Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Title: Assassin's Heart
Author: Sarah Ahiers
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Source: HarperTeen via Edelweiss

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.
Review by Nara

Assassin's Heart was a surprisingly dark take on YA high fantasy. I guess I should've read the blurb properly as it does outline a few of the grim events that take place in the novel. The protagonist Lea's world changes when her entire family is murdered by a rival assassin "Family". The whole book is based around her thirst for revenge, even if it means sacrificing herself and her own future.

The book is set in quite a well developed world, where countries have their own patron gods who actually exist and can do things like protecting a city from angry spirits and resurrections and so forth. In Lovero, Lea's home country, the patron goddess is one of death, and therefore the assassin Families who kill in her name have the most power. The setting seems to have Renaissance/Italian/mafia influences, with the Family names and Venice-style canals, and that worked quite well to facilitate a vivid world.

The romance was a little cheesy and fast, but in the context of this story, I feel like that was fine. So many bad things happen to our protagonist that it felt okay to have a slightly indulgent romance. I have to admit, I wasn't the biggest fan of the love interest as he seemed a little bland- there weren't very many scenes where he acted in a way that I didn't expect, making him somewhat boring. This probably contributed to my opinion of the romance lowering a bit.

The book fell ever so slightly short at the end, where I felt like things were a bit too easily solved. I really didn't like one of the decisions that Lea makes concerning a child of the Da Via family, and I feel like this perhaps affected my view of the story overall more than I'd like. To be honest, despite the romance, this book would probably have gotten an extra star if the ending was more to my liking.

All in all, Assassin's Heart was a pretty good book with a thrilling plot set in a well developed, beautifully rich world. Recommended to fans of high fantasy.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5