PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen
PUBLICATION DATE: 10th April 2018
RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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.
Throughout reading Ace of Shades, I had a lot of questions. The main one being where have I read this before? It wasn’t until one of the top reviews on Goodreads called it a ‘poor man’s Six of Crows’, and it clicked; it is like Six of Crows, only not as good.
I adore Six of Crows, and when you love a thing, you want more of it once you’ve read it. It’s what we gravitate to after we’ve read the last page. And so I get that people might pick this book up because it sounds like a more glitzy, casino version of Six of Crows.
But just because another book is similar to your fave, doesn’t mean it’s going to be just as good as your fave. And hey, it’s not fair on this book to have to sit in Six of Crows’ shadow. It should be able to stand all on it’s own, but poor world building and a tired-out romance plot make Ace of Shades a bit confusing and majorly eye roll worthy.
We’ll start with the world building which was exciting and familiar but also very confusing. New Reynes is dubbed the ‘city of sin’, and it’s meant to be an alternative Las Vegas. But due to the descriptions being fairly vague, I couldn’t picture it at all. When I first started, it felt Victorian – like the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films but with magic. However, the more we delved into the city, there was mention of cars and electricity (and a heck load of neon signs), so then I started to picture it a bit like Peaky Blinders, especially with the plot being so focused on gangs and territory lines.
But, then it got more confusing.
Not only do they have cars and electricity and neon lights everywhere, they have a tube. That’s right, they have a metro system, an underground, whatever you want to call it. So now I’m thinking it can’t be any earlier than the forties/fifties. I understand that New Reynes is not set in our world, and that it’s not historically accurate in any shape or form. But considering the concept of New Reynes itself is not the most outlandish thing I’ve ever heard, I can’t help but base it off a time period just so I can picture it in my head. And it’s based on Las Vegas, a real place. So how am I wrong to do that?
So I carried on picturing Peaky Blinders/Sherlock Holmes/Ketterdam and my mind tried to form a Victorian version of the tube/metro and I let it go.
The other problem I had was the romance. Is that a spoiler? Is it a spoiler to say the two protagonists, a male and a female, fall in love? Surely it’s not a spoiler when it’s the most predictable thing to happen in a YA novel. It’s not a bad thing to have straight couples in YA, even if it’s overdone, there are many instances where it’s lovely and I’m happy it’s there.
This was not the case here.
One of our main characters is bisexual, and I think it would be wrong of me to say they shouldn’t be in an opposite sex relationship (is that what we’re gonna call it? ok) because, as a bisexual, I love seeing bisexuals thrive in any type of relationship. It’s not bi erasure to have a bi person date someone of the opposite sex, and to think that means you’re pretty clueless as to what bisexual means. But the romance itself in Ace of Shades felt so forced. They were eyeing each other up and being flirty at really inappropriate times, or at least times when you’d expect them to be scared/sad/angry. Teen romance is always a bit unrealistic in novels, but this was so jarring. Both characters had more natural chemistry with other characters, but I’m not surprised they were paired together purely because they have POVs.
But why did I give Ace of Shades four stars despite all of this criticism? Because it was a fun read! I loved both main characters (one had to have a little more time for me to like them though), and I feel the plot, while a bit jumbled with a lot of stuff going on, was still interesting enough to make me want to read on. Enne and Levi still have a whole adventure ahead of them and I feel this is definitely a series that gets better as it progresses.
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