Ace of Shades — Amanda Foody (ARC Review)

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

TITLE: Ace of Shades

AUTHOR: Amanda Foody

SERIES: The Shadow Game, #1

RELEASES: April 10th, 2018; Harlequin Teen

GENRE: Fantasy

AGE RANGE: YA

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, 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.

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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.

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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!

2flowers

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

21 thoughts on “Ace of Shades — Amanda Foody (ARC Review)

      1. I’ve found that I need to go into books with lower expectations because I was hyping them so much that I got disappointed. It probably doesn’t help other people much, but it has definitely helped me enjoy hyped books a bit more again.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more Destiny, but basically I agree with everything you said about it! I really didn’t like the two main characters, especially Enne. And YES those made up swears were so annoying, I’m actually really glad it wasn’t just me on those! I felt like I might have been too picky about it but that clearly wasn’t the case!
    I did really enjoy the world Foody created though and like you said I hope there’s further exploration of that in future books!
    Amazing review as always Destiny! 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Heather! I’m sorry it wasn’t a better read for you, either. Enne was so frustrating, and omg – I know I just commented back to your post about this, but those fake swears were KILLING me! They normally don’t make me legitimately mad, but I was like… I wanted to throw the book at one point because it was bugging me SO much, haha! So no, you definitely weren’t alone!

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    1. I’m sorry, Sionna! 😦 I’ll be honest – I think the marketing crew for this book is ON POINT, because they have hyped the hell out of it, but I genuinely just do not believe it’s well written enough to deserve all of that. 😦

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  2. I didn’t feel super drawn to this one, so I’m going to use this review as an excuse to skip over it without feeling guilty. 🙂 I always feel so bad when I don’t want to read a book that gets rave reviews from my friends.

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  3. This is a really anticipated book for me and it’s sad that it wasn’t everything you hoped. I may readjust my expectations a little. I haven’t read DOTCB but completely understand the underwhelming first book in a series.

    I’m glad there are some really resounding qualities to the book though and am still looking forward to getting my hands on it. Hopefully, the sequel will pick up the story and the characters much better than this one did.

    (Still wildly cheering for the rep in this book though!)

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