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 in Mask of Shadows.
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. (via Goodreads)
I received an eARC courtesy of the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also received a signed physical ARC through a giveaway!
Reviewers Note: Sal is genderfluid, which means that their pronouns change to suit their gender at the time. For clarity and to not be an asshole, I will be referring to Sal with they/them pronouns throughout this review of Mask of Shadows. I will also be warning for classism, murder, violence, explicit violence, drugs/poisons, misgendering, and self-harm.
I want to start off this review by saying that I adore the cover and the artwork inside Mask of Shadows. It’s perfectly suited for the subject matter and it. is. stunning. Y’all ought to know by now that I am a sucker for good art in any form, and this book was a delight to the eyeballs in all forms.
Secondly, Sal was a really interesting main character to follow. They were very driven to their goal, ruthless when they needed to be, but still polite and kind whenever they could be, which was a nice change. I loved that we got to know all of the minor characters, to know their ambitions and needs.
I also enjoyed the worldbuilding. We discovered things along with Sal, and we also learned what they already knew before they got there. The world, and the plot, were familiar enough to keep us seated, but intriguing enough to keep us on the edge of it. My only complaint was that the ending was very abrupt. I am interested to see where the next story takes us.
I won’t speak to the genderfluid representation, but I have others who have spoken to it. I loved that nearly everyone asked Sal what pronouns they should use, and Sal expressed anger every time it was incorrect. It was normalized for so many, and I loved that. You can read Avery’s ownvoices review here! You can read Dill’s review here! You can watch Kav’s review here!