Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game, #1)by Amanda Foody Published 10 Apr 2018
|Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game, #1).pdf|
Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…
And she’ll need to play.
"Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game, #1)" Reviews
Despite Enne’s flaws - namely that she was mucking annoying - she knew how to weasel in and out of a conversation.
You know what else is mucking annoying? Made up curse words like mucking! Fictional profanity almost always has me laughing (and not in a good way) but it was especially bad here because “mucking” is almost “fucking” but also hilariously… not.
But let's not get hung up on language. The bigger problem is that Ace of Shades is Six of Crows's shallower, less interesting sibling. It wishes it was Six of Crows. Levi Glaisyer wishes he was Kaz Brekker. But neither are.
We are presented with a weird and confusing world. There's a lot of world-building infodumps about Mizers and monarchists, Talents of Aptitude, Talents of Mysteries, and the miscegenation laws that used to exist between those of different talents. A lot of information but, unfortunately, not a lot of depth. It all seemed like a mishmash of boring politics borrowed from other fantasy novels and renamed here.
In this world, Enne Salta arrives in the City of Sin (alt-Vegas, basically) in search of her missing mother. Armed only with a letter in which her mother instructs her to find Levi Glaisyer, Enne must navigate this place of greed and gluttony, casinos and drugs, and uncover the truth about her mother's disappearance as well as her own past.
When I read Six of Crows, I kinda forgot that the characters were supposed to be teenagers - I was able to suspend disbelief enough to shrug that detail off - but here it is much more glaring. Levi is not very convincing as a seventeen year old street lord and con man. It was laughable to imagine this guy ruling the streets of the City of Sin.
And, in general, none of the characters stood out to me. Enne seems kind of stupid and naive to an astonishing degree - she walks knowingly into gang dens, purchases a guidebook that she barely reads (Levi has to inform her what’s in it), accidentally leaves her belongings behind, and a few chapters in and she is already eyeing up Levi:
“She allowed herself to admit that Levi Glaisyer was very good-looking— at least, in an up-to-no-good way that she supposed some people found attractive.”
Cue the cheesy romance.
Enne does experience some growth, but even that felt like nothing new. Enne’s story of sheltered-girl-turned-badass is one I'm certain I've read before. About a thousand times. Her initial prudishness is annoying, too.
The third person, combined with the somewhat lackluster plot, made it really difficult to connect. The writing itself is nothing special and doesn't conjure much emotion, so I spent pretty much the whole novel feeling detached. I was just so mucking bored.
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I LOOOOOOVED Ace of Shades so much. What an exhilarating, fantastical start to a fantasy series!
CW: violence, pedophilia (it’s totally condemned in the story)
I adore Amanda Foody’s writing style. It is so descriptive and easy to engage with. The entire time I felt as if I was traveling New Reynes alongside Enne and Levi. The world is extremely vivid and atmospheric. The history of the world was a tad difficult for me to retain at first because there’s quite a lot of info and it is ALL so important, but I noticed a distinct improvement in worldbuilding as compared to the author’s debut. I personally consider Amanda Foody to be one of the most talented YA authors to have been published in the last two years.
The magic system/talents of this world were FASCINATING to me. Each person is gifted with two talents based on their family names. The talents extend anywhere from classic elemental magic to protection to dancing/acrobatics and even COUNTING. The variety among talents was very unique in my opinion and unlike many other magic systems, but I also enjoyed seeing the social view of different families associated with the same talent. (For example, Enne is a Salta which is a dancing talent, but Salta’s are considering among the lower class of dancing families therefore she is treated differently.) I found this system to be immensely complex and intriguing and I cannot wait to see it develop more throughout the sequel.
The characters were so wonderful and loveable. Enne has fantastic character development, transforming from a girl of etiquette and virtue to a rebel and ultimate BADASS in the City of Sin. Levi strikes an interesting balance between sweet and protective while committing some immoral acts against those he cares for. I love that we have a black bisexual protagonist, but even more, I love that we have a male lead that does not shy away from being fragile and scared. Lordes is another interesting character, as Enne’s adoptive, genderfluid mother who has gone missing. I was impressed to see how much development she was given despite being a non-active character in the story. The villains are another fantastic addition to the story – Although this is a fantasy story, I adored how they were terrifying for more human/realistic traits instead of possessing a stronger magical power. All around the characters were well-developed, intriguing, and addictive. I love them all and cannot wait to see more.
The only real critique I have for Ace of Shades is that there were a few moments where I had to sort of just accept facts of the story as true without fully understanding the basis. I wouldn’t necessarily consider them “holes” in the plot, I just wished they were a little bit better explained. I noticed a similar issue with the authors debut, but I feel Ace of Shades is more finely executed compared to it’s predecessor, so there is still progress that deserves to be noted! That being said, these moments are not deal breakers for me when it comes to reading and the positives of the story HEAVILY outweigh my minor critiques.
Overall, Ace of Shades was amazing. Please read it. I am totally obsessed with this story. Now excuse me while I spend the next year of my life anxiously awaiting book two.
I was provided a copy of this book for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is one of the most interesting books I've read in this year. Its has the feel of Caraval and Six of Crows all mixed together with a hint of fantasy. AMAZING and maybe even going on my favorites list. I'm in shock I can't get over how great this book is. The whole concept is fascinating and kept my interest peaked at all times. The writing is amazing, the world is very well thought out and the City of Sin is one of the most exciting places I've read about. I like this more than Daughter of The Burning City.
