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 steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.
But 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. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.
First of all, I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review so unfortunately, this book isn’t actually out until September. Second of all, look at that lovely cover. I love covers like that, so perfect for fantasy like this. Third of all, Sal is genderfluid so I’m going to use ‘they’ pronouns for this review. Sal uses he, she or they depending on how they dress, but switching between the three would be far too confusing for this review.
I really did enjoy this book. It took me a while to read because it was a little slow to get into but when I finished it, I was really happy with the book altogether. The characters were varied and interesting, both the Left Hand, the other auditioners and the friends Sal surrounds themselves with. I liked how they all had their backstories and were all working towards them, for example, Sal never judges Maud for looking forward to the pearls she’ll get if Sal becomes Opal, especially when they find out what Maud wants the money for. Sal learns to trust other people and it’s a slow process, the character arc being quite satisfying for me. Sal being a genderfluid character was neither brushed over, nor focused on to the expense of the plot. Other characters used the wrong pronouns for them and they became annoyed especially when they had explained it
The world-building, especially the history of the war and the people, was really enjoyable for me. I really liked how each country had its own history and culture, though I could have done with a bit more explanation on some points. I liked how Sal never forgot their own country and the wrongs done against it and the Shadows were a suitably frightening threat (I can see why Sal freaked out at the thought of them being back).
The thing I think could be improved for this book was I felt the plot was a little cliche. The ending surprised me, especially with the revelations about one of the Left Hand, but the whole ‘auditioners have to try and kill each other’ was not that original, although it was done in a different way than I’ve seen before.
All in all, I would recommend it so four stars!