is just an average fantasy story. The only real strength it has is having a diverse main character. But without much else, it falls short. It’s a story about seeking revenge and fighting to survive when the odds are against you. In that way combined with the competition-like audition to the death, it’s reminiscent of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. In fact there are a lot of elements of Mask of Shadows that I’ve seen before in popular young adult books, which is why I feel the story is playing it safe.
All of the auditioners are given a number by which they are referred to throughout the book. In theory I like that idea, but in reality it’s confusing. It’s nearly impossible to remember who is who when they just go by numbers. I had a very hard time keeping track, which led me to not care at all who died. Despite that, I did start caring more about Sal and especially Maud towards the end. So I think I’ll read the sequel when it comes out.
The plot and characters are not very original, but it is a quick and fun diverse read. I’m not in a position to label Sal’s genderfluidity as good or bad representation. But I hope to see more books with diverse main characters, but where everything else is working in its’ favour too. I’m sure lots of people will like it much more than I did. It’s by no means a bad book, it is just too ordinary for me.
*I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*