Friends, this book murdered me; I am a ghost typing up this review. This book has to be one of my biggest surprises of 2018 so far – it touched me deeply from the first sentences and kept me hooked until the end (and beyond, I am already stalking the 2019 sequel King of Fools).
About Ace of Shades
Publisher: Harlequin Teen | Release Date: April 10, 2018 | Pages: 408
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy | Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
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, Enne has only one lead: the 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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My Review for Ace of Shades
Welcome to New Reynes, the City of Sin where gangs rule the streets and Casino Families rule everything else. Enne Salta’s adoptive mother has failed to return home from a trip to New Reynes but managed to send a letter home with a name — Levi Glaisyer — so she heads to the City for her summer break to find Lourdes. This city isn’t for the faint of heart, and Enne has to learn to navigate a place of games and secrets — but will she be able to survive?
“If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead.”
This book has a strong start that sucked me in right away and kept me entranced until the last page with excellent pacing and characters with such depth that I felt like I knew them personally. Foody masterfully shares details of the world slowly and succinctly so that it never feels like an info dump and the world itself is described so well that I feel like I could walk the streets myself.
“They say the city is a game, one only the reckless play.”
The book is told in the alternating perspectives of Enne Salta and Levi Glaisyer, characters that are as different as night and day but thrust together due because Lourdes wrote his name on a letter.
Enne has been thrust into a world and situation that she wasn’t meant for in the search to find her mother. 17 years old, a dancer from finishing school looking forward to her debut in society. She has a serious sweet tooth and I love her grit and determination to find her mother as a stranger in a strange land.
Levi has been hardened by his years, a master of cards and the head of the Irons. He is almost 18 and has aspirations to make something of himself. Levi is black and bisexual and I adore his compassion.
There is also a cast of secondary characters just as rich, loveable, and flawed. Jac is Levi’s best friend and absolutely a gem, and Lola is a reluctant addition to the trio. I really look forward to seeing more of their backstory in King of Fools.
“All you know is stories, Enne told herself. And not all stories are true.”
The magic system in this world is hereditary, and each person has a main talent and a split talent. The main talent is denoted by a person’s surname and is an easy way to assess a person’s position in society.
Foody created a new fantasy world with a rich and deep history/mythology, and I will admit that at times it was a bit difficult to keep everything straight even though the worldbuilding is done slowly and builds upon nuggets of knowledge introduced earlier.
I absolutely loved Ace of Shades – it is full of a characteristic that I lived for in fantasy: a vivid world, a complex political history, complex characters. It is a fast-paced story that has everything I love in fantasy executed well… just be sure to take notes so that you can keep everything straight as the worldbuilding is vast! This is a fantastic start to what I am sure will be an amazing trilogy, and I cannot wait to continue the series!
Content Warning: inferred pedophilia, drug use, gambling, loss of a loved one