Release date: August 29th 2017
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.
Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.
I was really excited for this book when I first heard about it. A fantasy book with a gender-fluid main and an assassin competition? Yes please. The idea of the competition to find a new assassin to join the Queen’s group, with the competitors killing each other off, was reminiscent of Throne of Glass and The Hunger Games. I loved both of those books so if felt like I should have fallen in love with this one. But I didn’t.
Sal was an orphan who worked as a thief but when they found a flyer saying there would be a competition looking for a new Opal, part of the Queen’s assassins, they decided to drop everything and hurry to prove themselves. They wanted to serve the Queen. Sal could definitely be likeable. I enjoyed their interactions with Maud, the servant assigned to them during the competition, and their interactions with some of the other competitors. Sal showed how determined they were to become Opal, it was almost all they thought about, but revenge was also on their mind. Revenge against the people they felt had abandoned them and their people during the war, who’d betrayed them and left thousands to die. Becoming Opal would make their revenge easier.
All the competitors were identified by numbers and they all wore masks. It made it more difficult to get attached to any of them and only the ones who Sal either made a connection with or spoke of a lot made any kind of an impact. Very few of them stuck out and were just faceless numbers in the way of Sal’s end goal.
One of my biggest issues with the book was that Sal told everyone that they dress as they are on any given day and to address them as such, which is fine, but when combined with a first person POV, I, as a reader who couldn’t see what they were wearing, had no idea how to think of the character unless it was said how they were dressed. It was also something that was accepted by most of the characters unless the character was a jerk so did that mean gender fluidity was something that was accepted in this universe or did Sal just happen to join a competition with a lot of really accepting people? I did like that gender fluidity did seem like it was accepted as just a part of who Sal was but I would have liked more context in regards to the universe they were in.
I read through the book pretty quickly. The competition and Sal’s quest for revenge felt a little repetitive after a while, almost formulaic. It wasn’t often I felt the need to slow down my reading pace in fear of missing vital information because it didn’t feel like a whole lot was being revealed. I do want to know more about the world, the shadows, and to see what will happen to Sal next, so there was enough interest in the book that I will read the sequel. It’s just not one I can see myself re-reading.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.