Book Reviews

{REVIEW} Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

by Linsey Miller


Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: Aug 29, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Length: 384 pages
Spoilers: MARKED
Goodreads ♦ Amazon($12.36)

I received this free physical finished copy in advance from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.




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.

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.

thoughtsSub-Par Writing
While I enjoyed the story, I found myself constantly being ripped out of the scenes and the story as a whole because of the writing. It was adequate writing, enough to get the story across, but it needed quite a bit of polishing. I had a very hard time following the dialogue and it often felt awkward. It was like the characters were having thought trains and I kept following the wrong tracks. Thus, they’d end up at a different location than me and I’d have no idea how the conversation was flowing at all.

Additionally, the scenes were disjointed. Maybe the characters’ actions were just very subtle, but I felt like I kept missing how a character got from point A to point B. Or a scene change would occur and I wouldn’t catch it and would be left scratching my head wondering what the heck just happened. This was disappointing, but all too common among debut authors.

Character Interactions
So… the dialogue was an above-mentioned problem that only added to another, even bigger problem: the overly-fast development of character relationships. Maybe if I’d been able to follow the conversations better, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but the characters gained attachment to each other extremely fast. As in, way too fast for the little depth between them (especially given the face-level topic of their conversations. [*hint hint* I’m really zoning in on the romance in this story here.]) Unfortunately, this left me suspecting everyone of being fake and phony and only hindered my ability to connect with any of the characters.

Though, to be honest, a bit thing that contributed to the inability to form realistic connections between characters was the fact that these characters were not developed enough. There is a rather large cast and we focus on a select few, but even those few aren’t well introduced. Heck, even the main character isn’t that well introduced. In other words, it was like reading a story where a bunch of anonymous people were running around doing things and I couldn’t remember which one was which. It was quite frustrating and disappointing because it meant I lost all ability to connect with and care for any of the characters.

Another thing that was underdeveloped in this story and is of particular interest to me (as anyone who reads my reviews knows) is… world-building. o.o I. Am. Dying over here. This world is so confusing! I think there are three kingdoms. Or maybe there’s only 2 and one is gone. Honestly, I don’t even know because the way the kingdoms, historical events, and current politics are set up is… well, not set up. It’s very poorly explained to the point that I didn’t even truly understand which kingdom was which until the last few chapters. This is a HUGE problem for me as world-building is the setting and without a setting, characters might as well be in front of a white screen.

Unique Factors
I loved this story for its unique aspects. There are other assassin contest stories out there, but I really like the challenges, the rules, and the character motivations in this one. Those are the pieces that made this story worth reading and what pulled me through to the end, and what gives me hope for a sequel.


Okay. This is an audition to become an assassin. Thus people must die. However, I have some serious issues with the last character who was killed in the book because I think it was one of the most well-developed characters who offered the most flavor to the story. Granted, their death pulls at the most heartstrings because they’re one of the few characters I was starting to become attached to, but I just didn’t see how that death really advanced the story in any way. Aaaand I kind of wanted Sal to be the one to fail the audition/die.


book recommendations 

18 thoughts on “{REVIEW} Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller”

    1. Hahaha! I can understand that and I’m honestly not sure if I’d read it again knowing what I know. :/ (I mean, I don’t re-read, but…) It was a good idea, but the writing was just bad enough that I kept getting drawn out of it. I guess I’d wait until she improves as a writer more.

      Thank you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahahaha. If other people don’t like it, then I’m destined to not like it? 😜

      But sadly, yes. The author honestly needs more writing experience to learn how to develop scenes and characters. She could probably also benefit from eavesdropping on convos to hear how they flow. 😕 Overall: good idea, poor execution.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha! Thank you. I’m glad some people like my blunt opinions. :p To be honest, I’m disappointed that I had so many negative things to say about this book because I really did want to like it. Such a shame, but I chock a lot of it up to inexperience of the author (she’s a debut). I’m hoping she’ll improve in the future. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it does sound like such a shame! Your comment reminds me of my first completed novel over 12 years ago; when I read it now, I cringe at my old writing where I did a lot of newbie mistakes and stuff. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone to read until I re-write it. 😛

        I agree, hopefully the author of this book you reviewed will improve in the future. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent honest review Melanie! Now I have a question for you you said this was a physical ARC sent by the editor. How do you get physical ARCs? Have to sign on some site like I did for Netgalley?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It was tough writing that review because I did really want to like the book, but… Such is life. sigh

      Aha! The ARC question. Now, to be fair, I’m not an expert. I’ve been trying to get ARCs for a while, but only ever really get them when I sign up for a giveaway or do extensive help with the blog tour for the release. But generally speaking, you have to send an email to the publisher’s publicity team (you can check contact information on publisher websites for these email addresses) and you ask them to send you an ARC for review with a bunch of information about your blog and the type of books you review. I did a lot of research before requesting and TONS of bloggers have how-tos. Here is a really comprehensive one, but let me know if you have any questions. 🙂


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