Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Monday, January 18, 2016
Title: Assassin's Heart
Author: Sarah Ahiers
Genre: fantasy, romance
Series: Assassin's Heart #1
Pages: 400
Published: expected February 2 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

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.

So much about Assassin's Heart seemed like the perfect fit for me: a fantasy world with crime families, betrayal, and maybe a touch of forbidden romance? Sadly for me, the pacing in this 400 page novel is all over the place, the narrative is often repetitive, and the plot is more concerned with romance than I would like for a story about God-sanctioned murder and hell-bent revenge. The book starts strong but once Lea flees Lovero, it becomes a bit of a slough to get through.

There are good bones to Assassin's Heart but it's unnecessarily drawn out. This is not a story that needs 400 pages, especially when a lot of the worldbuilding and characterization just restates facts we've already learned from Lea. Multiple times. The redundant nature of the worldbuilding limited how the reader can envision the world and hampered my enjoyment of the story. A fantasy sinks or swims on the strength of that element and it's one that Ahiers doesn't master over the pages.

Though this is being marketed as a fantasy it is as much a romance as it is a fantasy. And that romance? Goes from  "I kinda hate you" to "I would pick you over my dead family" way, wayyyy too fast. It's jarring and unrealistic. Granted a romance plot with influences of Romeo and Juliet (IT IS NOT A ROMANCE PEOPLE. IT'S A TRAGEDY. They knew each other for 3 days and 6 deaths were a direct result. But I digress..) was going to be a hard sell for me. The plot, when not focusing on love interest Val or eventual love interest Alessio (this is so telegraphed as soon as he is on the page that it is not a spoiler) is action-packed and capable of pulling off a few surprises.

On the positive side, I did like Lea. I liked her competence and even, yes, her arrogance. This is a girl who is smart and skilled and also determined. She's not the most nuanced character I've ever read but she does have facets, virtues, vices. She feels real, the benefit of her strong voice and first-person narration. The other characters start out one-dimensional but a few -- Marcello, Alessio -- are given time and attention over the course to grow into less rigid people. I also liked what I learned about --- this world? Lovero? If Ahiers can flesh out her foundation, I can see a stronger story for the sequels.

I just don't think I personally will be reading book two in the Assassin's Heart series. I can see the comparisons to the His Fair Assassin series but for me this lacked the finesse, the worldbuilding, and the emotions necessary to invest in the central romance. Just not my type of novel, though I think those who have a more favorable view of Romeo and Juliet may find it more fun. 

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