The plot picked up very quickly and maintained a pretty good pace. The book has a vibe of mystery about it and has a very engaging plot. The mystery was a major aspect of the book but the fantasy wasn't overshadowed and played a major role in maintaining the intrigue surrounding the story. I love the characters and how each of their personalities played a role in revealing more of the story. The book is written in two perspectives and both play a very important role as one person is intimately familiar with the City of Sin while the other knows nothing. So watching the story play out in the eyes of two people with very different life experiences enhances everything they go through in the book.
Enne once aimed to be the perfect lady and dreamed of her entrance to society, sounds very snobbish doesn't she, but she's actually a really fierce girl with a great personality. Enne was raised in Bellamy which is full of the most snobbish people in the world and is never taken notice of as she is neither rich nor talented. The only person she took comfort in was her adoptive mother who is now missing and Enne sets out to the City of Sin to find out what happened to the one person who was her family. But turns out her mother is not who she thought she was and was leading another life entirely. And that may not be the only thing her mother lied to her about.
Levi is the Iron Lord. He makes his living leading the Irons, who are one of the three gangs in the City of Sin. He knows nearly everything there is to know about the city but his life is not as simple as it would seem. He was dragged into a scam that is most likely going to get him killed and in working his way to save his life he hasn't been able to benefit the gang he is supposed to lead.
Both Enne and Levi are going to work toward their goals but as they do so they both get dragged into something they may not be able to get out of.
The fantasy element of this book is that every person has 2 talents one blood talent and one split talent. The blood talent is stronger and the split talent is usually weaker. And the talents can be like singing, dancing, acrobatics, and some rare ones can be magical like being able to summon a fire or cast a
I wish I was in this world because about right nowthe only talents I seem to have are all related to books.
This is an absolutely amazing story and I urge you to try it. I give this book 5 stars and CAN'T WAIT for the next one.
"People do not play this game to win, my dear. They play this game not to lose."
When this book’s synopsis first started circulating the YA book community, I was unspeakably excited for it. A book about dangerous gangs and gambling, with a bi young man of color as one of the protagonists? Sign me up! Unfortunately, this book suffered the same problem I have with the author’s debut, Daughter of the Burning City—it has a lot of cool ideas at play, but the execution leaves a little bit to be desired.
The photograph of Luckluster Casino matched the stories of New Reynes: red lights that flashed without flame, women of loose morals dancing on street corners in sparkling, skin-tight corsets, gambling dens beckoning passersby with seedy smiles and the allure of fast fortune.
Amanda Foody proved with DOTBC that she’s capable of weaving some very aesthetic settings, whether it’s a twisted carnival city of sin, or a slum full of casinos hiding wicked gang lords and thieves. I love a good casino or gang slum setting, so that was one of the first things that piqued my interest about Ace of Shades.
“So you cheat,” she said, the contempt obvious in her voice.
“We make a business out of winning.”
My biggest problem was that I couldn’t ever fully buy in to the characters. The story alternates perspectives, and first, we have Levi Glaisyer, lord of the Irons gang, orb-maker, and criminal genius. More than anything, I adored the diversity of his character being an unapologetically bisexual young black man, which is a role I have so rarely seen in YA fantasy. (Speaking of diversity, I’d also note here that Enne’s mother, Lourdes, is a gender-fluid character, which was a nice added bonus, despite not being a prominent piece of the story.)
On the other hand, where similar YA fantasy characters would often seem vicious and hardened, Levi also stands apart in a bad way: he is a teddy bear to a fault. Despite the fact that we’re told he’s an infamous gang lord in “The City of Sin”, where he holds his own against multiple other gangs and crooks, none of Levi’s actions actually made me feel that he was capable, much less the ruthless criminal I was expecting. Levi is a really lovable and warm character—I just didn’t find him to be particularly three-dimensional.
Pretty or not, Levi wondered if he had ever met such a delicate, unpleasant creature.
The other protagonist of the book is Enne Salta, who I unfortunately disliked from front cover to back, no matter how hard I tried to enjoy her chapters. She comes onto the scene incredibly uppity and snobbish, and never fully loses that trait, even though a week’s time in the story tries to transform her from a boarding school ballerina to a terrifying assassin. Again, much like with Levi’s progression, it all felt very insincere and forced to me.
Another complaint I had about the story is minor, but applied to the entire cast of characters pretty evenly: the made-up swears in this book are nearly unbearable. I personally don’t usually mind when a book replaces curse words with made-up terms, as long as it’s used sparingly, but after a handful of chapters, I was sighing inwardly every time a character said “mucking” or “shatz”.
All you know are stories, Enne told herself. And not all stories are true.
On a happier note, I enjoyed quite a few aspects of the story. There are a lot of moving parts to the plot (almost too many, to be fair), and quite a few of them felt very “new” and unique to me, such as the volt orbs for currency, or the inherited talents that each individual has (one from each parent, with one talent being stronger than the other). I was genuinely impressed by a lot of these details and would certainly be interested in learning more about the history of the world. I wish we had been given more back story to the world that New Reynes takes place in, but this is only the first book of the series, so hopefully, future installments will provide further explanation.
All in all, I thought this book fell right in the middle of the scale—I enjoyed myself well enough to finish the story, but I don’t feel any pressing need to continue the series or learn what happens next. That said, I can easily see this story becoming a quick favorite for a lot of readers—especially anyone who enjoys casino settings, and does not mind slightly underdeveloped storytelling and world-building. While it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, if the synopsis of Ace of Shades interests you, I would certainly recommend picking it up and giving it a try.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Harlequin Teen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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