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A Queen who stopped a civil war by destroying the magic that allowed “shadows” to flay people alive. A Queen who was still working to hold her new kingdom together while one faction retreated to the mountains to plan their bloody return. Our Queen’s Left hand: Ruby, Emerald, Opal and Amethyst. The rings she wore on that hand. Also the names of her four personal guards/assassins.
An audition for a new Opal, the previous one having been killed by the nobles in the mountains. Twenty-three possible new opals. Five invited due to reputation or nobility. The rest walk ons. Kill your competition without being caught or killed yourself. Survive combat, poisons, the competition.
Sal (auditioneer number Twenty-Three) is the protagonist. One of the most brilliant characters I have ever encountered. Sal has a heart of rage because of what happened. Nacea, a peaceful land, was overrun by “shadows” created by mages who flayed people alive. The nobles let it happen by withdrawing all the troops to protect themselves and leave Nacea undefended. Sal saw the shadows destroy Nacea, person by person and was only one of two survivors. Sal has an adoration for the Queen who stopped the shadows and ended the war. Sal has a desire for a better life than a thief and fighter. Sal has motivation and mystery.
The story is so wonderfully constructed. Sal takes the measure of his competitors. The entire court and the Opal auditions are like a huge puzzle Sal must make sense of. Piece by piece a plan develops, not only for Sal in the competition but for the Queen to deal with her unruly nobles. I loved all the characters. Even the side characters had depth to them and felt like real people, not like parts of the scenery. The action scenes were very well written. I could see them in my mind and did not get confused on who was where or had what weapon.
Deryn Edwards does a fantastic job narrating. She creates a totally believable voice for Sal as well as the other members of the Queen's Hand and the contestants. Her speech is clear, her accents understandable, and her pacing perfect. The quality is fantastic. I am interested in checking out other books she has narrated.
I ordered the hardback of Mask of Shadows I am excited to see what Ms. Miller does with Sal and the plot in the sequel. The world Ms. Miller has created in Mask of Shadows is rich and begs to be explored.
It was easy to get sucked in and invested in the characters. Plenty of action and the romance isn't forced. The readers voice is lovely and she makes good character distinctions.