Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Published by HarperTeen on February 2, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 400 – hardcover, 432 – ebook
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 3 stars
Source: HarperCollins International
In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.
Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.
With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.
How to rate this book is kind of a blurry affair for me because on one hand, it was pretty enjoyable, but on the other hand, so many things pissed me off. For a book about rival assassin groups involved in a blood feud, this was kind of underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, there was some ass-kicking going on but the first half and middle of the book were just very… sluggish. The second half did have some slight improvement, though not by much.
Can we start off by saying how much I usually love assassin books? Bonus points if it’s in the Fantasy genre. So when I got this book you could definitely see why I was over the moon. I, however, was let down by the very poor assassining (assassinating?) going on. From the very first few pages we see our protagonist get poisoned by… wait for it… her mom. Here, we have everyone singing her praises and amaaazing “Clipper” skills then she goes and makes rookie mistakes all throughout the book. Forgets her weapons, gets poisoned by her mom, repeatedly gets caught by whoever she’s sneaking up on or trying to avoid (Captain LeFevre), and constantly gets injured and blames her less-than-exceptional fighting skills on these injuries. Girl, what type of assassin are you?!
The characters in this book really lacked complexity, especially the “bad guys”. They’re just handed to us on a silver platter like ‘Here, these people are evil; you have to hate them… They’re BAD.” The Da Vias, especially Estella and Val, were portrayed as the bad guys with no clues or justification given as to what the reasons behind their actions might be. The author did try with Estella with the whole pregnancy thing, but it just served to make it seem more lacking and hastily thrown together, in my opinion.
Also, as I mentioned a few paragraphs back, the pacing of the story seemed off. Three-fourths of this book consisted of pointless journeys and excursions that led to nowhere. To get from one place to another probably takes fifty pages of mind-numbing self-rumination from the protagonist. It was so goddamn boring – like, can we please just get back to the relevant plot material?! And speaking of plot, when we actually do get a fight, there always has to be some type of convenient rescue to aid our humble main characters — like a mysterious smoke bomb or, say, a rescue from the goddess of Death and Resurrection herself!1!! How opportune.
However, not everything about this book was a plodding disappointment; there were redeemable aspects! For example, the romance between Lea and Alessio (I’m not calling him Les because ‘Lea and Les’? Hell nah.) It was obvious Alessio fell for Lea really early on, although she remained oblivious to it for the most part of the book. It still made my heart stutter. Alessio is an adorable mess – he reminded me of a puppy. He’s definitely one of my favorite characters in this book!
In a Fantasy book, the world building is usually what makes it or breaks it. In this case, the world building is what glued the whole damn story together. The setting was rich and imaginative and along with the writing, helped to immerse the reader into the story. Such unique world building and setting surely deserves an award!
All in all, this was an enjoyable book… just not that hooking. It was kind of underwhelming and screamed ‘debut author’, but it still had potential. I’ve heard that there will be a sequel, though I don’t know what it could possibly be about since this book already wrapped itself up. A companion novel about another character maybe? I’m pretty picky about fantasy, so if all the above appeals to you then go for it. There are definitely a lot of things that I enjoyed, more than I hated.
Many thanks to HarperCollins for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views.
Rating: 3 fish