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Book Review: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1) by Amanda Foody

Hello there, everyone! I am incredibly excited for today’s blog post and I’m so happy it’s finally here!

If you follow me on Twitter @santanareads, then you are very familiar with the fact that I love a little book called Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody, the first installment in the Shadow Game series. I haven’t stopped screaming about it on social media, and I finally got around to sit down and pour my thoughts onto a review! So, yeah. I’m really emotional cause I just love this book so much, and here’s why!

Before I kick off, here’s the cover and synopsis:

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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, 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.


“The City of Sin is painted white so that the filth can stain.”

To be frank, I don’t even know where to begin. After reading it two times, I am still speechless over the utter brilliance of this book and how much it captured me and my heart, and just won’t let go.

It is no news that I am not much of a fantasy reader. Still, I was incredibly excited to pick this up due to Emma @ Emmmabooks and Julianna @ Paper Blots. They both love the book, and when I saw it at a bookstore early last year, I knew that, even though I’d have to pay $20 for my hardcover, it’d be worth it. Regardless, of course I had my hesitations. It sounded right up my alley, but not, at the same time? I’d never read anything like it.

I think I originally picked it up in August, or something like that. I only read the first chapter, however, because even though that first chapter was amazing, I was falling into a reading slump. So, I put it down. But then, finally, I cracked open my very expensive hardcover during Thanksgiving break. I had just finished The Last 8, and I was weirdly in the mood for even more fantasy. So, I started reading at my grandma’s house. And just for that, I consider November 27 and 28 of the year 2019 some of the best days of my year, and my entire life.

Ace of Shades is a YA fantasy novel about Enne Salta, a 17-year old girl from the posh and conservative city of Bellamy. She attends her local but quite demanding finishing school, where she prepares to become a lady and make her debut into society. However, her adoptive mother journeys into New Reynes and sends Enne a letter that if she’s not back in two months, she’s dead. A letter that she sent in February. And Enne Salta finally makes it to the City of Sin during the summer, but still holding out hope she’ll find her, with only one lead: a man named Levi Glaisyer whomst her mom said could help her.

And so it begins, this amazing adventure in New Reynes. Well, maybe amazing isn’t the correct word, but enthralling, twisty, and mysterious are definitely, perfectly suitable.

Throughout the novel, we get to experience two different points of view: Enne’s and Levi’s, the protagonists of the story, who have very opposing personalities and struggles, but come together to find Enne’s mother, Lourdes.

At the beginning, although it didn’t affect my reading experience in the slightest, Enne was a very irritating and annoying character. But it was very understandable, as she’s just a teen, and she’s put in a difficult position: having to travel to an unknown city alone and having nobody to trust and rely on. She’s been raised in a delicate environment with no friends and isolated from the world, due to her mom’s reputation and coming from a low-tier dancing family.

The way Foody develops her character so seamlessly and realistically astonishes me. Enne was raised in a glass box, and we can experience how that box slowly cracks but still holds. And at the end, it just shatters. I adore how there were metaphors about her growth in the writing.

“Her mother had been right to keep her daughter in the dark, because each hour spent in New Reynes formed a new crack, and there was no way Enne was going to emerge from this city unbroken.”

Enne Salta emerged unbroken in the best way possible, and quickly became one of my favorite YA protagonists.

Then, we have Levi. Oh, Levi, my chaotic black bi gangster. My absolute favorite bad boy. My everything. He has so many layers and has been viciously trapped in Vianca Augustine’s claws, when all he wants is fame, glory, and power. To build his own empire. He is such a profound character who cares so much about his gang and his friends, and he does his best to help them regardless of the circumstances he faces.

Not only did I love our two narrators, but also Jac and Lola were so incredible and added so much to the story, I’m so grateful we get to see them more in the sequel. The found family dynamic warmed me up from the inside out, and just, ugh I love them so much.

The book has a really great setting and atmosphere. The City of Sin is heavily inspired by Las Vegas, the late 1800s, and the early 1900s, chock-full of casinos and cabarets, with a sprinkle of influence from the Edwardian and Victorian eras with its fashion and architecture. Plus, we get to see complex politics explored, as we see the history behind the Republic, and its past monarchy. It’s all so fascinating, and I wanna learn more and more.

