Assassin's Heart

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Assassin's Heart
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
12+
Release Date
February 02, 2016
ISBN
0062363786
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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.

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Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0  (1)
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4.0  (1)
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4.0  (1)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0

ACTION!

Drama like you’re watching an episode of Days of Our Lives, bloodshed like it’s Game of Thrones.

Set back in the day (when there were assassins and horse riding was a top means of transportation), Assassin’s Heart leaves little to be desired. It’s all here.

The drama and the romance.
The strong female heroine and the male sidekick.
The betrayal.
The romance.
The action. So. Much. Action.
Poisons and swords and creeping on rooftops.
Family.

I loved it all.

For a while, towards the beginning, I almost hated Lea. She would not stop whining about Val and his missing touch, yada yada. I was over it and hoping she’d put her big girl pants on and focus on the real problem.

And she did, finally. I’m not holding that against you, Lea. (Val, you scum!!)

Above all, my favorite thing is a book that sucks me in and makes me miss precious sleep just to see what will happen next. And from about 40% in, that was me. Curled up under the sheets way past my bedtime, waiting to see if Lea made is past the monastery or if she got eaten by an angry ghost (legit spooky).

I loved the different Family’s throughout the kingdoms and I wish they may have been elaborated on more.

Assassins Heart is a nonstop thriller of a novel. Original and spellbinding, you won’t be able to put this one down!

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3.0  (2)
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3.5  (2)
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(Updated: September 14, 2016)
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
2.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0

A Shakespearean revival with assassins that disappointed

Assassin’s Heart had the markings of an exceptional novel: loosely inspired by Romeo and Juliet, the novel follows seventeen year old Lea Saldana, daughter of one of the nine ruling assassin families, who seeks vengeance after her family is murdered by a rival family. I was immediately drawn to this novel by the premise and, thanks to the kind folk at Netgalley, was able to finally sit down and devour the novel in a few sittings.

The beginning of the novel was very well done and I was immediately drawn into the world that Sarah Ahiers had effortlessly created. Nine opposing families of assassins murder people, as paid for by the one who wants them dead, and offer up the sacrifice to their patron goddess Safraella. The assassins are called ‘Clippers’ because they ‘clip’ a life short. These Clippers are highly respected by the common people and are considered the nobility of the kingdom of Lovero. When they carry out a murder, each Clipper places a gold coin into the victim’s mouth to ensure that their soul will be resurrected by Safraella in the next life. Without this coin, the victim will become a ghost and their soul will wander the world, lost, forever.

The protagonist, Lea, is the highly skilled daughter of the First Family, the Saldanas, and the current family in the greatest position of power. Lea is conducting a secret affair with Val, the son of the Saldana’s greatest rivals, the Da Vias, who just so happen to be the Second Family. When Lea wakes up to her house in flames and her entire family murdered, she knows that the Da Via Family is responsible and begins her journey of vengeance as she vows to take down every member of the Da Via Family for what they did to hers.

I was spellbound by the plot of Assassin’s Heart, even if it was quite slow. I thought it an incredibly creative revival of a Shakespearean classic … but with assassins. When I first picked up the novel, I didn’t expect it to contain paranormal themes and the inclusion of the ghosts confused me for many pages. However, once the focus on religion is revealed, it makes total sense and was actually a central part of the storyline. The world-building was by far my favourite aspect of the novel and I found myself intrigued to learn more. While it’s somewhat unclear what culture Ahiers takes inspiration from, I suspect it is Italy, due to the names of many countries and cities. The nine ruling families that control Lovero resembled the power of the Medici family and the control they wielded over Renaissance Florence. I can’t be sure exactly what Ahiers was attempting, but this is the feel I received from the world of Lovero and I found it incredibly fascinating.

The beginning of the novel was incredibly enticing, but once Lea sets out on her own, the plot suddenly … dwindles and is left floundering in the wind like the proverbial embers Ahiers frequently made mention of. I found myself slightly bored by where the plot was going and I had to continually reread massive chunks of paragraphs that I glazed over. That was, in part, due to the writing, too. Again, the beginning of the novel was well written, but, as the plot stumbled, so did the writing skill. The novel suffered from a classic case of the reverse of show, don’t tell: Ahiers continually told the reader something, rather than allowing us to get there on our own. She would also end the occasional great paragraph by re-explaining something, unnecessarily, which really affected my reading experience.

