Published by HarperTeen on February 2nd 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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.
For a book about assassins, I would’ve expected more assassinating. Set in a fervently religious world where killing each other is normal, Assassin’s Heart featured more telling than showing.
The world in Assassin’s Heart made no sense to me whatsoever. Built upon a world with nine families worshipping a death god, the Saldana family are the most powerful and revered. But there is bad blood between them and the Da Via family, and they’re constantly at odds with one another. So they do what assassins do – plot each other’s death and kill each other.
Serving Safraella was difficult work. But there was beauty and mercy in the shadows too.
What didn’t make sense to me, was the reasoning behind this. What does it matter if you’re the first family, or the second family, if there are nine of them constantly trying to off one another to win their God’s favour? How is there anyone still alive? The reasoning behind this, other than killing each other for power, was severely lacking. Killing and assassinating is just another part of life in this world, which is disturbingly normalised without consequence (and I wish we were told why).
While it starts off like Romeo and Juliet, with Lea sharing a forbidden romance with the Da Via’s Val, it quickly plunges into a story of vengeance and betrayal. But instead of finding out who actually killed her family and finding out who’s alive, she spends much of her time gallivanting around with Les, the young unskilled clipper. What results is an irrelevant romance with a lack of chemistry and the mandatory love triangle.
“I’m a clipper, a disciple of Safraella,” I said to my reflection. “Murder is always the answer.”
The other problem I had was Lea’s characterisation. She likes to put up a big fanfare about how family is the most important. But then time and time again, she makes choices that show just how little she sticks to her word. As soon as she’s given the choice – her lover or her family – she chooses her lover, which throws her characterisation out the window. Apparently symbolism is more important than her blood relatives (which you would think she would treasure more, given how little there are left). View Spoiler »And when Les stabbed her brother and it was brushed off, like “Oh I’m doing you a favour”. WHAT THE HELL. « Hide Spoiler
I thought religion was integrated in this world in an interesting way. Faith is a big part of this world and it also drives consequence and people’s motivations. Although the messaging is a bit heavy handed on doing right by your God, or facing punishment.
The most disappointing thing about Assassin’s Heart, is that it has all the elements of a great fantasy novel: a unique premise, interesting world, badass characters, nonstop action and an unpredictable plot. But sadly, the sum of these parts did not create a convincing story. I’m glad everything was wrapped up by the end though, cos I couldn’t have coped with a cliffhanger.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Thanks to HarperTeen for the eARC.Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
Published by Simon and Schuster Australia on January 1, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
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A teen who is half-god, half-human must own her power whether she likes it or not in this snappy, snarky novel with a serving of smoldering romance that Kirkus Reviews calls “a dark, slyly funny read.”
Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changed when her sister was murdered—and Zephyr used a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.
On the run from a punishment worse than death, an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend upends Zephyr’s world—and not only because her old friend has grown surprisingly, extremely hot. It seems that Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess that is prophesied to shift the power balance: for hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.
But how is she supposed to save everyone else when she can barely take care of herself?
Bec @ Readers in Wonderland guest reviewed Promise of Shadows:
One of the wost things that can happen when reading a book is having your external mood interfere with your reading experience. Recently I’ve been feeling pretty unmotivated towards most things recently, so it was going to be hard for any book to keep my attention. Maybe a fast paced, action packed book with addictive writing would have kept me entertained. Unfortunately Promise of Shadows was not that book.
Promise of Shadows isn’t a bad book. I was just having trouble caring because of my unmotivated mood/ reading slump. Because I didn’t care I was bored and decided to DNF at page 162 (approximately 48%). The whole thing sucks because I actually started off really enjoying it.
Never trust the gods.
Other than the complete lack of drive to read it, Promise of Shadows was going relatively well. If I could be bothered to push on I’m pretty sure I would have given it three stars or so. Everything about it was just okay, nothing was really amazing. It’s the type of book I would have devoured back when I was fourteen, back when paranormal/urban fantasy was my thing. There were many things that are common to your usual prophecy paranormal read, but also a number interesting elements.
If you’re a fan of Greek mythology you will probably appreciate Promise of Shadows because this book is saturated in it. It’s jam packed with characters that are either creatures of Greek mythology or important figures from Greek stories. A lot of terms are thrown around which made it a little confusing until I figured out what everything meant (a glossary would have been helpful).
The gods tell us the vaettir are the ones who are flawed, our human blood compromising us. But it’s the gods who betray the ones they love without remorse.
Magic plays a relatively large part in this novel, as does a prophecy. This is not a complaint from me because I usually love novels like this. Promise of Shadows doesn’t really present it in a particularly unique way. There are two types of magic, the dark erebos and light Aether, and is war brewing between halfbreeds (vaettir) and the gods. Our main character, Zephyr, is the new reincarnation of a erebos wielding hero who is supposed to help the vaettir escape from the servitude of the gods. This concept could have led to some pretty epic boss magic battles, but where I stopped I’d only seen the magic used once or twice with outcomes that were clearly just meant to show “wow she’s so powerful and can destroy lots of things with little effort because who has control!”
The only thing that kind of annoyed me was the start of the romance. I don’t know if the couple’s relationship itself would have pissed me off, but Zephyr, the narrating main character, really liked to point out things about Tallon’s appearance. I mean every now and then it’s okay to be caught by something on his face that looks good. But not every time you look at him. I don’t like to be constantly told he’s attractive. I got that he was good looking the first time. Shut up and start telling us something about the plot or whatever.
Promise of Shadows wasn’t a terrible book. There were a lot of elements that intrigued me, such as the Greek mythology and creatures, and maybe if I read it when I wasn’t in such an annoying mood I could have enjoyed it more. But I didn’t find it particularly unique or entertaining. Some other time I may have given it three stars but right now I think I’ll DNF (and skim read the rest of it).
Rating: Did Not Finish
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending us a review copy!