4 of 5 stars
I received an eARC of this from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for my honest review.
CW: PTSD after violence during childhood; intentional misgendering; discussions of homophobic, transphobic, and sexist culture
Representation: The main character is genderfluid. Their love interest is a bi woman.
This book is the final installment of the Mask of Shadows duology. We continue following Sal after the events at the end of the last book. Vague, I know, but I want to keep this spoiler free so there you go. While the first book has an “assassins game” vibe, this book is more of an adventure/quest.
So first let’s talk about the pros. As with the last book, I loved the characters. We get to see more of our favorites including the Left Hand. Some characters who were only mentioned in the first book get more fully developed and there are a couple of new players that make things fun. We learn more about the history and the political situation that the county of Igna is dealing with. We get to see more of the country since the book doesn’t just take place in Igna’s capital. Sal has already been established as a morally grey character but through this book we get to see how everyone is grey. Not one character is perfect (except Maud… Maud might be perfect) and there’s a lot of good discussion about putting people on pedestals.
I did struggle to get through parts of this. Some of the parts describing the various countries’ history seemed dense. Sal’s internal monologue and some character decisions didn’t always make sense to me and made me feel like I had missed some connection I was supposed to have made. As much as I loved seeing the world expand it felt a little forced at times and the continuity of the worldbuilding felt a little shaky.
To be fair, I might have missed things. It took me about a month to read this book. Of all the novels I’ve read in August this is the only one I’ve read visually as opposed to as an audiobook. Right now, visual reading just isn’t working well for me. We’ll see if I have the same issues with the writing after my future rereads.
All in all I adore this book. I don’t care if the writing doesn’t always work for me because everything else I enjoy makes up for it. I think I prefer the second book to the first if only because we understand more of what’s happening with the world at large. Additionally, the end is much more satisfying than the end of the first book was. This makes sense considering their positions in the series but endings really make or break my love for a book and I just liked the end of the second one better.
A small side note: I recognize that part of my love for this book stems from seeing a genderfluid main character… if Sal wasn’t queer in some way I doubt I would love this series as much as I do. That being said, though, I feel that way about quite a lot of books. Books being queer almost always makes me significantly more likely to enjoy them. It’s part of seeing myself or other parts of my community represented. Though I believe that this book will appeal to more people than just fans of queer books, that’s the camp I’m cheering from.
I highly recommend checking out Ruin of Stars (and it’s predecessor Mask of Shadows) at your local bookstore or library. I particularly think fans of YA fantasy adventures like Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi will enjoy this book.