One of the reasons I don’t read fantasy often is because my brain can’t comprehend complicated magic systems. But the magic is so mindblowing and the way it all works is just very interesting to me, as every person in the Republic has a set of talents: a blood talent and a split talent, inherited from their parents, and they can be Talents of Aptitude (which can be learned), or Talents of Mysteries (which are solely magical). For example, Levi’s blood talent is orb-making, which affects his physical appearance due to its strength, and his split talent is seeing auras with all five of his senses. It’s so freaking cool!

“Every time Enne surprised him, he craved a little more trouble.”

The romance was so slow-burn and excellent, seeing these two characters who initially disliked each other and seeing them grow so close and evolve as people together is just *chef’s kiss*.

“The bows began, and the acrobats took the stage as a group. Enne smiled and curtsied with the rest of them, and Levi couldn’t take his eyes off her. Very briefly, Enne’s gaze found his, even from all the way on the stage. She smiled wider. Levi decided the whole show had been worth it just for that.”

Enne and Levi are one of my new favorite ships and y’all should read the book for this alone, okay? It’s so well-developed and doesn’t get in the way of the story at all. Brilliance at its finest.

Besides this book doing everything perfectly for me, one of the things I appreciated the most was the bi rep. As I mentioned earlier, Levi is bisexual, a black bisexual boy with a stronger attraction towards men. It means so much to me to see this, because even though I am confident in my own sexuality, representation like this one always makes me feel loved and validated. Because we matter. It’s so well-written and some of the best bisexual rep I’ve ever read. Plus, the fact that we learn that Lourdes dressed fluidly and wasn’t explicitly attracted to anyone was so important to me? The way the book handles gender expression is so beautiful, I cry.

Another thing I loved was the discussion of pedophilia (HUGE TRIGGER WARNING!), which was completely condemned in the story. It’s a complicated topic to talk about, but the discussions of it were done very well. And let me not forget, the discussion surrounding addiction, which I hope is explored more in the story during the sequel but was also amazingly handled.

I’ve been wanting to read Amanda Foody’s debut for the longest time and now I have even more reason to do so, because she is such an amazing writer. There’s something so stunning about her prose and she’s just pure talent. You can feel the passion and care to her craft reverberate from the page, and it felt so personal.

Honestly, what else could I possibly tell you to convince you to pick up Ace of Shades? The pacing is perfect, the world is brilliant, the magic is enthralling, the characters are distinct from each other and you feel for them, the writing is spectacular, the plot leaves you at the edge of your seat, the setting makes you wanna greet everybody with “old sport”, and the slow-burn romance is top-tier.

I just want to scream about this book for the rest of eternity because it is utter perfection to me. It impacted me in such an unbelievable way and reminded me why I’m a reader. Stories like this one make me feel powerful. Like I can conquer the world. And I totally will. It occupies such a special place in my heart and I’m proud to call it my favorite book of all time.

Rating: 5 stars 🌟


And that concludes this blog post! Have you read Ace of Shades? If not, have I convinced you to pick it up yet? 😈

Anygays, please read Ace of Shades! I’m begging you!

Also, if you have any recommendations for movies and TV shows with Ace of Shades vibes, let me know! I already added Peaky Blinders to my list! 👀

I hope you all enjoyed, and I’ll see you on the next one.

Love,

Carol 🌈

By Carolina V.

My favorite thing to do in life is eat. And I guess, occasionally I read a book or two.

10 replies on “Book Review: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1) by Amanda Foody”

Sadly this book didn’t connect with me as it did for you, but this review is SO wonderful! I haven’t continued with the series yet, but after reading your review its definitely inspired me! Hopefully I’ll get to it at some point in 2020! 😍💖 Also, I loved the atmosphere of this book so I’m definitely on the same page as you–trying to find more (books) that fit that aesthetic! 😂

Liked by 1 person

I’m so glad you enjoyed the review anyway! Even if you didn’t love Ace, I still highly recommend picking up King of Fools, because the stakes are higher and there’s a lot of new plotlines, characters, and political intrigue 👀
I’m definitely also looking for more books with this same aesthetic, so I’ll try to do a recommendation list in the future 💞

Liked by 1 person

[…] There is literally no other book I can think about but Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody. Thinking about Envi brings me physical pain, okay? Enne Salta and Levi Glaisyer are two absolute dumbasses who went from reluctant allies to friends to lovers, except they don’t realize they love each other because they have one (1) fucking braincell. You can feel the slow-burn angst and tension emanating from the page, and how jealous they get. How much their feelings grow and evolve. *sniffles* Those are my dumb babies and I would die for them! Read my review of Ace of Shades here. […]

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