City of Sin + Magical Elements // Ace of Shades ARC Review

Casinos + mobster families + magic = a pretty spellbinding book. Ace of Shades is a twisting, intense read and I really enjoyed it.
Now, ahem, I’ve seen a lot of chatter comparing Ace of Shades to Six of Crows. And that is NOT a good idea. Comparing books is terrible, especially when one book is already fairly new and very popular. Either the second book will be accused of plagiarism or just being a gigantic let down.

And I don’t want to do that to Ace of Shades. Because I felt like this book is good – if it is allowed to stand on it’s own. You can compare the setting to Six of Crows, but don’t try to make the characters fit the Six of Crows narrative. Or even the storyline.
For starters. you can’t just take a random teenager and voila, he’s Kaz! You’ll never read another Kaz, sorry. (Because Kaz is practically perfect and can’t be beat)
You also can’t take just any gang and magically, boom, they’re the dregs! It doesn’t work that way.
And just for good measure, not every villain is going to be as epically terrifying as Van Eck. As I just mentioned, every character isn’t Kaz fighting their own personal demon.
So, now that we’ve dropped the Six of Crows comparison, let’s chat about the spooky greatness that is Ace of Shades

Oh my goodness – The City of Sin is incredibly detailed and rich. I felt like was in the city with Enne. From the Gambling dens and cabarets to the dark alleys, the city was diverse and immersive.
Also, I loved the metro system! I don’t think I’ve ever read a steampunk book with a met system and I LOVED reading about these characters riding the cars.

And don’t forget the acrobatic circus thrown into the mix. Those scenes gave me the Greatest Showman vibes, which is a very good thing.

The magic system is also really complex. Different talents mixing, with royal families carrying different talents. I LIKE IT. Also, the Shadow Game is terrifying. Magical spooky terror. But just to make it a bit more perfect, we’ve mixed in Republics & political uprisings with our magical terrorizing assassin club. Wow.

Also, talents that you can use to control people??? Give me more.

Mixed in with the magic & city is, of course, the crime. I want more with the crime families and street gangs. Honestly, that’s what makes this book so intriguing. The Donna and Dons and casino families.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA Steampunk Fantasy with such intense hierarchies of crime? I mean, Six of Crows had gangs, but I’m not sure how well they qualified as organized crime? Anyway, it was really a wild read with these crime families. They felt authentically bad & backstabbing and totally untrustworthy.

  • Enne Salta was so fun to read. She’s naive and funny. I know some people have complained about her naivety, but I thought it was refreshing. She alternates between prudish and shocked, and I like it.

^When people complain Enne is naive, are you Mother Gothel? Is naive such a bad thing???^

Enne reminds me of me if I was dropped in the middle of Vegas. Oh, and by the way, I’m looking for my missing relative and walking around reading a guidebook to navigating the city of sin.

Speaking of guidebook, I sure hope Amanda Foody publishes the guidebook as a companion novella or something. I would pour over it along with Enne Salta.

  • Levi Glaisyer – He’s not Kaz. And his motivation to become a street lord makes NO SENSE. I was super annoyed with him as a character because he’s trying so hard to be this street lord, and he doesn’t match up to the job? Different characters say he’s better than the rest of them, but I don’t see it? It’s confusing, conflicting messages.

Also, Levi is bisexual. Representation is fantastic, EXCEPT the way his sexuality is treated. He has intense platonic relationships with his guy friends. Definitely not romantic, but they are rich and strong friendships. Also, he sleeps with guys. So he only sleeps with the guys he uses? But he actually falls in love with a girl?
I don’t like sexuality used that way. It feels like Levi’s bisexuality is just exploited – like he can only develop real relationships with girls, while he just enjoys sleeping with guys. I HATE this narrative.

Ace of Shades needs to spend a bit more time developing rich characters. Enne was great, but I felt like the rest of the ensemble were just meh. The descriptions of the characters didn’t live up to how they acted. Their actions were difficult to understand. I hope the sequel improves and delivers better rounded characters.

There are GREAT things happening with this plot. I want to read more, really I do.
But I also felt like there were weird things that just didn’t make sense. Such as, Levi and his decisions. His choices make NO SENSE. We learn more information about Levi and why he does what he does as you keep reading, but for a while I was very upset with Levi and felt he was incredibly stupid.

Me, trying to figure out some of the character’s choices

Also, back to Levi not being Kaz. This kid does not see ahead and plan the way Kaz does. You can’t expect that he will. While Kaz was young, he thought like an old crime lord. Levi is really a kid, and the narrative reads that way.
If you’re expecting a super smart, street savvy crime syndicate, it’s not Levi. As long as you’re not looking for street genius, the plot isn’t frustrating. 

I also really enjoyed the blend of politics and magic. And of course, the Shadow Game. it’s all very creepy and weird, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I’m pretty sure this is magical realism? I haven’t ever read a specific magical realism book before, but after thinking about it, I’m certain Ace of Shades does qualify.

Oh, a bit about the writing style. I did think some phrases were very monotonous and an editor should have cleaned up some repeated words. *Inner grammar nerd freaking out*

Totally curious what you guys feel about made up curse words? Ace of Shades uses different curse words, but they have obvious roots in modern curse words. I guess the author doesn’t use this language because it will bother people, but the obvious parallel curse words are kind of silly.

I am very excited to see things play out in the second book. Ace of Shades ends with some major cliffhangers and I can’t wait to see where this series goes!

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Release Date // April 10, 2018

4/5 Stars 

Synopsis from Goodreads

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.

lets chat
Have you read Ace of Shades?
If not, are you planning on reading it? 
Do you enjoy steampunk fantasy or magical realism?
Do you compare characters in different books to each other? Or wonder what a character would be like if written into a different book?
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