Title: Knight Assassin
Author: Rima Jean
Genre: fantasy, historical
In short: a great heroine, a wonderful historical setting, and a promising plot.
Warning, some spoilers! And also some trigger warnings.
Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Zayn has special powers she cannot control—powers that others fear and covet. Powers that cause the Templar Knights to burn Zayn’s mother at the stake for witchcraft. When a mysterious stranger tempts Zayn to become the first female member of the heretical Assassins, the chance to seek her revenge lures her in. She trains to harness her supernatural strength and agility, and then enters the King of Jerusalem’s court in disguise with the assignment to assassinate Guy de Molay, her mother’s condemner. But once there, she discovers Earic Goodwin, the childhood friend who still holds her heart, among the knights—and his ocean-blue eyes don’t miss a thing. Will vengeance be worth the life of the one love she has left?
“…I thought my life was over.”
Zayn looked up suddenly, the soapy bath water rippling from her. “Was it?”
Aysha smiled. “No. It was a brutal beginning.”
Knight Assassin follows Zayn, a young girl living in the village of Rafaniyah at the time of the French invasion of Syria. Zayn has had strange powers all her life, and she’s faster and stronger than any normal human being. But her whole village loathes her and her mother Miriam because she’s illegitimate. Rumours spread about Zayn’s powers, and Guy de Molay, a Templar Knight, has Miriam burned at the stake while Zayn watches. He then rapes her and leaves her for dead. Just then, a passing stranger offers her a chance to get her revenge on Guy if he will come with her. Zayn agrees, and the man takes her to the Assassins. Dun dun dun. Points if you said that in your head like this:
I’m sorry. I don’t know why I just thought of that. So we follow Zayn’s assassin training, and then she leaves to seek out Guy and get her revenge. It’s pretty great.
Anyway, Knight Assassin was a step for me in that it had a really different setting from what I’m used to. The descriptions of Jerusalem, the Leper King’s court, the entire setting was so interesting—I’m assuming it’s historically accurate. But the best thing about this book was undoubtedly Zayn.
Except her iffy name, Zayn is everything I look for in a strong heroine. She’s special because of her powers, yes, but that makes her anything but a star student. She still has to work just as much as anyone else to be a good assassin. She still has to go through the same training. And she had such believable, excellent development—going from self-loathing after her rape to something else, not hating her body. It’s an inspiring journey, and I loved reading it. Her life at court was fascinating too, with the added bonus of badass superstar Lady Marguerite.
I’m a little unsure about the romance, though—it turned out a bit much considering she’d only known him for a short time when she was twelve. That didn’t make it any less cutesy to read about though, and I really like both Zayn and Earic as characters.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable book, and I look forward to reading the author’s next books.
I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an advance copy and are subject to change.