This was the first book that I received with my Page 1 Subscription Box. I didn’t hate it enough to contact them to ask for a different book (which they do that), but I think I did something I shouldn’t have before reading the book. Something I don’t normally do for any book.
I read reviews on Goodreads. I didn’t read any particular star amounts, just the first few reviews on the page, and it definitely colored my reading of this book.
So, Sal is a gender-fluid thief who joins a masked competition for the position as one of the honored assassins to the Queen. This was not my first gender-fluid character in a fictional book – I remember Jericho in the Arc of the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman who was male in the sun and female in the shadow, but it was the first lead character who is. I think there’s a lot of creativity in a gender-fluid character, or there can be. Sal is male when he wears “male” clothes and she is female when she wears a dress. So you have to really pay attention to what he/she is wearing, so you could understand when a character slighted them.
Which isn’t my favorite part of books, the description of clothing, and there was a lot of that. It felt like every time a character entered a scene, we had to know every piece of clothing they were wearing, including the masks on their faces.
The other issue I had with this book was also mentioned in the reviews. There are a lot of characters in this book that seem to be throwaway characters. There are twenty-three competitors. Plus, in the midst of the competition, Sal talks about all of the backstory of the kingdom which I honestly couldn’t remember the names of the good and bad people in the war, which made remember them later when Sal references them really difficult. I literally used a notebook to list characters so I could understand what was going on.
I did find Sal’s past with shadows really interesting, and how it plays into the book. The plot really speeds up towards the end, but it feels more like it’s just for the set up for the next book. I don’t think I will get the next one right away, but just let that book simmer on the shelf, maybe pick it up at a later date to read again.
There is profanity in the book. Sexual content includes pretty chaste kissing, hugging, and holding. Lots of violence including but not limited to cutting off hands, weapon play, flaying, poison, and lots of death. There is, of course, LGBTQIA representation in the main characters.