King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2) Review (e-ARC)

King of Fools (The Shadow Game, #2)

Book: King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2)

Author: Amanda Foody

Published By: HQ Young Adult

Expected Publication: 2nd May (yes, it releases today!)

Format: e-book

Bechdel Test: Pass-Enne, Grace and Lola have multiple discussions which are not about men, about their gang, The Spirits.

I received this book from HQ Young Adult, through Netgalley UK, in exchange for an honest review.

As always, thank you so much to HQ Young Adult and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, this was a massively anticipated release for me this year, so getting the chance to read it early was amazing.

I really enjoyed Ace of Shades when I read it last year, and after the cliffhanger at the end of it, I was super excited to get to King of Fools. I’m happy to say that I really loved this book, even more than Ace of Shades. The stakes are higher, everything moves a lot faster, I was more familiar with the world and there are so many awesome new characters introduced. Amanda Foody definitely struck me in the feels with this book and the ending really made me wish that I had the third book to read, like right now! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Or die as legends. 

We get a map at the beginning of this book which I loved, as a massive fantasy nerd, there’s nothing that I love more than a map, although since it was an e-arc, I couldn’t flip back and refer to it as I would in a physical book, but that didn’t really matter, it was just nice that it was there.

I really love Amanda Foody’s writing and I would definitely say I think it has improved since Ace of Shades, not that her writing in Ace of Shades was bad, it was really good, but in this book it was even better, I could pick out more than a dozen different lines that I really loved, especially the opening line of the book, it really drew me back into the City of Sin. Much as with the first book, Amanda Foody is amazing at writing setting and atmosphere and every time I opened the book, I felt completely immersed in the City of Sin. I also really loved how funny this book was? I don’t remember the last book having quite so many funny quips, but this one was chock full of them, I laughed out loud so many times which was great. I think it’s so important for dark books to have a bit of levity in them and Amanda Foody definitely achieved that balance.

We get even more expansion of the world in this book, lots of amazing new locations and we get to see the South Side for the first time which is pretty awesome because you really get the contrast between the North and South Sides. I felt like this book really expanded the scope of the world, which I loved.

Enne is 100% my favourite character in this book. She has grown so much from who she was initially in Ace of Shades and she goes through even more development in this book. She is so wonderfully unapologetic about who she is, she doesn’t feel like she needs to become more masculine to become a street lord, she will wear her lipstick and her heels and her pearls and also wield a revolver and that is wonderful. This book is so wonderfully feminist, there’s brilliant exploration of women and their relationship to power, and the parallels between Enne and Vianca are done so beautifully.

I also love how there are so many different depictions of women in this book. Not a single one of them is the same, they all have their own quirks and personalities and flaws and they’re just so wonderfully three dimensional and I WOULD DIE FOR THESE GIRLS, I SWEAR. Enne’s girl gang was without a doubt my favourite part of the book, they’re just hanging out in PJs and doing face masks with their cats who are all named after MURDERERS and it’s so brilliant. Also I can’t remember which female character it was, but one of the girls in the book had a dress with POCKETS and it is now canon that all New Reynes women wear dresses with pockets. I don’t make the rules. The fact that there are so many female friendships in this book and that they all support each other and there’s no girls hating on other girls for no reason made my heart so happy!

Levi kind of infuriated me in this book, but I think that was kind of the point. He’s basically a bit of a disaster and he’s so desperate to create his legend that he makes a lot of mistakes but honestly as much as it infuriated me, it did make me love him more. In the last book I didn’t feel like I got a great idea of who he was, after this book I feel like I understand him more and the fact that he made so many mistakes and was often selfish made him feel a lot more human to me. This book definitely embraced Levi’s flaws!

Jac gets his own POV in this book, and I was living for that! He goes through so much character development, he’s finally embracing who he is and that he doesn’t want to be a sidekick anymore, he wants the chance to create his own legend (legends being a big theme in this book). I loved his friendship with Lola, and his relationship with Sophia was wonderful. Jac’s story and his character development were definitely one of my favourite parts of this book.

Speaking of Lola, I love her so much! She basically disguises the fact that she’s a soft puppy with knives and in actuality, she’s a rule abider who won’t even jaywalk and wants her own library. I really hope Lola gets a POV in the next book, I think her POV would be so fun to read.

We get a lot of new characters in this book, which can sometimes be confusing, but Amanda Foody introduced them all so well and they’re such different people that it’s pretty easy to keep them straight. I think Grace was my favourite, she’s basically this murderous accountant who loves romance novels. There’s also Tock who has the talent of explosives and Sophia, who I can’t really talk too much about without getting into spoilers.

Levi and Enne’s relationship can get kind of frustrating at points in this book, there’s a lot of misunderstandings and secrets and well angst. Neither of them are really in a great place to be with each other at the moment, yet they are inextricably tangled together. I do think they will probably end up together in the end, but it was kind of frustrating to watch them interact in this one because a lot of the problems in their relationship are based on poor communication, though I suppose that it is quite realistic for a teen relationship! I’m kind of conflicted, because I didn’t love all the angst, but they do have really great chemistry and Amanda Foody writes such a great (and infuriating) slow burn. I’ll be interested to see how they work things out in the next book because I’m not really sure where they can go after the events of this book.

