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  • Unique magic system and exciting plot

    The first thing that you’ll notice about Ace of Shades is that the setting feels similar to Ketterdam of the Grishaverse – it is set in New Reynes, a port town that is infamous as the City of Sin. Think casinos, gambling, shady street gangs, mob families, etc. And so does the character of Levi – he has shades of Kaz Brekker, but with much more vulnerability. He, and the other main character, Enne, meet when she comes searching for her adoptive mother in the city, and he agrees to help her out in exchange for a sum of money that would aid him in paying back a mob family. Enne, meanwhile, starts the story as a shy, ladylike character who is not street-smart, but learns quickly and rises to her own power by the end of the book. While we are on the subject of characters – the writing fleshes them out well, stepping out of the confines of predictability and tropes. Levi seems like he would be cold, but he is good-natured, and feels responsible if things go bad due to him. Enne seems like violence would horrify her, and it does at the start, but she soon shows her pragmatic side that helps her navigate this new world. They also share similar shackles so that is another bonding point for them. As for the other secondary characters, there are many and come in different shades, from a soft-hearted assassin to a kind bouncer-type dude, to a cold Donna of a mob family who has a soft spot for Levi only, to a cruel power-hungry pedophilic Don. When it comes to the world-building, the magical system is the highlight of this book. It is unique and even the familial inheritance of abilites is interesting, and the way it also lends to the family naming of the characters is also unlike anything I’ve encountered. It must be said, though, that there are a lot of abilities supposedly possible in this universe and we have perhaps only have had a glimpse of them – which is why the characters’ occasional disbelief over the possibility of existence of certain kinds of magic doesn’t sit well. Also, the magic of the abilities and the magic of the oaths/omertas/Shadow game feels quite different and I did not entirely understand how these different kinds of magics exist and interact – which I am hoping will be clarified in sequels (oh god I hope it is because I am so interested in the theory of it). As for the other aspects of the world, it is strangely modern – like maybe mid-20th century level kind of advancement. What I wanted more was how the magic abilities would work within a regular tech world, though – like Levi’s fire resistant powers could be more suited to working as a fireman (he does try to save people from burning buildings) – and if people would be given preference according to the their abilities even outside of New Reynes. Overall, it is an entertaining read and one book that you might be interested in if you’re looking for a unique magical system, some well written diverse characters, and a high stakes plot. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harlequin Teen, via Edelweiss.

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  • Amazing, Dark Fantasy

    y immediate thoughts during and after finishing this book were, "how dare i not read this sooner" in case any of you were wondering the only bad part of my experience reading this was seeing the right side get smaller and realizing that this would eventually end. I had previously enjoyed the author's debut, Daughter of the Burning City but wow I did not realize that her later book would become one of my all-time favorites. Enne Salta is our fair-skinned girl from Bellamy, a place known for it's "10 years back" ways and traditional customs. She travels to New Reynes, nicknamed the "City of Sin," a place notorious for its gritty, harsh atmosphere. There starts her quest for her mother, who had gone missing four months earlier, and she's joined by our other main character— Levi Glaysier. Both of them search together for Enne's mom and are only together because of opportunity: Levi is Enne's only lead to finding her mother and Enne could be the solution for Levi to pay back his debt. The characters were a-mazing. Our main character Enne starts off as a girl misplaced in a Bellamy, a world of customs and politeness. However, as she travels to New Reynes, she becomes more comfortable in her own skin and more readily "vicious." Her perspective was so much fun to read from, while I did enjoy both perspectives! Our other main character, Levi, is black and bi and amazing. Levi goes from a morally gray person who's 100% willing to rob Enne without a second thought but over the course of the story, he starts caring more and we love a morally gray character!!! Levi is a chaotic bi (I don't make the rules). I also loved how all of our queer characters are just casually diverse it's amazing!! Our romance during the story was very, very slow-burn and I loved it? Levi and Enne just complemented each other so well and Levi was always so respectable and kind towards Enne, albeit jokingly condescending at times. I loved this world so much. There's an atmosphere of scandalism and grittiness that's just so captivating that I finished the entire book in a sitting. In this world, every person also has two "gifts/talents" that they possess, one from each parent. For some, their parents both have the same talent, which means that they would have extraordinary skill with that gift. Levi's is fire & orb making, and Enne Abacus Salta means math & dancing. I thought that this magical system was done really well, and it wasn't that hard to catch on and understand how it worked. In my opinion, the formatting of this book was also really wonderful? The book is split up into ten days— the ten days that Levi has to pay off his debt or be invited to a game that almost guarantees death. Each division also includes quotes about the City of Sin which really helped the dark mood of this book. The conclusion was really wrapped up nicely in a way that left me satisfied, but still way too excited for the sequel. King of Fools is now definitely one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, right next to The Wicked King (or possibly even higher, I daresay?).

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