Under-Developed Characters Left me Wanting More


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Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Type: Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 352
Published By: Sourcebooks
Pub Date: August 29, 2017
Format: e-book
Source: A digital copy of this book was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: ★★⭑☆☆ (I was torn between 2 and 3 stars…)

See other ratings and reviews at Goodreads, then check out the author’s website!

The short version: As much as I wanted to love this book, it fell a short of my expectations. But I still plan on finishing the duology.

The long version: “The thick, briny scent of sweat-soaked leather seeped through my cloth mask.” For me, that first line, full of imagery and detail, was enough to suck me right into the story. I first requested this book from NetGalley because I thought it had an interesting premise, and I was intrigued by the idea of a gender-fluid protagonist. But, while the story held my attention and kept me reading right up till the end, I found myself feeling a little disappointed.

Let me start with Sal, our gender-fluid assassin wannabe. To my limited knowledge, I thought their gender-fluidity was presented incredibly well. It came up several times throughout the story as Sal had to explain themself to other people, and when people tried to use that gender-fluidity as an insult and Sal had to shut them down. But it wasn’t the focal point of the story. It was just a natural part of Sal’s character.

That being said, it seemed like Sal only really had two traits: 1) They’re gender-fluid and 2) They want to be the next member of the Left Hand. They didn’t really have any passions or interests outside of that.

In fact, to me, all the characters seemed a little one-dimensional, which is pretty upsetting for someone who lives for well-developed characters. It doesn’t help that all the auditioners are known only by a number, but even the ones Sal kind of likes seem very shallow.

I think that’s probably the best word to describe the whole book, honestly: shallow. I enjoyed the story, but I felt that it should have been more. There should have been more intrigue, more plotting, more competition, and overall, just more. As it is, it feels like Sal just sort of bumbles along, defeating enemies that have twice as much training.

And that was honestly my biggest problem: there was enough in this book that just seemed too unlikely. To become the queen’s assassin, these competitor’s enter a fight to the death. And Sal, who’s only been a thief up to this point, beats trained nobles, trained knife-throwers, and other trained competitors. Because of how they grew up, Sal has to be taught to read during the competition; one moment they are struggling with reading simple words, the next they’re reading complicated noble names, and then the next day they can’t read a single line from a poem. Then, toward the end of the story {SPOILER} Sal survives this whole mess, is at least partially trained and becomes Opal. The Left Hand thought Sal was good enough to become the next assassin, and then, just pages later, Sal is pushed out a window. Not taken by surprise or anything. Sal lowers their weapon, still watching this old dude, and then said old dude pushes them out a window. {END SPOILER}  It just seemed a little implausible and all over the place.

I plan on finishing the duology because I anticipate being able to see more of what I had anticipated in the next book, but this first book was just kind of so-so for me.

Thanks for reading! Have you read this book yet? Or are you planning to? How important are well-developed character for you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!name

13 thoughts on “Under-Developed Characters Left me Wanting More

  1. I felt the same way about this book. I’m posting my review next week, a little closer to the release date but I basically felt the same. My problem with the gender fluidity was that it was the only trait that Sal had going for them. They had no personality, their entire selling point was their sexual orientation. It was all very bland. I don’t think I’ll read the sequel though. Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Give Sal a secret love of gardening, or cooking, or literally anything! As it is, gender-fluidity and a fixation in revenge are not enough to keep me invested in a character.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I recently finished this one too and I was not a fan. Everything was just so convenient and it felt like things just happened bc Sal was the main character so she had to stay in the competition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope it does, too! The story could get so interesting, it’s just hard for me to really enjoy a book when the characters are so… meh.


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