Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody: A Review

by Katie Moran

“Avarice, pride and lust — these are all modest desires. What the City of Sin truly craves is destruction.” – The City of Sin: Where To Go and Where Not To

(ARC of Ash Princess provided by Storybook Cove in Hanover, MA)

Amanda Foody’s incredible world thrums with restless energy and calls to mind the grittiness of the late 19th century, combined with modern technology, and magic. New Reynes is a city alive and thriving with violence and secrecy. Twenty-five years before the beginning of the novel, a revolution rocked the city of New Reynes and saw the fall of the ruling monarchical family, the Mizers. Now, as we’re introduced to it, New Reynes is known as the City of Sin. The destitute North side has collected the nitty gritty of once polite society, rival gangs fight for control at all costs, and those occupying the South side turn a blind eye to the chaos that lives just across the way. Here is a place where magic is as real as the cards that you hold, and if you’re not careful, it could force your hand.

Enne, the novel’s protagonist, is right on the cusp of adulthood. She has spent much of her life at a boarding school amongst the elite children of her world. Enne is a talented dancer but, despite this, she has always felt like less, a few steps behind, lacking in some ways. She is hardly ever noticed by her peers or instructors. The only one that’s ever really looking out for her is Lourdes, her guardian and stand-in mom – and now, Lourdes is missing. “If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead”—it’s been much longer than two months. Enne finds herself in the City of Sin, an unfamiliar, dangerous place, in search of Lourdes. She meets Levi Glaisyser, a notorious card shark and the Lord of the Iron gang, and he soon becomes her only beacon of hope in this volatile city. Enne soon realizes though, that she is much more capable than she’s given herself credit for.

The city of New Reynes is sought out by citizens looking for an escape from their reality. But this isn’t a friendly city and, as Enne soon learns, many get trapped by its seductions and its seediness. Greed serves as an incredibly potent antagonist for the story. It functions as the catalyst which guides our understanding of New Reynes. Greed can turn into a treacherous attribute for any who succumb to it. As we learn in Ace of Shades, when those in power are plagued by greed, it can turn into a deadly game of gains at the expense of others. Young adult literature is experiencing a wave of capable, strong, complex heroines and Enne is a great representation of this trend. She is an empowering reminder of the strength needed to overcome societal expectations – something which is still very much a reality for many young women. Enne’s ability to break free of the restraints placed on her, by her upbringing and by society, is a powerful reminder that we – no matter who we are – have the potential to rise above our circumstances.