(Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by HarperCollins on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Family, Violence, Young Adult
With shades of Game of Thrones and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a tale of love, lies, and vengeance. Fans of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson will devour the flawlessly crafted action and inventive world building.Seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana is a trained assassin. She was born into one of the nine clipper Families in the kingdom of Lovero who lawfully take lives for a price. As a member of the highest-ranking clan, loyalty to Family is valued above all, but that doesn't stop Lea from getting into a secret relationship with Val Da Via, a boy from a rival clan. Despite her better judgment, Lea has fallen in love with him; but she's confident she can anticipate any threat a mile away.Then she awakens one night to a house full of smoke. Although she narrowly escapes, she isn't able to save her Family as their home is consumed by flames. With horror, she realizes that Val and his Family are the only ones who could be responsible. Devastated over his betrayal and the loss of her clan, there's just one thing on her mind: making the Da Vias pay. The heart of this assassin craves revenge.
Assassin’s Heart was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 so as soon as I had this in my hands I had to read it. It is set up as Romeo & Juliet meets The Godfather (In a Fantasy!!) and I would agree with that compilation. As a debut, I thought Sarah Ahiers did a good job with this story and I look forward to more from her.
The story dives right into the set up as we learn more about who Lea is and what her relationship is with Val. See, Lea is part of the Saldana Family and they are the First Family in Lovero (there are nine total). Val happens to be a member of the Da Via Family and while they aren’t the top Family, they have the numbers to eventually get up there when they are ready. Despite the competition and the bad blood between their Families, somehow Lea and Val found a connection and now have a relationship. It is also because of these reasons that Lea and Val have to keep their relationship a secret.
As Clippers, Lea and Val are contracted to kill on behalf of the goddess Safraella – the goddess of death, murder and resurrection. The mark could be someone wanting their own death or the death of someone else. Regardless, Clippers are the only people who are clear to kill people without punishment. They are given a level of respect Clippers from the inhabitants of the city and people know to stay out of their way.
Almost immediately something unexpected to Lea – her family is murdered and when Lea gets away, she vows to get vengeance. She knows that Val either knew what was going to happen or was part of what happened and no matter which one it is, she is going to make the Da Via’s pay. Now there isn’t a lot I’m telling you and that is done purposefully. I don’t want to give too much of the story away so you will just have to read to get the rest of it.
What I will tell you is that Ahiers creates an interesting world. Outside of the walls of the city is a treacherous land called the dead plains. This land is dangerous to everyone because it is full of angry ghosts who are always looking to take over bodies and as Lea makes her way across to safety she experiences just how perilous it is. The ghosts don’t just inhabit the plains, they also wander some cities at night which makes it dangerous for people to be out after dark. I thought this, in addition to the world of the Families, was something new and I liked how Ahiers integrated them into the story. The other piece I liked was how Ahiers tied some of the structure of the city to Italy to add to the Family/Mafia feel.
The characters in this book are interesting. There are things I liked and disliked about all of them. Lea is smart and willing to take risks. She also knows how to handle herself in a crisis and isn’t afraid to face things that scare her. I have very mixed feelings about Val. He comes off as very loving toward Lea but definitely weak and as the story progresses we learn just how true this is.
The other main character is Les. Lea meets Les (Alessio) while she is searching for someone she hopes will help her get her revenge and he is a good addition to the story as he is very different from Val in my opinion. He is kind and proud and not afraid to do the right thing. The relationship that develops between Les and Lea is nicely done and although there isn’t a lot of romance in this one, there is the development of the relationship that provides some great interaction between Lea and Les as well as a few swoony bits.
As the story wraps up, a lot of things start to come together. Like Lea, there are gaps in what we know and as she starts to really understand, the story really comes together. There were a number of things I liked in this story and a number of things I found frustrating but overall I think my rating is fair. Although I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to, I am still looking forward to more from Ahiers. It was definitely a good mix of action, swoony bits, and deception. If you are looking for a new fantasy, consider checking this one out when you can.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!