One of the big qualms I had with the first book was that the chapters were often very lengthy and the pacing wasn’t great. I’m happy to say that I didn’t have the same problems with this book, the chapters were a decent length but not overly long and the pacing was better, in fact I would say that sometimes this book had the opposite problem, in that it skipped through time a little too quickly. Unlike the first book which covered just a few days, this book is set over a few months and we would skip forward in time quite often, which I did occasionally find confusing.

The plot in this book was brilliant! It’s so twisty and complex but also action packed and just generally so much fun. The buildup is to the New Reynes elections and it was quite interesting to get to explore some of the politics of this world, it really added to the worldbuilding. There is A LOT happening, but credit where credit is due, Amanda Foody handles all these different storylines with ease and it’s pretty simple to keep track of each character’s arc. I can’t really talk too much about the plot without major spoilers, but for a 600 page book, I never felt that it lagged. There are some AMAZING plot twists and the last quarter or so of the book, I could barely catch my breath with everything that was happening. This book is such a step up in terms of plot from Ace of Shades, I can’t even.

The representation in Ace of Shades was really good and that continues here. Obviously we have Levi, who is black and bisexual, we also have Narinder, the bar owner from the last book who is gay, we have Tock and Lola who are both lesbians.

I loved how each section had a divider with a different legend from the North Side, it really added to the world building and fitted so well with a lot of the book being about creating your own legend. The sections were all based around cards so it goes up from 2 through to Ace, which was a pretty cool little touch.

I mentioned in my review of Ace of Shades how much I loved Vianca and the same is true here, she’s a brilliantly drawn woman and Foody uses her to explore a lot of how women can respond to being in a male dominated world, like I said earlier, it’s an interesting comparison drawn between her and Enne, Vianca who tries to make herself more masculine in order to get ahead in a male dominated world and Enne who unapolagetically embraces her femininity and uses them to her advantage. We also get to see her son, Harrison Augustine in this book and it’s quite interesting to see the similarities between the two of them, though I kind of wish we’d got to see them interact more.

There are so many awesome plot twists in this book as well, I wish I could talk about them more, but a lot of stuff happens that I didn’t expect and Amanda Foody pulls it all off so well and I really wish I could talk about them and not be spoilery-if anyone has read this and wants to have a spoilery chat via Twitter DM, I am open to that!

There were some small uncorrected proof errors, but nothing major and I’m sure they will have been corrected in the final copy of the book.

Once again, Foody hits it out of the park with the ending, pretty much everything is turned on it’s head in this book, the stakes are so high and that END? I need to know what happens next, 2020 is too far away!

As you can tell by my incoherent rambling, this book was AMAZING. So much happens, the stakes are raised through the roof, the characters go through so much development, the writing was great, I just loved everything about this book. I said in my review of Ace of Shades that I thought Amanda Foody had created a very ambitious world and she just didn’t manage to fit everything in that she needed to in the last book, but in this book, the plot and the stakes matched the ambition of the world so wonderfully!

My Rating: 5/5

My next review will either be of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted or Kesia Lupo’s We Are Blood and Thunder, depending on which one I finish first.

Also if you are wanting more Shadow Game content, I’m going to be on the UK King of Fools blog tour, doing a Q&A with Amanda, that will be going live on Tuesday, so keep an eye out for that.

 

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Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1) Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

Author: Amanda Foody

Published By: HQ Young Adult

Expected Publication: 17th May (whoops!)

Format: e-book

Thanks to HQ Young Adult and Netgalley for allowing me to read this early! This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 so reading it early was a dream come true (but in no way affected my review).

I was part of Amanda Foody’s Shadow Gang, the group that did promo for this book and was doing a lot of promo for it over on my Instagram through March leading up to the US release in April, so naturally I really wanted to get to read it early. I only got it a couple of weeks before the UK release, but that was better than nothing and I’m glad to say that I did in fact enjoy it. It was a pretty slow starter, but as the book picked up, I fell more and more in love with it and after the way it ended, I am definitely super excited for the sequel! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

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, 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

So yeah, things started off quite slowly, the chapters were kind of long and there were sections that had a lot of infodumping, so I wasn’t totally enthralled by it at first, but I stuck with it and I would definitely implore you guys to as well if you get stuck in the beginning, the chapter lengths level out and the plot is a slowly unfurling mystery with a great payoff!

