Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers


Author:
 Sarah Ahiers
Series: Assassin’s Heart (#1)
Read: February 10th-12th
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Genre: high fantasy
Rating: ★☆

In short: Once again, the blurb proves too good to be true. It’s a typical case of heroine who is supposed to be skilled and tough but is actually like…plain bad at what she does.

Goodreads: 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.

Okay, “killer instinct”? “Highly skilled”? Listen, I am more of a highly trained assassin than Lea Saldana. Really, if you’re writing an assassin, don’t give me Celaena Sardothien 2.0. Actually, scratch that. At least Celaena had a personality. Lea is skilled at messing up phenomenally, and to top things off, this book has way too much romance and not enough revenge!!1!! Disappointment strikes again, boo.

≫ THE PLOT:

Expectations:

What would I do? The only thing I could do.
Kill everyone responsible.

I needed to find my uncle, enlist his help and his knowledge of the Da Vias. And then kill them all.

I could only worry about the future now, and how I could best make the Da Vias pay.

Reality:

“Are you courting me?”
He smiled, that ridiculous crooked smile of his. “Do you want me to court you?”

His fingers stroked mine.
My breath caught in my throat and my cheeks burned.

I pictured the celebration on the roof before, my hand in his, his arms around me like they were now.
I blushed behind my mask and pulled away.

Seriously! Assassin clans, assassin goddesses, mass murder, and Assassin’s Heart manages to pull stuff like this. For a massive portion of the book, Lea’s learning not to blame herself, and to laugh and live™, which is all fine and dandy. I’d be okay with that if the book says, this is a story about a girl who learns how to move on from a family tragedy. But the blurb is all, MURDER!! REVENGE!! Yeah, right. There’s virtually nothing happening in the middle when she skips off to a neighbouring country in search of her uncle so he can train her and they can go murder all the Da Vias. Lea’s busy being buddies with Les, who teaches her about love and life™. The plot itself is resolved with deus ex machina. To top it all off, the entire reason the Da Vias murdered the Saldanas makes little sense, and we’re supposed to believe this is only because the person who spearheaded the attack is batshit crazy. Yeah, no. Not buying it.

≫ THE WRITING:
There were several times when the writing felt stilted and flat—way too much telling, and really short paragraphs, for some reason? It reminded me a little of The Witch Hunter, which…is not a compliment, because I was not a fan of the latter. Here are some instances.

We left the barn, Butters tied behind Dorian. I smacked Butters when he tried to bully his way to the front, and he finally got the message.
The horses’ hooves clopped loudly on the flagstones as we took darkened backstreets. Butters grazed from any gardens we passed.
We crossed the city line into Genoni. I exhaled.

The ghost reached for me. I jerked Butters away, my shoulder stretching with fresh, hot pain. Her fingers passed through the saddle. She shrieked louder, her screams reverberating in my skull.
More ghosts appeared; she’d called them in her rage.

The ghosts fell behind, and for a moment it seemed we would outrun them all, but they rallied and raced after us.

Sebastien shoved the arrow the rest of the way through my shoulder.
I grunted and the room rolled. Sweat broke out on my forehead and my stomach contorted.
Sebastien broke the shaft and removed the arrow from my shoulder.

And, personal favourite:

“You have been arrow shot!” he exclaimed.

It really manages to turn tense moments into flat ones.

≫ THE SETTING:
To be fair, it’s a bit difficult to work out civic order in a country where assassins ordained by a goddess go around killing people. Needless to say, it was not very believable. Supposedly the assassins, devotees of the goddess Saffraella, kill people and offer the bodies with a coin so the goddess will give the soul a new body. This is all so that the soul doesn’t become a ghost, like the ones which roam around outside the walls of their country. What are these ghosts called, you might ask?

Angry ghosts. They’re called angry ghosts.

Every single time I read the phrase that was supposed to terrify me, I had to suppress a giggle. Angry ghosts?!

≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
There’s a three-point reason why Lea is a terrible character. Let me break it down for you.

HER SUPER-SPECIAL STATUS

…to me it is apparent you had an experience with the goddess Herself, that She somehow deigned to answer your prayers. You must be very special, Lea Saldana.

My oldest brother, Rafeo, said poisons were an important skill and that I should be proud I had such an affinity for them, because many did not.

One down, even with my feeble knife toss.

Why a goddess supposedly thinks this sloppy, ridiculous “assassin” is worth favour is beyond me. But the book reiterates constantly—through Lea’s own internal monologue, no less!—that Lea’s super skilled, super great, super strong, mmhmm yes if I say it enough will you believe it? Even if, hypothetically, she’s a devoted enough assassin to gain divine favour, why? Her characterisation also reinforces her resentment about everything being about Family, and her own childhood wishes to do something else with her life. Contradictions! Which leads to…

HER OBNOXIOUS ATTITUDE
Somebody get this girl an attitude check, because she needs one. Lea is constantly judging the ~assassin skills~ of everyone around her as if she’s the goddess herself. She even judges the people of Yvain for growing flowers, which really reinforces the idea the book seems to propagate—that there’s one right way to live, one goddess to follow, and you’re Wrong!!! if you think otherwise.

Val took a casual seat beside me, left leg tucked beneath him, the other bent at the knee against his chest. Unprepared and lazy.

I’d taken them by surprise, and they seemed unsure how to proceed. Rank amateurs.

…a move he probably thought I wouldn’t notice. No wonder they were only the seventh Family.

My. Goodness. Please stop. She does this throughout the book, and what really gets me is that it’s not even in that annoying-but-endearing smug cocky way (ahem, Celaena Sardothien) one would expect. It’s almost cold, haughty, in its superiority. Nice, Lea.

 HER INCOMPETENCE
I wonder if this irony was intentional, because despite both of the above, Lea is painfully sloppy at her job. She’s constantly making mistakes and thinking, sloppy, Lea, to herself, so much so that months after reading the book as I write this review, the phrase was the first thing that came to my mind when I was searching for quotes.

Seventeen years in Lovero and never once had anyone seen my face unless I’d wanted them to. And now, after only a short time in Yvain, some faker had seen me.

He glared and hooked my ankle with his foot, a move I knew only too well. A wolfish grin spread across his face.
“Wait!” I shouted.
He yanked and I fell, plunging into the dark waves of the canal.

The stall owner held up his fingers for a price, and I reached for my coin pouch.
It was gone.

Never in my life had I been caught without my weapons, and here I was, in my leathers, no less, about to reap the consequences. I deserved it.

These are only a few of the many, many times Lea acts like the furthest thing from a professional killer. Maybe we should just retire the teen assassin idea, guys.

“You were unarmed?” He stopped in his ministrations. He took a few steadying breaths. “How could you be so incompetent? How did you even earn your mask?”

You tell ’em.

≫ OF VILLAINS:
I won’t tell you who the villain is, but suffice to say that they were unspectacular and a little too easy to get rid of. Sloppy, as Lea would say.

≫ THE ROMANCE:

He made me want to . . . I wasn’t sure. Do something or be someone different.

So: I don’t understand why this romance existed. It didn’t just make the plot too romance-oriented. It was downright unnecessary. I’d have loved to have Lea meeting her uncle and grieving with him instead. It’s like, rediscovering family when you’ve lost family, right? But thematically, Assassin’s Heart has rediscovering love when you’ve lost love. Which just doesn’t do it for me, especially because it brings in a boring love triangle element. I could’ve loved this book if not for Les.

≫ THE ENDING:
I don’t think the ending could really have dramatically turned things around for me with this book. In fact, it only confused me about our villain’s motivation.

≫ TO SUMMARISE:
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend. It just has way too many problems for me to give it a chance.

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