Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper

Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper
Book One of the Enemies of the Prince series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Prince Anders, the ruler of Archenfield, has been murdered, leaving his younger brother, Jared, to ascend the throne. Sixteen-year-old Jared feels unprepared to rule the kingdom and its powerful and dangerous court, yet he knows he can rely on the twelve officers of the court to advise him. He also knows he can just as easily be at their mercy-especially when it appears that one of them may be responsible for his brother's death. Unable to trust anyone, Jared takes it upon himself to hunt down his brother's killer-but the killer may be hunting him, as well. Murder, betrayal, and intrigue abound in Justin Somper's thrilling YA series debut. Exploring the political machinations of the medieval court and the lives that hang in the balance, Allies & Assassins is a gripping tale of a teen torn between duty and revenge.

What I Liked:

Just to clear up something - this is NOT a Middle Grade novel. It's Young Adult. Just saying.

I featured this book as my Waiting on Wednesday choice a few months ago on a whim - I didn't know much about the book, except that it was a fantasy novel, and it sounded epic. I hadn't read any of Somper's previous novels, though my sister had, and she said she enjoyed his Vampirates series. So, when the publisher sent me this book, I was thrilled! A chance to read a book that I already wanted to read, even if I knew very little about it. I ended up really enjoying this book - all 500 pages of it (or thereabout).

Jared is the new Prince of Archenfield, after his older brother is suddenly assassinated. No one expected the assassination, as Archenfield has been maintaining friendly alliances with all of its neighbors. But royalty always has enemies, and it is Jared's first task as the new Prince to figure out who is behind the assassination. But nothing is as it seems, as more murders follow Anders' death, and the list of suspects grows longer but vaguer. Help comes in unexpected forms, but so does danger...

This book is told from several different perspectives, including that of Jared, Asta, Axel, Michael, Koel, and others. Some are minor characters whose perspectives we only see once, but others, like Jared and Asta, we see time and time again. There are many, many characters in this book, but surprisingly, it is very easy to follow each character without getting confused.

Prince Jared is one of the protagonist, and he is surrounded by a large court. There are twelve officers who counsel him. Jared's mother the Queen, his younger brother Edvin, and his sister-in-law Silva are also close to Jared. There is Asta, the niece and apprentice of the Physician (one of the twelve of the counsel). Her role is crucial in this book, as it is her intuition and investigating skills that bring the truth to light.

This book takes place in less than a week. Actually, I think it is exactly five days. I KNOW. Five hundred pages = five days. Crazy, right? But I think it's incredible, because Somper goes into all of the ins and outs of the life of a new Prince who has the role dumped onto him, after the death of the reigning Prince. It's so amazing how intricate and detailed this book gets, from meetings to speeches to private audiences... Somper really convinces readers of what he thinks a royal's life is like, especially after the death of a royal. That was one of the things that really struck me, how well-done the tiny little details are.

The world-building is pretty great too - I love this fantasy setting. It's not too different from what you would typically think of when it comes to kings and queens and kingdoms and whatnot, but Somper has his own spin on things. This world felt very political and almost modern, but I suppose that makes sense, because even in the medieval world, politics weren't all that different from the politics of today.

The characters, as I mentioned, are many, but very easy to pick apart and follow. I love the character development of Jared - he changes a lot, in less than a week. Of course, when you're following every intimate detail of a person's life, like readers are in this book, you can very clearly see how the protagonists change. I wouldn't say that Asta, the other protagonist, changes as much. I really like her! She's very smart and inquisitive, and she is genuine. She and I are very similar, I feel.

This book is CRAZY. The politics, the scheming, the plotting, the twists and turns... I barely saw any of anything coming. I saw ONE thing happened, with Anders and the locket and the private bathhouse, but that was about the only thing that I solidly discerned. The assassin? Nope, didn't see it coming. And this is ME, the girl who usually can divine plot twists from early in the book. But that is great! It kept me on my toes. Somper really surprised me with all of the twists and curveballs, and I was always turning pages, trying to figure out what was happening. 

This book wraps up well, tying up several parts of this book, but there will be more books in this series, especially after that ending. In terms of Prince Anders, things are cleared up. But there is a larger threat at hand, and it is tied to Prince Anders' assassination. YAY for more craziness! I love it.

What I Did Not Like:

At this very moment, I can't really think of anything specific that I didn't like about this book. I'm hoping to see the appearance of romance in the next book - I can see it happening between two specific characters in book one. I like that Somper is drawing it out, to develop the romance, if that's what he's doing.

Would I Recommend It:

If you like books like this, that are heavily politically driven, then this is definitely one that you should not miss. In a way, this book reminded me a little of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, with all the scandal and duty and plotting and scheming. I love that type of novel, but I know that not everyone does. It's very intelligent and careful and tricky, not light and filled with nonstop action. Although there was plenty of action in this book. There was also a lot of considering and puzzling. I really liked this book, and I hope that if this seems like a novel for you, that you enjoy it as well!


4 stars. What an intriguing fantasy novel! I absolutely love novels like this - one that features a fantasy world with plenty of scheming and twists and turns and mystery. Political scandal and machinations? I'm all about that! This was such a great book. I cannot wait to read book two! 

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  1. Hmmm, only by the synopsis I wouldn't have added this book to my TBR list, but after reading your review, and you comparing it to Grave Mercy... I'm really going to give this one a try! And the timeline being only 5 days? That sounds fantastic!
    Great review, Alyssa!

    1. I feel like comparing this one to Grave Mercy might be a bit of a stretch, but then, not really. It doesn't have the same rhythm and lyrical beauty that Grave Mercy has, but it has the scheming and political scandals and whatnot, that I LOVED in Grave Mercy. It's a very packed book! And I seriously enjoyed it. Thank you, Pili!

  2. Wow a book that only happens in five days feels like something super difficult to pull off, and those contemporary books that happened in basically only one day have always been misses for me, so I'm glad that the whole timeline worked for you! The political aspect also sounds pretty cool :)

    1. I totally agree! I usually dislike books that take place in a very short period of time, for some reason (just a general trend, not something I tell myself that I will always dislike). So I'm sort of in the same boat as you. But this one was great!

  3. Oh, I knew this was a YA but I didn't realize it was such a large book. I think I have this one somewhere, and I am going to have to dig it out and read it ASAP. Sounds amazing!

    1. It's huge! One of the longest I've read for the year! I hope you read and enjoy it, Andrea :)


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