Published: 10 April 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult
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, her only lead is a 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.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Told in alternating perspectives, the story begins with Enne’s arrival in New Reynes. She is bewildered, as this is very different world than she is used to. I would say it’s something like a young lady from England arriving in Las Vegas, so I understand her nerves. Her determination to find her adopted mother, Lourdes, is strong, though, as it allows her to, if not cast aside these nerves, then tamp them down, as she almost immediately plunges into the underbelly of the South side of the city with Chez, a member of the Iron Hands, after an encounter with the White Boots (law enforcement).
This leads her to meet Levi, another story perspective. He’s Lord of the Irons, a gang that operates within New Reynes and is technically the only gang that’s never broken the law. Owing to a pressing need for money due to a ponzi scheme going south and a past connection with Lourdes, Levi enters into an arrangement to help Ennes find her mother in exchange for a monetary reward.
Enne’s chapters were not my favorite. I found her personality in turn too petulant for my liking and then, wildly, the opposite end too cold. For the first half of the book, I thought that her upbringing as a lady was one thing, but for it to be quite a lot of her personality was too much. There’s also the motivation for her finding Lourdes. Lourdes being her mother is one thing, but in spite of that, I never really felt like there was a connection between Enne. It felt like the motivation of “mother is missing, find mother” was one note and it’s execution in the narrative flat. Enne was a bit whiny about the ordeal when she arrived in New Reynes, but her feelings about the situation, if they can be called that, felt a bit clinical. The words were there, but they were hollow.
The last, say, third of the novel, when Enne’s personality changed, almost could have been agreeable, but then I thought about the time frame that all these changes had happened in. It felt strange that she would go from this sheltered girl to a killer in a matter of a fortnight with next to no qualms.
Levi’s perspective was more interesting. While I felt a bit of deja vu reading him (as I’ll explain in a bit), I also felt more warmth from his character than any other in this book. He was trying so hard to do different things, whether saving himself, protecting the Irons from the effects of Vianca’s machinations, or assisting Enne due in part to a debt owed to Lourdes and due in part to his own part in her difficulties in New Reynes. His orb making talent, too, was a neat bit of magic that I liked imagining and I think would look fabulous on screen.
I had some debate with myself about whether fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows series would Ace of Shades because it has some of the same qualities. From the beginning I got the distinct impression that I was reading about the Dregs and Ketterdam again, but not in the same ruthless manner. The gang of criminals that weren’t quite as dastardly as criminals are “supposed” to be that we all fall in love with, the city riddled with crime that the head of the gang has wrapped around his finger. When I mentioned previously having a dejavu feeling, it was regarding how Levi could very well have been a cousin of Kaz Brekker, but he didn’t have the ruthlessness that made Kaz such a daring and engaging character in addition to his other rich characteristics.
The secondary cast wasn’t particularly memorable, so I can’t say that there’s much to comment on except to say that I wish there’d been more detail put into them that would’ve made them pop off the page. There were a couple that I thought might have been good to get to know, but by the end I was shrugging and finding myself saying, “meh”.
Amanda Foody did take a different tact and added some cool elements with blood talents and split talents, abilities that everyone is born with to varying degrees. It was confusing at first because I was unclear as to how these talents manifested themselves in people, how middle and surnames were given if you weren’t sure which talent was going to be stronger until the child was older, etc. Even at the end I’m not clear on how the magical system works.
The pacing is the final thing I’ll mention that was a downer. The best thing I can compare it to is this: the book is set up by, as well as alternating perspectives, days rather than chapters (i.e. Day 1, Day 2, etc.). As I was reading, it was as if I could feel every day passing. Nine days, 216 hours, and being away for every one of them; it was not a fun time.
Ace of Shades was, in the end, a book full of potential. It had a setting that was familiar, but with twist and a magic system that could have made it new and dazzling. However, characters and plot devices too similar to other, more well written stories and dry, ill paced writing brought it down and made for a disappointing read.
About the Author
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.
- Prize:5 copies of ACE OF SHADES (The Shadow Game #1) by Amanda Foody
- Open US/Canda Only
- Starts: 3/26
- Ends: 4/19
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.