This review is in English, as the book / audio book only exists in English (so far).
Author: Linsey Miller; Narrator: Deryn Edwards; Year of Publication: 2017; Duration: 09h28; Genre: Fantasy, LGBT+
Slightly changed English covertext:
I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.
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, 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 starts to succeed 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.
The story sounded really interesting, but I was careful in getting my hopes up as there are quite a few negative reviews. But I’m glad I gave the book a chance, because I really liked it.
The concept reminded me a bit of the first Nevernight book by Jay Kristoff, but it can’t quite reach that level – still, it’s different and very good in its own way. The story is action-packed , but we also get to know Sal quite well, and a few other people, too – their servant Maud, their love interest Elise, a few of the other contestants and the members of the Left Hand, testing, teaching and evaluating them.
I especially liked Maud and her relationship with Sal – both very ambitious and focused on the goal, learning to trust each other and work together. Their backstories were quite tragic and directed Maud’s and Sal’s actions. In general, the history and world was really well thought out and felt real, everything fit well together.
And then of course, we have a main character who is genderfluid. I think the only other book I read witch a non-binary character was Every Day by David Levithan (I’d describe A as agender?). Sal’s feeling of their gender just shifts from time to time, and they use she/him/they according to it. To make it easy for other people, they „dress how they feel“. It’s amazing to have some representation of other genders in books, and I really liked this version, because it’s not a big deal or about their gender, it just is how it is. But at the same time it does come up a few times, e.g. when another contestant misgenders Sal on purpose.
My Rating: 8/10
Conclusion: Entertaining, well-written fantasy book, good story and interesting characters. I’ll listen to the second book as well!