Book: Ace of Shades
Series: The Shadow Game, #1
Author: Amanda Foody
Genre: YA Fantasy
My rating: ★★★1/2
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.
First and foremost I want to say that Ace of Shades is nothing like Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Somehow the rumors started flying that Ace of Shades is a heist story (incorrect) and it is a Six of Crows rip off (also incorrect). Ace of Shades should not be compared to Six of Crows, and it makes me really sad that Amanda Foody has to deal with these criticisms. I think it helps to go into this book with an open mind and to not compare it with other works.
(Okay, thank you for coming to my TEDtalk.)
Back to my review!
“Desire fame, and the city will make you a tragedy.”
Ace of Shades was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases. I’m so grateful to have received a copy in April’s Owlcrate box! I haven’t read Amanda Foody’s other fantasy novel, Daughter of the Burning City (which is not part the The Shadow Game series), so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of her writing style. I just knew that the entire concept of Ace of Shades sounded so cool. I am all about street gangs, gambling, gritty cities, and magical elements.
Ace of Shades alternates between two POVs: Enne and Levi. Enne is a high-society young woman who goes to New Reynes (aka the City of Sin) to search for her missing mother. Enne recruits the help of Levi, a street gang lord who is caught up in a Ponzi-like scheme, in which he owes a lot of money. Together, Enne and Levi work out a deal to help each other while navigating through the City of Sin.
“In the City of Sin, secrets are their own sort of currency, and reputation holds more power than fortune.”
While I enjoyed this book and its overall themes, I wasn’t in love with the execution. I felt like it was really missing a piece of a puzzle. It’s hard to put my finger on what was missing, so I’m going to list out all the things I liked and disliked.
- Enne. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I found Enne to be likable and she surprised me in many different ways. She isn’t whiny and she knows how to roll with the punches. She has a lot of character growth (maybe almost to the point of being a bit unbelievable, but I’ll let it slide.)
- Lola. I hope we get more Lola in the next book, because I thought she made a great “side kick” for Enne.
- The rep. The main character, Levi, is a bi POC and Lourdes is gender fluid.
- The inherited talents are very fascinating, however I wish it was explored more.
- I was digging the steampunk vibes (example: orbs are used to store “volts”, which is the currency). Also, Sweetie Street gave me some Moulin Rouge vibes which I am all about.
- I wanted a darker/grittier world. The book campaign made it sound like the gangs were ready to tear shit up and resort to any means necessary. We only got small glimpses of the cheating and violence. Also The Shadow Games were a bit confusing for me to follow (but that’s probably just me; my brain is tired and refuses to comprehend words at midnight.)
- Levi is weak and reckless. For being a gang leader, he comes off as a big softy (which makes him lovable, albeit not what I was expecting). I don’t know, maybe I thought Levi was going to be more cunning and ruthless?
- The romance, while it’s not the center of the story, feels forced.
- I was hoping for more scenes involving gambling and being in the casinos in general.
- There wasn’t a “squad” for me to get attached to. There isn’t a large ensemble cast. I wanted to see more members of The Irons and to get to know them better.
- Made up curse words. What is it with fantasy books and made up curse words? Muck and shatz were the words that really made my eyes twitch. It took me forever to even figure out what shatz was supposed to mean.
The setting and plot for Ace of Shades sounds amazing but the execution wasn’t quite all there. I wasn’t surprised by any plot twists, “ah ha!”, or “gotcha!” moments. The action is basic. I didn’t form any strong bonds to any of the characters. However, I really loved Enne’s character growth and will be rooting for her in the next book. I’d still love to read the next one to see where the story goes! I’m giving this book 3.5 stars because I enjoyed the end and how things wrapped up (and the foreshadowing in the next installment.) It lost some points on execution. (I round up on Goodreads because they don’t allow half-stars, which is why my review says 4 stars there!)