Mask of Shadows is a solid YA fantasy read, similar in storyline to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. While similar, I really do feel this one stands on its own two feet, and I’ll tell you why after I give the synopsis. The book follows Sallot Leon, a gender fluid young adult who is a thief after being orphaned. What Sal really wants, however, is to find the person(s) responsible for destroying their home and everyone else who lived there. While robbing an intriguing young noblewoman, Sal finds a flyer for auditions to be a member of the Queen’s Left Hand, the assassins the queen employs, they think they’ve found the way to get everything they ever wanted. Sal heads to the auditions, where it’s kill or be killed, and the last standing is the one who will become Opal, the fourth assassin in the Queen’s coterie.
If you’ve read Throne of Glass and then read this synopsis, similarities and comparisons are inevitable. However, I still believe this story stands on its own. Sallot is a completely different kind of protagonist than Celaena, for one. Sal is an odd mixture of violence and poignance. Their revenge makes sense, but the way they pursue it and the goal of becoming Opal is rather single-minded. So while Sal is a well written character, that doesn’t make them particularly likable most of the time, unless they are romancing a certain noblewoman, then I think they’re okay.
The story itself was well plotted and the world was fairly well built. I loved how the Queen’s Left Hand all shed their lives and are then renamed after the rings she wears: Ruby, Opal, Emerald, and Amethyst. When one falls, a competition is held to find the next. While everyone in the book wears masks, making divining their true intentions fairly difficult, I still found it intriguing to observe the assassins throughout the competition, and I really found myself rooting Sal on, so that I could get to know them better. The world has also had its share of strife, with a great magical war that the Queen ended lurking in the background. While she’s admired far and wide for her deeds, there’s still unrest and uneasy alliances. The world building done here sets up a world of politics and intrigue that I really want to learn more about.
Overall, the story was interesting and easy to read, but hard to put down. The world building was excellently done, and the intrigue and politics were as well. I really want to learn more about this world, and its characters (so it’s good it’s the first in a series). While similar to other fantasies, I really feel like it stands on its own with the world its built, including the characters, romance, and violent nature of a land in civil unrest. If you enjoy YA fantasy with diverse characters, this is a good one to pick up.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I’ve read a lot of YA fantasy, but what are your favorites???