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…
**** Thank you to Harlequin Teen for sending me an ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****
Trigger Warnings: Drug & Alcohol Use, Pedophilia, & Mild Violence
While I did enjoy reading “Ace of Shades” I still felt like it was missing something, it just wasn’t everything I was hoping it would be and definitely didn’t live up to the high expectations I had set for it. However, it still wasn’t a bad book by any means.
This is very much a plot driven story, I thought the characters could have been way better but I’ll get to that in a bit. The pacing was actually pretty fast and even throughout my reading, I liked that it kept my interest. There were a good amount of plot twists along the way, and definitely quite a few I didn’t see coming! The uncovering of secrets and details of the characters’s pasts were a big part of what kept me reading and also part of why I’m really curious to see where the story will go in the sequel. As for action, I thought there was a decent amount. Definitely enough to keep the plot moving. Overall I thought the story flowed well even if a few things were a little too convenient.
Then we have the world building which was the best and worst part of the book for me. So much potential for the world building to be very detailed, complex, and interesting! However, there was a TON of info-dumping! Every time something new was being introduced I was completely lost because of the sheer amount of information being forced on me. Sure I got the hang of it eventually but there was way too much to keep track of right away.
Another aspect of the world building that really bugged me was the made up swear words, “muck” or “shatz”. I mean if you’re going to write a book about a “city of sin” and how corrupting it is the least you can do is actually use a few swear words and not make up really childish versions. I don’t know, I just found it annoying.
However, what can be said for the world building positively was the creativity. I really enjoyed a lot of the aspects that were introduced such as the royal families that were overthrown by the republic, the street gangs, and “blood talents” etc. While the blood talents themselves didn’t make much sense to me, the fact that everyone knew what your talents were based on your maternal and paternal last names just seemed really unrealistic. Like EVERYONE takes the time to memorize that many last names? No. But I digress. I still thought the blood talents were really cool and some of them were very unique, they were kind of like having super powers.
As for the setting, I really enjoyed it. New Reynes is the “City of Sin” sooooo it’s basically a fantasy version of Las Vegas and for reasons I cannot explain I’m a sucker for a Vegas theme. I liked all of the casino, cabaret, and gang bits but I wished there would have been a lot more throughout the story. I mean the whole synopsis and everything about the book for the most part is all about how it’s the “City of Sin” and I would have liked to have seen more about what makes the city so sinful and corrupt.
Also just a random sort of side note here: I’ve seen a lot of people saying this is like “Six of Crows”. I personally didn’t’ see a resemblance whatsoever, I don’t even find it remotely comparable to “Six of Crows”.
As I already mentioned I thought the characters could have used a lot more work. Enne and Levi are our two main characters and POVs, and they were just so…..boring. I honestly didn’t really care about either of them or what was going to happen to either of them. They weren’t very complex at all and honestly really annoyed me a lot of the time.
Enne is a bit of a damsel and while I liked having a main character who isn’t a typical “strong, badass, don’t need no man, YA heroine” I still thought she was way too naive to be running around a place called the “City of Sin”. Normally my favorite types of heroines are the “strong” types that we see quite a bit but I can be won over if the character has something else going for them such as being very clever for example, but Enne just doesn’t make the best decisions. However, out of all the characters she actually develops quite a bit and you can tell the difference between her character at the beginning and ending of the story.
Levi is a street lord and also happens to be black and bisexual as well, there aren’t labels for race or sexuality in the book since it’s a fantasy world but both are made pretty clear while reading. I think Levi is really one of the only diverse characters shown in the book, but I could have missed a more minor character. I liked how loyal Levi was to his gang and his friends, it was one of his more endearing qualities but apart from that I kind of found him to be a bit boring. I mean for someone who literally runs a street gang he isn’t very good at it and I find it a bit questionable how a 17 year old kid is running a gang in the first place.
I much preferred the secondary characters in “Ace of Shades” they had a lot more personality I felt. There’s Levi’s second in command and best friend Jac (who is adorable), Reymond one of the other street lords, and Lola who is introduced in the second half of the book and is a total badass. I really liked the friendships that either developed or were shown in the book between all of these characters, they were all really positive and I loved them!
Ugh. The romance. It really could have been a lot worse I suppose, I mean at least there wasn’t a love triangle or anything. It is a bit odd though because I felt like it was insta-love but the two characters never actually kissed in this first book so it’s sort of slow burn? Yeah, it’s odd. Overall I supposed I’m just kind of “meh” about it overall, I didn’t like how distracted they were with each other when they were in the middle of important things but at least it wasn’t super trope filled.
What I Loved:
- Fast pacing and action
- Great, unpredictable plot twists
- Interesting world building
- “Las Vegas” inspired setting
- Great secondary characters
What I Didn’t Love:
- Info-dumping galore
- Those made up swear words really bugged me
- Enne and Levi as main characters were a bit annoying
- The distracting romance
I do recommend checking out “Ace of Shades” especially if the synopsis intrigues you but I do suggest going in with lower expectations and definitely don’t expect anything like “Six of Crows”.