Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Title: Assassin's Heart
Author: Sarah Ahiers
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: February 2nd 2016
Length: 400 pages
Keywords: YA, fantasy, romance, murder, family
Source: Publisher

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. (Goodreads)

Set in the kingdom of Lovero, ASSASSIN'S HEART introduces us to a world where killing means honor and death resurrection. Lea Saldana is a Clipper, an assassin from one of the nine Families who rule Lovero. She is well trained and clever. So how come love blinded all her assassin senses and got her entire Family killed? 

Her love to Val, a boy from the rival Family of the Da Vias, could be the thing that destroyed her family. What a dramatic plot! I was intrigued when I first heard about ASSASSIN'S HEART, especially about the emotional world of our protagonist Lea that would be sent into turmoil after the alleged betrayal by Val. That part of the story was a very interesting mind game, too. Like Lea, the reader doesn't know for a long time if Val's betrayal was real or if someone played a game with the young lovers' hearts. The revelation of this mystery and the direction in which the story was headed was promising at first, sadly losing its appeal in between and recapturing my attention towards the end. And the ending wasn't one I could've foreseen. Sure Sarah Ahiers gets plus points for writing surprising story turns, still I would've wished for a more romantic ending for Lea and Val. 

Sarah Ahier's debut novel isn't directly a Romeo & Juliet re-telling, but it features some of the key elements of the original story. Of course there are star-crossed lovers Lea and Val and the feuding families. There is also a priest that helps Lea find her way. Then there's still so much more to the story. A big part of ASSASSIN'S HEART, Lovero and its history are built on strong religious beliefs. In Lovero assassins kill people to honor their Goddess Safraella and the entire story is filled with mentions of this cult and its practices and what happens when someone disobeys the great Goddess. Religion is what lends Lea's existence and her actions its true meaning. 
   Lea's story is an emotional rollercoaster. She feels betrayed and seeks revenge. At the same time she's in love with someone she should want to kill. Sarah Ahiers did a good job portraying all these inner conflicts in Lea and expressing them in her actions and moves. 

In addition the story has a paranormal touch. And it's a scary one. There are ghosts roaming the plains outside the main cities in Lovero. If they spot or come near you, you are as good as dead. Strangely, Lea has a special gift that allows her to feel something different than fear around these ghosts. More about that and Lea's journey through Lovero you better find out yourself.

We learn a bit about Lea's family (biological) and her Family (her clan, defined by their solidarity) and Val's Family story as well. There would've been some room for one or two subplots exploring the relations between the other seven Families, too, while some parts of the story as it was felt redundant and kind of repetitive. 
   When I read ASSASSIN'S HEART I was expecting to read a standalone. Lea's story has an ending but it's part open, too. So I'm curious if there will be a sequel. I'd definitely give it a try because I liked the overall feel of Sarah Ahiers debut and its premise.


3,5/5 ***/* ASSASSIN'S HEART - An explosive debut about murder, heart-break and vengeance with ghostly fantasy elements!

Sarah Ahier's debut is a sure recommendation for YA fantasy readers! Her writing is engaging as is her world building. The conflict of the star-crossed lovers just sucks you into the story. A story that promises a mix of extraordinary religious beliefs, paranormal activity and action-packed duels between rival Clipper Families. And don't forget the most important part of the story: Lea's heart which is torn between revenge and love. Will she have it both in the end and triumph or perish as the last of the Saldana Family? Grab a copy of ASSASSIN'S HEART to find out!

 "Yes, my mother had tried to kill me again tonight. But she'd done it to make me a better clipper. In her own, twisted way she was protecting me by making me stronger. If Val's Family ever tried to kill him, they'd make sure he wouldn't have an antidote." – p. 16

ASSASSIN'S HEART by Sarah Ahiers you might enjoy RUINED by Amy Tintera, REIGN OF SHADOWS by Sophie Jordan or THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings about a quest for revenge, star-crossed lovers and a murderous society.

* Click here to read an excerpt of ASSASSIN'S HEART.

* For more information about Sarah and her books visit