Mask of Shadows


Are There Lesbians? Yes

What Happens?
Gender-fluid thief Sal wants nothing more than revenge. When auditions are held to join the ranks of the Queens personal assassins, known as the Left Hand, Sal jumps at the chance.

The Verdict:
Let me be clear in stating that I am saying there are lesbians in this book because while Sal is genderfluid the object of their affections is female and during most of the flirting they present as female. I actually found it quite interesting that they appeared to spend the majority of the first half of the book as female and the second as male, I don’t know if this is an intentional progression on the authors part but it raises a variety of interesting points on the subject of masculine/feminine roles and where the ability to kill lies on the gender roles spectrum.

I had a very interesting time reading Mask of Shadows. I really enjoyed it but the main reason I did so was because it felt comfortable and familiar. It wasn’t particularly challenging to either my vocabulary or world-view and doesn’t really offer anything new to the genre of YA fiction. In fact, it takes rather a lot from popular works such as the Hunger Games and Throne of Glass series’, the latter of which I have spent the beginning of this year reading, and lamenting. Because of this Mask of Shadows wasn’t a great leap in mental track-changing. It was basically the same story I’ve been reading all year. Only with the interesting addition of a gender-fluid character, which to be honest, is a bit of a poor representation, gender-fluid people don’t deserve predictable plots and sub-par characterisation.

Another thing which annoyed me was that I kept losing any sense of world immersion. The Queen’s assassins are named after the four rings she wears – Amethyst, Emerald, Ruby and Opal (the latter being the focus of the audition) – and I just couldn’t read any reference to these characters without thinking of Steven Universe, and I don’t particularly like that show. It’s a little thing, but frustrating, and every time it came up I would find myself thinking that it wasn’t the most imaginative way to name one’s characters, and before you ask, no I don’t have any alternate suggestions.

One very important thing to note however – and I only realised this once I had finished and moved onto reading something else – is that Mask of Shadows is one of the first books I’ve read this year without a noticeable male/female divide. No one is wondering at the mysterious ways of the other sex, and its a little sad that I have to find that fact refreshing and different! Or maybe it just speaks for the quality of what I have been reading recently (though its a trap that even the best authors can fall prey to).

When push comes to shove, Mask of Shadows presents an interesting concept but doesn’t really do anything new with it. When your only real point of difference is the gender (or lack thereof) of the main character, I think it’s perhaps time to step back and consider maybe doing something interesting with that rather than relying on that and that alone.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



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