Lea was an adequate protagonist: I neither liked her nor disliked her. It was quite disappointing, to be honest, considering her entire family had just been murdered and I didn’t feel an emotional connection with her. I didn’t feel anything for her, really, especially as we progressed to the middle of the story. At the beginning, I thought she would be another badass YA protagonist that I could add to my Goodreads list. However, her skills as an assassin were severely lacking: she managed to get herself captured several times, people were continually sneaking up on her and she was even poisoned. There seemed to be a massive disconnection between her character at the start of the novel and her character in the second half. I just couldn’t believe that someone who is supposedly one of the best assassins in her family was constantly making “sloppy” mistakes.

As for the other characters, the only one I actually liked was Les. He was such a sweetheart and I wanted to bundle him in my arms and give him a big hug. His background story was terribly sad to read and I found myself having a stronger connection with him than I did with Lea. Val, on the other hand, was a vain and obnoxious rich boy who represented the epitome of the modern sleaze. I was confused by the character of Lefevre and his inclusion in the plot of the story. He was a policeman investigating a string of murders, I understand, but his scenes just felt so forced and rushed, like they were only included because nothing else was happening, plot-wise. His character seemed to be resigned to showing up randomly and yelling “Ha, you’re caught now!” at Lea. I don’t think of him as the villain or a bad guy; he was just a nuisance.

Despite the disappointing middle, the ending of the novel almost reached the same level as the beginning and I began to enjoy the story once more, intrigued to see what would happen. There were two massive surprises at the end of the novel and Ahiers even managed to surprise me with one of them, and I usually see surprises coming from a mile away. The novel ended in a full circle: every plot-line had been tied up so I was especially surprised when I learned this would be a series. I can’t even begin to think what Ahiers would write on next for Lea, as I thought the ending of Assassin’s Heart was a satisfying one.

Will I be reading the next book in the series, then? Most likely not. While I really enjoyed the world-building and the initial plot (which is what is driving my rating), the writing was simply too elementary and the novel suffered heavily from a loss of focus.

Good Points
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Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
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Great mythology!

Seventeen year old Lea Saldana is a skilled assassin, a member of one of the nine families in the kingdom of Lovero who are paid to kill in the name of the Goddess who keeps them safe from the ghosts that roam outside their borders. Their motto has always been Family over family, your assassin Family has your loyalty over your blood family, but Lea is secretly dating Val, the son of her Family’s biggest rival, the Da Vias. When her Family is attacked, their home burned to the ground, she is the only survivor and she vows revenge. She knows the Da Vias were responsible and she will kill every last one of them – even Val.

I was really excited to start this book. It had interesting mythology, a main female character who was badass, and a revenge plot that I easily got sucked into reading. I enjoyed the world-building and the relationships that developed between characters. The quest for vengeance and Lea’s journey as she dealt with feelings of guilt and anger were relatable.

Lea was an interesting main character. She had no guilt about killing people, strong in her faith that she was serving her Goddess, and she had been trained to be deadly in many ways of death. That didn’t mean she was immune to feeling insecure about her position within the Family or that she couldn’t love or show a softer side. Things that seemed out of line or horrifying to me as the reader were taken in stride by her because that was just normal life for her. She had her strengths, she had her faults, she had her beliefs, and it was a journey watching her try to figure out who she was without her Family and whether or not she had value without them.

I really enjoyed the whole concept of this world and all the complexity it involved, especially the politics within the Families. No one seemed to have a problem kicking Lea when she was down and that just made the stakes higher for her to find someone she could trust and get her revenge. I liked that we also got to see what it was like outside of cities that worshiped the Goddess of death, and instead chose to worship a different God or Goddess. I also liked how straightforward it all was. There didn’t seem to be characters introduced with no purpose, Lea’s moves were very calculated, everything was done with something bigger in mind and it all connected.

I did find that the story dragged a bit in the middle. Lea seemed to hit a wall in her plans and that meant the story hit a bit of a wall in the action. Thankfully it didn’t drag for long and once the action picked up again, this time it didn’t stop until the end. It was a pretty quick read, even with the small part that dragged in the middle. The rest of the book made up for it, being so action focused with the need-to-know-what-happens-next feeling being strong.

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