Last weekend during the Snowpocalypse, I read Sarah Ahiers‘s debut book Assassin’s Heart and today I wanted to share it with you all. It comes out later this week so be sure you preorder or request it at your library. I adore high fantasy and this book reminds me why. Think Godfather crossed with Romeo & Juliet crossed with one of my personal favorites Throne of Glass. You don’t want to miss this book!
I received this book via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Published by HarperTEEN on 2016-02-02
Length: 400 pages
Reviewing eARC from Edelweiss
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.
Where do I even start?! Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers is one of the best high fantasy books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. The story is addictive and heart-breaking with fantastic world-building and characters I won’t soon forget. Lea Saldana is an esteemed clipper from of the First Family in Lovero when her entire Family is killed by another Family. Grieving and wanting vengeance, she escapes to Yvain, a neighboring country that is home to her estranged uncle. Seeking his help, Lea plans to return Lovero with the means to kill the Family responsible, but will she get what she is looking for?
Lea Saldana is a force to be reckoned with! At 17, she is one of the best clippers (assassins) in Lovero. But she doesn’t just kill to kill. This is a form of worship for her. She is a devout follower of Safraella, the goddess of death and rebirth. In her mind, the one’s Lea kills are given a chance at new life and to this she is a swift killer. But like all 17 year olds she’s also lets her hormones make decisions for her…like falling in love and having a secret relationship with Val Da Via, an enemy Family or her need for vengeance. Whatever Lea sets her mind to, she accomplishes. Throughout the book she is grieving and the author does a fantastic job taking her through the grief process and letting the readers come along for the ride.
Marcello Saldana is fairly big character in the story who has very little presence in the actual story. He is the traitor uncle who killed the head of the Family before he was ousted. But Lea seeks him out, knowing he’s her only living relative and hoping for his help. He’s been living in Yvain since before her birth, but she is shocked when she finds him and sees that he too grieves as she does. They are opposites with much in common and I feel like this added to Lea’s character in a way that only family can!
And Les *swoon* He is living with her uncle when Lea meets him and he confuses her to no end. Lea is used to the Loveran way of life and yet Les has grown up in Yvain, was a traveler before meeting Marcello and loves freely without the constraint of “Family over family” (more on that in a minute). He is kind just to be kind and he cares more than anyone Lea has ever encountered. He believes in the clipper way of life, is devoted to it as Lea is, but his training isn’t complete and Lea worries it will get him killed.
High Fantasy at Its Best
I could go on for DAYS about the world-building in this book! It is AMAZING. Sarah Ahiers creates an entirely new world with its own gods, own countries, and own customs. It never ceases to amaze me when authors do this and do it well as this author has. Lovero is protected by the king’s worship of Safraella. The clippers work in service to Safraella, taking jobs and killing people in her name. Then there’s the motto “Family over family.” Family are the clippers you work with, live with and serve with while family are your blood relatives. Honestly there’s a lot of overlap and the author does a great job of showing how the two often conflict with the characters feelings as in the case of Lea and Marcello.
The only Saldana remaining, and I’d gotten my Family killed because I’d loved a boy in secret who used that love to destroy me.
The plot follows Lea as she first lives through the destruction of her Family and then as she escapes to the refuge of Yvain. There are angry ghosts in the Dead Plains and clippers chasing her and crooked lawmen making it a thrilling tale full of suspense and horror. BUT there is also the love aspect of the story. Love for Family, love for your family, forbidden love, and true love. While this isn’t the focus of the story it plays a hand in the action of all the characters.
Overall I LOVED this book. I had the hardest time sitting it down to eat or sleep. I just wanted to know what would happen next, if Lea would return to Lovero and get her vengeance, would she find real love and happiness. I NEEDED to know! By far this is one of my all-time favorite reads, ranking right up there with Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series for me (which y’all know is huge praise). If you enjoy high fantasy, young adult romance, and a thrilling read, you NEED to read this book ASAP!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: