Slowly Filling in the Diversity Gap in Fantasy Novels

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller a book review on Reading List



There are a ton new books that come across my radar every week. As a result, I try my best to pick different once in a while just to experience something new.

And sometimes the different means I expect more... I expect an adventure that pulls me into something new completely... and it is disappointing when that doesn't happen.

All that to say, today's book is different, and yet not... it is a fantasy full of obstacles that our main character has to overcome in order to finally reach the goal. Oh, and the main character is transgender.




Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller a book review on Reading List


Mask of Shadows

Linsey Miller




Story Overview 


Sallot Leon is focused on becoming Opal - one of four of the Queen's personal assassins.  Sal, a gender fluid character, takes on the goal of winning the competition even though they never received an official invitation to audition.  After a life of thieving to survive, they understand the need to survive at all cost - and that is the key, as Sal quickly learns this is a competition to the death. There will only be one survivor, who will become Opal.

Sal's drive is fueled by revenge, so as other competitors start to fail, they get more and more confident until past events begin to haunt them again. 

Will Sal be able to focus long enough to reach the end, or will they too fall?



Personal Likes

I truly was curious about how Linsey Miller would write a trans-fluid main character. It is a section of the population that has never been clearly defined for me, and I was curious.

Also, I liked the idea of the queen needing four assassins and that they were named after jewels. It spoke to strong female characters throughout the story, without tearing down male characters.

Oh, and when it was dubbed a story for fans of The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass, I was intrigued.... I just wish it had been more flushed out all around.


Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller a book review on Reading List



Personal Dislikes

The lack of character development, for the main character, as well as all the side characters. I am always drawn to a story through the characters. I want to see the characters and then be drawn into their story... this never happened.  I still cannot even imagine who Sal is, even though I read this entire book hoping I would connect at some point.

I am mostly disappointed that a book that should be advancing diversity was so confusing and unclear in the details that it did nothing to help the movement. The plot was completely expected, the characters were unremarkable, and the ending didn't leave me wanting more. 


Reading List Rating


I am going to go with a three heart rating on this because it's a new author and a new story.  It read like an early attempt and I hope that the author will use this as a learning experience and just improve.  These are the kind of ideas that fiction is important for, but stories still need to take readers away - not leave them more confused. 






My Suggested Audience

I wish I could say who should read this book... but I totally don't know if this book fits in a category... If you are looking to pick up a book that is firmly in a diversity category, then this is for you.  But in all honesty, there are better diversity focused stories out there.  But since I know this is a sub-genre that needs more stories, I don't want to ignore it either... The MC is a teen, so this fits into the YA fantasy genre. As far as triggers, the issue of violence is the biggest one.  There are some hints at romance, but nothing as a major focus.  There is some traumatic flashback for Sal, that might hint at triggers for those who are sensitive to violence to children and families, but these are not clear, and part of the basis for why this book did not impress me. 






Wondering Questions to Consider


This is book should be the basis for some serious questions in the book community.  Since we all claim to want more from diversity authors, and diverse book, we need to also be able to define each part of the groups. We need to be able to understand what makes a trans-fluid character different from another character in a way that doesn't demean the reader for not knowing before picking up the book. We need to be able to ask the questions without fear of offending or hurting something, and we need to be able to answer in a way that informs without degrading someone's lack of knowledge.  I know this is a touchy subject, but in my experience, it is because there are simply not a lot of answers and too many questions. 

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller a book review on Reading List





Do you have a favorite diversity author?   

I'd love to hear from you, please leave me a little note!

Marissa @ Reading List







***If you're interested in writing a book review on Reading List, please message me on the Facebook page! If you're curious about a book, ask me...  I love to hear from you! If you would like your book reviewed on Reading List, email me: the link is at the bottom of this page.

**** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”





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8 comments

  1. I love how thourough you were in your review! I love fantasy books, but like you, I like to have the characters fully fleshed out. I may have to skip this one.

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    1. It is always hard to review books that didn't live up to expectations. I just really need to have well developed characters... thanks for joining the conversation Rebekah

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  2. I am dying to read a good novel, it has been ages! I will have to check this one out.

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    1. I have a ton of great novels to pick from! It's always good to know which genre you want... or rather, what you want from the novel ;)

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  3. I love how you break down your book reviews. Seriously one of my favorite reviews to have read. Sounds like a good first start for this author.

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    1. Why thank you Jessica - it can be hard to review a book in order to help people decide to read it, or not... and I have high hopes for this author

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  4. This seems like the type of book that I might read. It really fits in with the genre that I normally read. Thank you for breaking down exactly what you like and don't like about the book, it really helps out.

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    1. Thanks Krysten - I know that every book is not for every person, and what one likes, another might not... I try to be fair and honest.

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