Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I'm giving this book four stars BUT, please note that my rating is really 3.5 stars. Four stars seems way too generous but three stars seems too low. I liked this book overall! I just didn't love it, and I can't see myself rereading it (although again, I did enjoy it).
Lea Saldana is the daughter of the First Family, one of nine power families that are revered and respected. She is a clipper, one who assassinates marks. Where she lives, people hire clippers all the time - it is te work of Saefrella, the goddess of death and resurrection. But in a sudden turn of events, all of the Saldanas are killed - except Lea - and by the Second Family, the Da Via clan. Now Lea's Family is dead and Lea knows that she must never see her suitor, Val Da Via, again. Lea must turn to a long-lost legend for help in her quest for vengeance - she won't stop until the Da Via's are all dead.
The beginning of this book introduced us to clippers, what Lea does on a normal basis. Lea is a very skilled assassin, and she's a rare one that has a liking towards poisons. But don't underestimate her - she is an excellent fighter, good at combat and handling swords and knives and all sorts of weapons. One thing she isn't good at is not fraternizing with the enemy.
The Saldana and Da Via Families have been at odds for years. Lea loves Val and vice versa, but they keep their relationship a secret. But when Lea's Family burns, Lea knows that either Val knew and helped the Da Via's do it, or he knew and said nothing/did nothing, which was just as bad. So... you know that their relationship is doomed. You can kind of see how this could have been worked into a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque romance, but the author didn't go in that direction.
Just a general rule when it comes to YA - if there is a boyfriend or love interest or crush at the very beginning of the book, it is VERY rare that he will end up being the one with the female protagonist at the end of the book. Take that as you may.
I like Lea. She is such a good assassin, and she wields her power justly and honorably. When her Family perishes, she becomes full of vengeance, and she's determined kill all the Da Via's or die trying. But she's smart enough to realize that she can't do it alone. I like that Lea isn't stupid enough to think that Val was completely innocent and blind to his family's plans. I like that Lea was strong and brave (and reckless and slightly crazy), instead of totally crazy and/or grief-struck. She kept her head, and she never stopped being bada**.
The story really picks up when the Saldana Family is all dead (except Lea). She must travel to Yvain to seek someone who she hopes might help her. She finds trouble and more trouble in Yvain, but also someone unexpected who quickly becomes an ally. But the Da Via's are just behind her, as are the lawmen of Yvain. Lea discovers many secrets from when she fled to Yvain to the end of the book, which helps reader comprehension (a loooot of things start to make sense!).
Lea meets Alessio (Les) in Yvain. Les is eager to learn what Lea is, and wants to be just as good a clipper as her when he sees her in action. Les is sweet and kind but also a bit proud and very stubborn. Les is a good friend and a calm influence on Lea. He's also our primary interest, and I much preferred him to the guy in the beginning (Val).
NO love triangle despite what you might think. Val is not a good boy... Lea knows that she can't ever think of him again, not after his Family killed all of hers. I like Les and Lea together. There weren't many physically intimate scenes of any sort in this book, but just the way the two of them sync up is special and something to watch (or read?).
I like the Italian influence on this book. The characters' names, the locations' names, the infrastructures (canals) - there were a lot of Italian influences present in this book, which I thought was cool. The role of religion is pretty significant in this book, and I liked seeing this theme.
Overall, I liked the book. I didn't love it, and it's not a new favorite or anything, but I liked it. It's a good debut and I definitely want to see more from this author in the future!
What I Did Not Like:
I feel like some aspects of this book weren't all that well-written. For one, Les falls for Lea super quickly - his feelings become apparent really fast. It's not quite insta-love since Lea doesn't fall for him very quickly, but Les reminded me of a puppy a bit, in Les and Lea's first couple of interactions.
I'm fairly certain this book is a standalone, which bothers me a bit because I would have liked a slightly more resolved ending. Don't get me wrong, most of the major aspects - if not all - are resolved; but there were one or two smaller ones that weren't (which I can't say without spoiling anything). Unless there is another novel in the series that hasn't been announced, I'm not *quite* satisfied with this book's end! It was very happy, but I wanted a few more tiny details!
There were some points in this book when I was reading and I thought to myself, yup, debut author. Some parts just seemed very cliche or poorly written, or badly worded or structured. Not a huge deal but I remember thinking this several times while reading. So, not a perfectly sound story, but still a good one, in my opinion.
Would I Recommend It:
I'd recommend this book to fantasy fans. It's not the most thrilling and amazing and to-do-for fantasy novel out there, but it's a good read. I liked it, and it was fairly unique. Not one that I'd probably return to, but I see others enjoying this book like I did. I wish the publisher would stop playing up the Romeo and Juliet thing though - especially when the synopsis clearly states a rift between Lea and Val. Smh.
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. I'm feeling slightly generous, I think. I liked this book! It was worth the read. Also, the cover is great! Nicely done, HarperTeen.
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