4 stars · book review

review: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

★★★★☆ // 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads review: here

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Amanda Foody is the foody that keeps me fed.

Letting my besty pick out this book for me to read was one of the best reading-related decisions I made this year. Ace of Shades is a GIFT. It is a TREAT. It is a ginger cookie Enne stockpiled for herself. After continuously being turned off seedy, gritty takes on a fictional city run by mafia and such, I never thought I’d be so taken in by a proper lady coming in and making it in the big city.

Characters
One of the best things about Ace of Shades is our MC, Enne, who is a certified mcfreaking crouching tiger hidden badass. Basically Enne’s genderfluid journalist mom is missing and Enne is off to see the wiz- I mean big city New Reynes to find her mom. The whole ordeal is more than she bargained for, but she’s gonna be doing a lot more bargaining ’cause she gets caught up in gang activity and has a Spirited Away experience where she sells her soul to a Yubaba – er I mean a mafia family head for enployment. Enne was such a joy to read because I love proper ladies showing their badassery without sacrificing their ettiquette or femininity. You’re badass the way you are you just gotta learn how to utilize it to become a full-fledged badass. She:

  • Is a proper lady who shows she can go toe-to-toe with the Big Bosses.
  • Stabs people with her high heels but still apologizes for being rude.
  • Is a Cookie Monster: hogs the cookie box every chance she gets
  • Tries to kill someone and then adopts them into her friend group.
  • Actually practices at what she wants to be good at and it pays off
  • Has her sexual awakening
  • Steals a car with proper poise
  • Merks a sexual predator
  • Refuses to exploit the trauma of other girls and tells off her boss for trying to do it.
  • and much much more

The reason why I don’t have a problem with Enne taking names (i.e. Murder) unlike with many other recent YA protags, is that you see the development leading up to the actions she takes. Her cold-blooded actions aren’t shown to us for the sake of shock value; it’s to show how much the city has changed her and/or awakened something vicious always inside of her. The progression of her merking a bunch of people makes sense (even tho it’s still murder). Enne has always been underestimated and has felt ostracized by her peers for not being from a reputable enough family. As the story progresses, she learns more about her identity and I loved seeing her deliberate over whether she wants to go back to the way she was before coming to New Reynes or let the influence of the city influence her down a new path and life. She’s always been told she was something that she wasn’t, and seeing her push back and decide for herself what she wants to be was DELIGHTFUL.

I love Enne so much. She’s one of the best MCs I’ve read about this year. She embodies “FUCK BITCHES; GET MONEY” in a casino mafia Spirited Away. Please. Read it for her.

And also wonderboy Levi…

Levi’s just trying his best and likes taking a break from being under bone crushing debt every once in awhile to smooch some mysterious boys he meets at bars (true story). What I love about Levi is that he’s our deutorogonist and he’s seemingly that kool kat who knows the city inside and out and is ready to take it into the palm of his hands, except he’s not. He’s failing miserably and accelerating downhill at a breakneck pace. Essentially Levi is fighting an uphill battle. For every small gain he makes towards freeing himself of his “little predicament” placed onto him by his boss, there’s a series of obstacles waiting for him like an update to the America Ninja Warrior course. I like that for once, our main character is struggling and doesn’t get everything handed to him via plot convenience from the YA gods.

Levi’s pre-established relationships with all the characters in the city are very interesting. (RIP Reymond. You were too good for this world. I shipped them even tho I’m pretty sure Reymond was big-brother-zoned.) We learn so much about how Levi interacts with other gang leaders and learn a lot about the world passively through these interactions. Even though Ace of Shades does a good job of showing you a pretty complete picture, there’s still room for more characters to be introduced (I’m looking at the epilogue) to stir things up even more.

Writing
Some of the plot reveals were predictable from the get-go, but the experience of going through the reveals for their impact on the characters and world was still worth while. Foody is truly the foody that keeps me fed and thank you for the meal because she knows how to make character motivation so cleaarrrr and so resonant. Foody drops great quotes like:

“It was a hollow feeling – less like guilt and more like dejection. He was a pawn playing at being king. If he’d been anything more, if he was ever meant to be anything more, he wouldn’t have fallen so low.” (~p. 271)

and

“She was a pistol wrapped up in silk. She was a blade disguised as a girl.” (~p. 291)

and dialogue like this (~p. 341):

Lola: *gives Enne poison* knock ’em dead
Enne: Really? That’s distasteful.

The world and characters feel so perfectly integrated into one cohesive unit. It never felt like things were too convenient for the main characters just because they were main characters. Even though they come from ~special families~, the world doesn’t cut them any slack and gives us some juicy delicious tragic backstory just the way I like it. The only reason why I don’t give Ace of Shades 5 stars is because I know there is more room to grow and that all of it was GREAT. It was like a continuous stream of greatness. In fact, it was so great, the amount of greatness desensitized me to how much good stuff Foody was throwing my way.

My one gripe is that the card game at the very end of the story wasn’t as built up as I thought it would be throughout the rest of the book. There were a lot of mentions of the game and how deadly it was, but by the time we actually got to it, I was like wow we’re here already?!

Overall, I highly recommend Ace of Shades and I can’t wait for the sequel, King of Fools. As a side note, and I know people are wondering because of the blurb on the damn cover –  I would suggest if you lurrrrve Six of Crows and can’t bear to see another book present a slightly similar setting to: 1) judge the book for its own merit, not the merit of another book it’s not trying to be and 2) remember SOC didn’t invent the concept of a shady, corrupt city or the tragic backstory.

Notable rep: 

  • Our deutorogonist, Levi Glaisyer, is attracted to men and women, and a POC.
  • Enne’s mom, Lourdes, is a gender-fluid journalist.
  • Reymond Kitamura is also a POC, and one of the most powerful players in New Reynes.
  • It’s been awhile since I’ve read AoS but I’ll add more if I remember. There aren’t any blatantly offensive stereotypes presented in AoS, so thank god. Though I do have to note some of the characters listed above die but not because they are POC or queer. And yeah, everyone in this book gets involved with gang/mafia/seedy casino activity regardless of race or orientation.

Other mentions:

  • Talks about Jac’s drug addiction in a respectful way
  • No mom energy for all
  • Sedric is a gross fucker who prays on young girls but Enne’s gotchu so he gets his just-desserts in the end. Thanks, Enne.
  • Marks the beginning of a beautiful found family dream team squad goals street gang
  • Magical quirks/abilities are based on your family lineage.
  • Just to be clear there’s a lot of murder and other seedy business (i.e. crime) that goes down here.
  • Both protagonists are ACTIVE and take responsibility for themselves!
  • This book’s like a casino street-gang Spirited Away.
  • This book’s good. Read it for me. Read it for ENNE and LEVI my precious children.
  • yes it’s better than six of crows come at me
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