Sal is a thief who decides to audition to be a member of The Left Hand, who are the Queen’s personal assassins. The problem: the audition is basically a fight to the death with the other auditioners, who are all professionals with a lot more experience (and privilege) than Sal. At this point, I probably would have written the story off as a generic YA fantasy (which it kind of is), except for one thing – Sal is genderfluid.
I enjoyed reading this, but it was also forgettable in a way – as many have pointed out, the plot is similar to The Hunger Games and the Throne of Glass books. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t as strong as Suzanne Collins’, and it isn’t as catchy/easy-to-read as Sarah J. Maas’. The court politics is intriguing but hasn’t been fleshed out to my satisfaction (maybe in future volumes?), so in the end I only had Sal to keep me interested. Sal isn’t much, but it helps that the other characters are mostly known by their audition numbers (Sal is 23), so knowing Sal’s real name puts them ahead of everyone else in terms of being memorable.
Verdict: I really wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t for wanting to read a genderfluid character, and I think if I hadn’t read it, I wouldn’t have missed it, it’s so generic. However, since I did read it – I do like all the bits where Sal outwits the other contestants, and am interested in their backstory enough that I may read the next book. Someday.