Oleander Saldana is a member of one of the nine rival assassin families in the kingdom of Lovero, who take on jobs for cash and worship the goddess of death and resurrection. One day, she wakes up to find her family murdered and their home on fire, potentially betrayed by her secret lover from another clan, the Da Vias. Lea vows to seek vengeance for what has been done to her family, and thus embarks on a quest involving deserted wastelands haunted by murderous ghosts, assassins hell-bent on on ending her, long-lost relatives and a world of hurt.
Sounds fairly intriguing, right? Alas, “Assassin’s Heart” is yet another highly-anticipated YA fantasy that has unfortunately fallen flat for me. The book tries to do too much, and ends up with some rather inconsistent world building. We have mafia families, ghosts who are somehow thwarted by water, walls and pure faith; and a religious aspect where each country worships a different god, who manifest to some of the most devout and also offer protection or certain boons.
The assassin aspect also led me to question the sense of it all — if anyone can simply pay to have someone else offed by one of the families, then what on earth stops the entire city from just being taken out one by one? It seems like a pretty poor form of population control, if you ask me.
Dear Lea, our assassin heroine, is also fairly incompetent, despite all her bluster. She ends up in multiple situations where she is either captured, harmed or requires rescuing. Pretty sloppy for a supposedly deadly, top-notch killer. She decides, for instance, to go around wearing her unique assassin mask around the city she’s taken refuge in from those who would have her head — which is an obvious way to make yourself clearly identifiable. Her excuse was that she would rather people didn’t see her true face, but come on, makeup and hair dye are a thing, y’know.
The romance aspect also overtakes much of the novel, which is frustrating for those more invested in the background politicking of it all. Initially, Lea is secretly gallivanting around town with her secret beau, and then is left reeling in the aftermath of betrayal. Conveniently enough, a new love interest pitches up just in time to reaffirm Lea’s faith in love, etc.
Lea herself is a fairly unlikeable character — incredibly arrogant, proud and spoiled. She repeatedly mentions not being able to have pretty things anymore, because her family is dead and their fortune lost. Pretty cold, bro.
All in all, a generic fantasy-lite with too much stilted dialogue, info-dumping and glaring inconsistencies.
ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.