Title: Ace of Shades
Author: Amanda Foody
Series: The Shadow Game #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: April 10th, 2018 (Harlequin Teen)
Synopsis: 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.
“She was a pistol wrapped up in silk.
She was a blade disguised as a girl.”
New Reynes is a city where gangs run the streets and casino families reign, unsurprisingly, referred to as the City of Sin. It is here that sheltered, finishing school raised, Enne Salta arrives in search of her missing mother, knowing nothing of the city but for one person she is seeking – Levi Glaisyer. Levi however, is far from the gentleman she expects to find, and is in fact one of the street lords and leader of the gang known as the Irons. Levi is in a bit of a sticky situation himself. With an investment scam about to blow up in his face, he owes a large sum to a dangerous creditor counting down the days to his payment. To Levi, the money Enne offers for his help is his ticket to freedom, to turning back his focus solely on being the Iron Lord and running Olde Town and the Casino District. But New Reynes is a city with a dark past of rebellion and bloodshed, where secrets hide in the shadows and there are many truths and lies that Enne will uncover before the end – both about herself and the mother she quickly realizes there is more to than she ever knew.
Basically a more dangerous Las Vegas with some magic thrown in, Amanda Foody brings New Reynes to life with vivid description and immersive world-building. The magic system of this world, or talents as they are known, are a concept I found extremely intriguing. Each person possesses talents, as identified by their two family names, like strength, dancing, acrobatics and arithmetic. I really enjoyed the concept of blood and split talents and hopefully the sequels have more information and background on these. As a whole, the setting and feel is really important for any fantasy novel, and I think the author did very well in this regard. The one thing that was lacking however, was that we know very little about the world outside New Reynes, and indeed very little about the world outside the gang-controlled North Side. The political situation of monarchists vs the First Party could have been explained better since, with the situation at the closing of Ace of Shades, it is no doubt going to be something crucial going forward.
As for characters, Enne, while I initially found her very annoying with her prim, proper attitude, not to mention ridiculously naive, she did grow on me by the end of the book as she accepted her new reality and plunged herself into New Reynes headfirst. Levi on the other hand, was one of the most impressive characters I’ve read in a while. He initially comes off as the suave con man, but is quickly shown to be much more, a boy with ambitions of building an empire, but with morals under the swagger. Jac and Lola are very interesting for side characters and I get the feeling they’re going to be very important going forward. It was also really nice that the story was interspersed with conversations that revealed the history of the Republic, which were really crucial for the plot. It never at any point felt like an info dump and everything just came together gradually.
On a side note, what was with the weird manner of swearing? The made-up, near-childish swear words honestly made me laugh because with the setting of this novel, a little cursing would be completely in character for this setting and there’s no need to censor it, if that was the idea. I’ve seen far worse language in YA.
Overall, this book is an exciting ride and a fast-paced adventured that I loved. Though it’s nothing similar plot wise, this book has a feel that Six of Crows fans will enjoy. Although I’m quite late reading this, it was a lot of fun, and I’m ready for the sequel!
Other reviews in this series:
Book 2: King of Fools
Have you read this book or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Keep an eye out for my review of King of Fools, coming soon!