“I would remember them forever–their names, my reasons, the way their bodies slumped in death and their eyes stared through me. If I stopped, if I let their deaths weigh me down and keep me from being Opal, it was all for nothing. There was no going back. I was what I was, and they were a part of me now.”
How long has it been since I have done a full length book review? Legitimately it has probably been about two months. Yikes! I haven’t necessarily been in a reading slump but I haven’t felt that need to talk about what I’ve read, do you know what I mean? If a book leaves me with a “meh” feeling I just don’t have anything to say about it. I’ve been reading a lot of “meh” books. However, Linsey Miller’s Mask of Shadows left me with a different feeling.
I received Mask of Shadows from Netgalley back in July. To say it took me a bit to finish it would be an understatement. I just glanced at Goodreads and I started reading it on August 19th and didn’t finish it until today. Whoops. Now, you might think I didn’t read it quickly because I didn’t like it but that isn’t the case. What I really am is conflicted. Let’s break it down, shall we?
- The premise. A group of people in a competition to become one of the queen’s personal assassins. This group has to kill each other without getting caught and must impress the other three assassins currently employed as the queen’s Left Hand. Has the general premise been done before? Sure. Absolutely. Is it still fun? Hell yes it is.
- Definitive character personalities. Each character is very unique. There were no blurred lines or copies even though the cast was sizable. Our main character, Sal, is gender fluid which admittedly look some getting used to while reading. The typical he/she pronouns were not employed, they/them were used instead. This was the first book I read with a gender fluid character and, though I have little to no experience with that topic, it felt well done for the most part. In the first few chapters I did feel like it was made a bigger deal of than it should have been but maybe that was just personal preference.
- Sense of urgency. This was a winner take all competition, and if you didn’t win you probably died or were imprisoned. Miller did a great job of conveying that sense of urgency and peril. Some books I have read that have tried to portray that same feeling failed miserably so it was wonderful to see it well done.
- Setting. This competition takes places in a specific area of the capitol city in a young country. There was enough detail to make the setting clear without going overboard. I got a very definite picture in my mind of the swaying trees, cobbled walkways, and every dusty corner Sal explored. At the same time it wasn’t as heavy as Tolkien telling us about a tree for twenty pages (I swear I will never get through LOTR because of that).
- Choppy flow. Occasionally while reading I would get lost as to what was going on. The topic or setting would jump and it would take me a few paragraphs to figure out what was going on. It didn’t happen a lot but I found myself rereading most of those pages when it did occur to get my bearings again.
- Romantic aspect. At one point, Sal becomes enamored with their tutor who is teaching some of the competitors to read, write, and do math(s). The flirting between the two was actually quite fun but when the relationship progressed it felt awkward. I suppose toward the end you could say the romantic relationship was integral to the plot progression but, well, I’m not sure. I think it could have remained a flirty friendship and things would have turned out the same. It is a bit spoilery so I won’t dive too far into that.
For the most part I did truly enjoy this book. Another point I want to bring up comes from some of the reviews I have seen. If you’ve looked much into this book you will have noticed people talking about info dumping at the beginning. Honestly, I didn’t get that. I never felt like the background and information given at the beginning was overkill. The information given fit into the story and had a purpose.
In conclusion, is this the perfect book? No. Is it still an enjoyable read? Absolutely. There were bits I would have liked to have been done differently or given more weight, but for the most part I was entertained. Isn’t that the point of reading?
Find this book on
This title was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.