I loved the world that Amanda Foody created, I thought it was really inventive and cool, it’s a kind of 1920s Vegas style world, with casinos and gangs and motorcars and everything, so yeah, the setting was definitely very immersive and probably my favourite part of this book. The way Amanda Foody writes, you definitely feel yourself being pulled into the City of Sin, she writes atmosphere and setting so well, it’s like you are there with the characters. I also thought the magic system, with the blood and split talents, each one being inherited from one parent was really cool, although I kind of wish it had been expanded upon more and I hope that it will be in the sequel. This type of magic system allowed for lots of different types of magic, which I loved, because often in fantasies, everyone with magic has one particular type so it was great to get to see lots of different abilities showcased in this book. I could have done with a little more world building, what we did get was good, but I wanted to know more about the history of New Reynes, the Mizers and the talents and how everything came to be and more about how the volts worked, but that’s probably just me being a world building nerd.

The characters were also great. Enne annoyed me at first, but I think that was the idea, because her character development over the course of the book is amazing, she starts off as this uptight, proper girl but over the ten days that this book takes place, she really grows, she becomes this amazing badass girl but still retains her feminine qualities, like loving lipstick and dresses and heels and I loved that! So often authors will only let their female characters be strong and fierce if they’re also tomboys because god forbid a woman can be strong and fierce and still like lipstick, so it was refreshing to see Enne not be like that. Levi, I wasn’t quite as keen on, he didn’t stand out for me as much as Enne, I don’t really know what it was about him, I just didn’t really connect to him and I didn’t find him that convincing as a street lord, he wasn’t fierce enough, in fact I found him to be kind of a wimp and I didn’t think he was really clever enough for me to take him seriously as a con artist. Still I did love how much he cared for his gang, and for Enne, that endeared him more to me. I wished that the main side characters, Lola and Jac had been utilised more, especially Lola, because I found her really interesting and I liked her burgeoning friendship with Enne, so it would have been great to see more of her. Jac was kind of a brotherly figure to Levi, so it would have been nice to have explored that relationship more.

One thing I didn’t love about the worldbuilding was the made up curse words and some of the gang lingo. Stuff like muck, and shatz and missy, I found their use kind of irritating. I get that having some of their own special words is part of worldbuilding but this just felt like a lazy way of avoiding using actual swear words, and like why? This is a YA book, I can guarantee that the teens who are reading it will know swear words! Perhaps it’s me being British, we tend to be a bit more liberal around swearing, but it just really annoyed me!

The villains in this book were great, both freaking terrifying. Vianca, the mafia donna of the casino Levi works at, was awful, her power can be used to literally control people and it’s pretty darn awful, but I loved seeing an unapologetic female character and there are so few female villains in books, so it was great to see one here. The other main villain, Sedric Torren, is just incredibly creepy and is heavily implied (if not outright stated) to be a paedophile, so yeah, pretty horrible and you could definitely understand why both Levi and Enne were so scared of him.

There is some good diverse representation in this book, Levi is black and bisexual, and Enne’s adopted mother Lourdes is gender fluid (although she is kind of more talked about than actually seen so I don’t know if I can exactly call it rep). I think we could have done with some more, but it was definitely a good start. Lourdes is kind of an enigma through the book, but I kind of don’t feel like we’ve heard the last of her, I think she’s gonna pop back up in the next book, even with what supposedly happened to her in this book.

I liked how the plot around Enne’s family unfurled, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I liked the way things played out there, even if it was a little cliched and I look forward to seeing what she does next now that she knows about her heritage.

The romance was…..I don’t really know what to think about it. It was weird in that it felt kind of like instalove and yet still a slow burn at the same time. Half the time I was screeching at Enne and Levi to kiss already and the other half I was like, why? They barely know each other! So yeah, I haven’t really made up my mind how I feel about Enne and Levi’s potential romance yet-nothing really happened with regards to that in this book, so I’ll see how I feel about it in the next book.

I really liked the actual Shadow Game part of the book, but it felt kind of rushed, because it only came up right at the very end of the book. I understand why, but I wish we had maybe got to it a bit sooner and that the rules had been explained a bit better because I still don’t quite understand how it all worked. That was a problem throughout the book really, the pacing was off all the way through, it was too slow to start with and then the climax was rushed (this seems to be a quite common trend for me in a lot of the books I read).

Like I said earlier, I liked how Amanda Foody wrote the setting, that was cool, but I didn’t always love her writing, there were some overwrought YA type metaphors, like “She was a blade disguised as a girl” etc. It wasn’t so much that I hated it, but it definitely did niggle at me.

The epilogue was so intense, we get introduced to a new character, who seems very interesting and after the way everything went down towards the end of the book, it certainly seems like the sequel is going to be really intense!

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I don’t think it quite lived up to the potential of its premise, but the magic system and the world were really interesting and I loved the character development that Enne had throughout the book and the end of this book sets up for some really exciting stuff happening in the next book. I think this world is quite ambitious and Foody just didn’t manage to fit everything that needed to be explained in, but I’m hoping we will get more of this in the next book. I think it’s a really creative world that Amanda Foody has come up with here and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Bechdel Test: PASS-Lola and Enne have several conversations in the book that don’t revolve around men.

My next review will be of the second book in the Six of Crows duology, Crooked Kingdom (well maybe, if I don’t finish my e-ARC of A Thousand Perfect Notes first).