Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller is the story of a genderfluid thief named Sallot. Sallot Leon is on a quest to avenge their family and bring justice to the nobles who killed them, but they can’t do it alone. They enter a competition to become a member of the Queen’s Left Hand, her personal assassins. It’s a fight to the death with only one rule: don’t get caught. Sal is only a thief going up against stone-cold killers, acrobats, and soldiers, but they have a thirst for retribution so strong they just might survive.
This book is a truly well written member of the LGBTQ genre. One of my greatest pet peeves is when an LGBTQ book forgets about its plot and becomes solely about being queer, and this book does the complete opposite. Sal is just Sal, and as the reader you slowly come to realize on your own.
that they may be genderfluid. Later in the book it does come up in conversation once or twice with people Sal becomes close to, but it happens naturally and without an entire chapter set aside for it.
I also found the romance in Mask of Shadows to be absolutely beautiful. Again, it’s a part of the story without the story being about the romance, and that makes it all the more special. Sal meets a scribe named Elise, and the tenderness of their interactions is heart-melting. It really helps create a well-rounded character in Sal. They’re a hardened, vengeful assassin hell-bent on a suicide mission, but they meet Elise and start to remember that there can be a strength in softness, too.
The characters are my favorite part about this novel. Each and every character, no matter what part they play, is well-rounded. They all have believable stories, reasons for their ambitions, and complicated relationships with each other that strengthen their character without cluttering up the story. Miller makes it hard to label characters as “good” or “bad” as the story progresses. The “good” character, the one you’re rooting for, is an assassin who doesn’t always kill horrible people, and the “bad” characters do terrible things to save the people they care about. I think this kind of character writing is what really makes a good novel, and Miller does it masterfully.
If this sounds like the story for you, you can find it on Amazon here!