Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But genderfluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.
But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.
I would like to thank Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for sending me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review (and honestly I never expected to say those words. So).
1. A genderfluid character. Honestly (don’t hate me) I’m kind of tired of cis authors only making their non-binary characters genderfluid. Genderfluid rep is important but other genders besides male, female, and changing exist, y’know. And Sal is only refered to with they/them pronouns once (that I caught), though since the book is written in first person we don’t see a lot of pronouns/gendered language used for them anyway.
1.1. I’m not quite comfortable with Sal’s “pronoun me how I’m dressed” either because clothes don’t inherently have gender. I’m non-binary/genderqueer and I like wearing dresses, and gendering the clothes I wear means I’m more likely to be misgendered. But this is a specifically Sal thing so I’m not going to push it that much.
1.1.1. Also did I mention there are other queer characters in this book, including a bi/pan/queer kid and another aro one???
2. Sal is incredibly stabby and sassy, which are both characteristics I look for in a book child to adopt. The voice — their voice — is so strong and it stays strong for the entire novel.
2.1. And I want Sal’s entire wardrobe right now please
3. Death! Killing! Murder! Suspense!! The competition is like the Hunger Games, except sneaky edition plus royals. It’s intense and murder-y and includes all the sneaking you ever wished for and more.
4. The subplot involving the Nacean massacre / shadows and Erlend involvement is so good and it’s woven into the plot so effortlessly.
4.1. Sal has PTSD because of the shadows. Theirs is very different from mine, so I’m not going to talk about the accuracy of the rep much, but they’re traumatized and in a competition involving murder, which gives me hopes and dreams for the future. Characters who kick ass and also have mental illness are so important to me; I struggle with believing that my disability is a burden and Sal kills that belief so hard.
5. Sal doesn’t like chicken feet *grumbles* chicken feet are delicious why don’t people like chicken feet *grumbles*
6. No spoilers but the ending will stab you in the heart a few dozen times
Tl;dr: read this book. It’s queer, it’s stabby, Sal is hot. Please note that there is a lot of gore at a few points and a lot of blood at quite a few points, and besides that it isn’t any more violent than the average YA fantasy.
5/5 stars for murdering my feelings.
Trigger warnings: violence, death/murder, poisons, classism, alcohol, torture, blood/gore (both related to PTSD and not), self-harm, PTSD symptoms, genocide/massacre (happened before events of book related to MC’s PTSD), misgendering
Fun fact: I low key requested this ARC on accident and I’m still freaking out about the fact that I got it???!!
Have you read any books about non-binary/genderfluid assassins lately? Enbies/genderfluid peeps? Assassins?