Only difference between robbery and murder was what you stole.
I’ve found myself leaving Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller completely at a loss. I frankly don’t know what to think of the story or of the characters in a way that just leaves me thoroughly uncertain of some of my opinions. I don’t feel like I ever really got to know many of the characters, but rather that they were all plot devices used for one reason or another than actual characters in an actual fictional world that made sense. As it stands, the only character I really appreciated in any way was Maud. And even she lacked significant character development like all the rest, but at least she had clear motivations for being who she was.
Sallot was inconsistent at every turn. From the initial introduction to the sudden, very out of the blue desire to join in on an audition to become an exceedingly important assassin for the queen was just baffling. Our introduction to Sal involved thievery, which was admittedly a great hook to the beginning of the story, but their personality just wasn’t cutting it for the massive shift that happened shortly after. For someone who doesn’t want to scare or harm the people they steal from, Sal seems to have no problem with being a murderer…until they randomly feel bad about it again. And I don’t know…it just didn’t flow well.
Barring the lack of character development for literally everyone in the story, the plot itself was rather typical and bare. I think it becomes incredibly clear early on how the story is going to go and I found nothing about the ending surprising. The lack of character development and significant time spent with anyone other than Sallot made the ending devoid of emotions for me and in fact the only thing I really cared about was Sallots reasons for wanting revenge, which were fortunately quite legitimate. If I had to point to anything that this book does well, it would be the motivations. Unfortunately, the only motivation we ever really get in depth is Sallots and so we understand disappointingly little about the other characters at all and everything is revealed in the fastest, most glossed over manner.
One important topic that this book does address is the gender fluidity of the main character. I’ll admit that I’m not sure what it added to the book but it was certainly a nice change of pace from books that don’t ever leave the typical genders. One thing I will say that I appreciate is the fact that it never really felt like a side plot, but was mentioned as needed in a world where not everyone seems to understand, which I think is fairly reflective of our own society.
I don’t necessarily feel like I would agree with those who compare it to The Hunger Games. There are similarities, certainly, but not enough to justify the comparison. Even so, other reviewers are not wrong when they say this book fits into a lot of stereotypes regarding these similar books and doesn’t really offer a whole lot that’s unique, I think largely due to the lack of character development and a reader’s inability to feel close to the characters. The gender-fluidity piece was the only unique part about it, which frankly is not enough for the book to be good. All in all, I’d say Mask of Shadows was intriguing and certainly not a terrible read, but it’s definitely pretty forgettable.