Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. Sourcebooks Fire. 2017.
I loved this book! It grabbed me from the start. Sal’s voice is very strong, and they are a deeply compelling character. I got so caught up in the story I barely took any notes. It was exactly what I needed on a hard day, a captivating and intense ride.
I liked the pacing and the structure of it, it was satisfying and kept me going, both the intrigue and the romance plot felt well balanced with each other, and equally enjoyable. I really enjoyed Sal’s love interest, was rooting for them.
The depiction of gender fluidity worked well for me; my own experience of genderfluid identity is rather similar to Sal’s and it resonated. I liked that it was mostly incidental; there enough to feel real without it being the center of the story. This isn’t a story about being genderfluid, its a story about becoming an assassin, falling in love, trying to avenge genocide, that centers a genderfluid character. Misgendering happens, a bit, but not in a way that feels hurtful; it gets challenged immediately and the structures of power support Sal in being genderfluid. It felt really good to read this kind of representation, as a non-binary trans person. I want so many more stories like this about trans and/or non-binary characters, in all genres of YA.
I am still thinking about what it means to create an imagined genocide with a single survivor. It fees very loaded to me, and I’m still sorting through all the reasons why. I am hoping that in the next book we get to see Sal working together with others, and that we find out that they are not the lone survivor after all, and perhaps even a resistance effort of survivors that they can join.
I found the descriptions of trauma intrusion very resonant, as a trauma survivor with PTSD. These moments in the text were especially intense to read, and I felt that they were presented in a careful way that felt quite real to me.
I am excited to see if the secondary character who very clearly comes out as aromantic late in the novel will be more central in the second book. I hope so. I liked that character quite a bit. I was troubled by the way that character’s aromantic identity was linked to being alone in the brief moment that they come out to Sal. (“I am not the romantic-partner type. There is much to be said for the perks of being alone.”) I am hoping that this particular aspect of that character will be shown in a more complex way in the next book; this character clearly does have platonic relationships that they value.
- Genderfluid MC
- Queer woman MC
- Aro spec secondary character
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Detailed descriptions of: murder, violence, living with the threat of death, trauma symptoms. Drugs/poisons, misgendering, self-harm, class oppression. References to and descriptions of genocide.
- Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
- I have had slight contact with the author on Twitter.
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