Fantasy Reviews #4: Assassin’s Heart & Promise of Shadows (by Bec)

February 12, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, Books, DNF, Reviews

Fantasy Reviews #4: Assassin’s Heart & Promise of Shadows (by Bec)Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
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 »

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. 

Fantasy Reviews #4: Assassin’s Heart & Promise of Shadows (by Bec)Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
Published by Simon and Schuster Australia on January 1, 2015
Source: Publisher
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! 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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45 responses to “Fantasy Reviews #4: Assassin’s Heart & Promise of Shadows (by Bec)

  1. Jen @ YA Romantics

    Sorry, ladies. I've been hearing not great things about Assassin's Heart, and I am a big supporter of the DNF for books that I'm not enjoying. I'm sure you'll find something more to your liking soon.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  2. Hehe yeah, Assassin's Heart doesn't seem like one I will be picking up soon! Especially after this review Jeann. 😛
    The Promise of Shadows was one that was alright, but I stopped reading at one point and never picked it back up afterwards… I can see why Bec decided to not finish this one! (technically I did too) And the love interest! Ughhh I remember there was this one scene they were in a body of water (lake?) and all she did was praise his body or something. The details are escaping me rn, but I thought that was such a ridiculous scene lol.

    • Oh man, Aentee warned me and I'm glad she did because all the reviews on GR were positive! Anyway, that world building was just so lax *sighs*. A shame about Promise of Shadows, but good on you for DNFing if it's not for you. Man that sounds so cheesy *shudders*

  3. I'm so sorry that Assassin's Heart wasn't a hit for you, Jeann! I agree with a lot of the points you made, but for some reason I still ended up liking it XD I really liked the premise behind the assassinating, and it didn't really bother me that the morality of it was never touched on. If they've been doing it for a long time, they wouldn't be questioning it, I guess. But the romance was such a big let down. And the fact that lea kept on making stupid mistakes, even though she was apparently so good as clipping T.T LOL at your spoiler thing. I totally agree!

    Promise of Shadows was not for me at ALL. I totally get why you DNFd it, Bec. There was just ~something~ really important missing. I didn't really connect to any part of that story, which is a shame because I think it had potential.

    Great reviews, lovelies <3
    My recent post Five Reasons To: Watch Sleepy Hollow

    • It was just such a frustrating B grade read Chiara, it did make sense to me that that's just how the world is but it just doesn't sit right with me, that anyone with power can just hire an assassin to knock them off. I mean technically doesn't that mean everyone should be dead? OMG that spoiler, like wtf!!! Ahhhh so much frustration

      Yeah, I appreciate that Bec still reviewed it nonetheless. Thank you lovely!

  4. While I wasn't the biggest from on THE ASSASSIN'S HEART either, I did enjoy some aspects of the story. But yeah, the main character's actions. She never learned from her mistakes. It's a shame when you just can't get into books, but I feel like my experience with Promise of Shadows might be the same. Nice reviews 🙂
    My recent post Are you a fast or slow reader?

  5. Bri @ Fables Library

    Ohh… that is sad. These are both books that I have eagerly been awaiting to read but nope. This is making me SO sad right now I can't even XD. Well, I hear bad things about Assassin Heart which stinks. COME ON XD. A book about assassins with no assassinating? Plus that world sounds super weird so :P. I'll just go over to this here corner and cry a bit haha.
    Have a great day 🙂
    My recent post Currently Reading Reactions

    • It is pretty sad, I'm glad I was forewarned about Assassin's Heart and the plotholed world unfortunately. There IS a lot of assassinating, but not as much as I thought seeing as the character is one? Lol, sorry to disappoint!

  6. Ugh. Assassin's Heart sounds terrible, Jeann. I'm really glad I read your review first because so much about the book would annoy me, especially the lack of assassinating, the love triangle and the main character, who seems pretty useless from the sounds of it. It's sad though because it looks like it had so much potential. 🙁

    I couldn't get into Promise of Shadows either. I usually love Greek mythology, but something about it didn't work for me. I think it was the writing. Sorry about the reading slump, Bec. Hopefully, you read something epic to be out of it.

    Great reviews, ladies!

    • Oh man, it was just so annoying. There was assassinating but it was kind of out of the way if that makes sense? Anyway, the love triangle was terrible and I just wasn\’t connected to the main character at all. A shame about Promise of Shadows, I feel like the time for paranormal is now over unfortunately!

  7. Assassin's Heart sounds like a dodgy Underbelly, but you know, not actually good. I loathe condescending and hypocritical characters, it often makes me wonder if that's a character flaw or the author has lost track of his or her character and has been poorly edited. I love gang warfare type reads, but sadly this doesn't sound like a great time will be had by anyone.

    I couldn't finish A Promise of Shadows either. Bec did so much better than I did. I had no idea what was going on at all.
    Wonderful reviews ladies and sorry you couldn't have enjoyed these more. Hopefully your next reads knock your socks off <3
    My recent post REEEEEEEEEEEEEAD IT! Otherwise known as Summer Skin

    • LOLOL You are too right Kelly, and this one was kind of weird and just felt like a horrible B grade movie. I wish it was better explained somewhat? Yeah, I\’m glad Bec picked it up for me, a shame she couldn\’t get into it. Thank you lovely!

    • I completely agree, I'm lucky I was warned about Assassin's Heart because I knew what I was getting into. I mean why is there so many plotholes in there? *sighs*

    • Yeah, a shame about it hey? I hope you can pick up Promise of Shadows and enjoy it! I know what you mean though, sometimes you need to be in the right frame of mind to pick up a book!

  8. Oooo. I think I might read Promise of Shadows at one point because I do like Greek Mythology. Maybe. I will go look at other reviews and decide!

    Also, sucks to Assassin's Heart! I was looking forward to it, and I did request it only because my name was in it (not that I'm a guy, but no difference, and I heard he was an asshole, but still). Guess we'll see what happens!

    Thanks for the reviews Jeann and Bec!!
    My recent post ARC Review: Riders

    • Yeah, I think I read a few things that had a problem with the insta-love in the novel. LOL Val that's hilarious, but yeah a few people loved it, but I was the opposite.

  9. #Jeann Assassin's Heart has a gorgeous cover and alluring premise, yet I continue to see disappointed reviews…

    # Bec Sorry to hear about your book slump. I like Greek mythology inspired books, but lately constant mentioning of hero’s physic annoys me as well. So I’m not sure I would pick this book up.

    My recent post Blog vs. GR

  10. Awww, Jeann. 🙁 I'm sorry you didn't like either of these, but I can definitely see where you're coming from. Hopefully your next reads will be better! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous reviews! <3

  11. bhwrn1

    Assassin's Heart: YES YES AND MORE YES! Ugh. I wanted to like this book but, no, it just wasn't happening. Yes to why the heck does it matter who the 1st, 2nd, 3rd families are. God's favor? HUH? Where was the real world building. Not in this book. That's for sure. The romance? BLAH! At first I was like ok, Romeo and Juliet, and then it was gone. And I was left…hanging? I think using that story line would have worked out better than Les. And can we talk about the ghosts? Was this fantasy? was it paranormal? What was the point of the ghosts? Again, world building gone wrong. I just was not a fan. I gave it two stars, though looking back I should have probably gave it one. And the telling, yes. SO. MUCH. TELLING. I want to be shown. In a fantasy book showing and world building are THE MOST important aspect. Great review!
    My recent post ARC Review: Wild Hearts (Hamilton Stables #2) by Melissa West @MB_West @lyricalpress

    • Yeah, I was thinking Romeo and Juliet too but it totally went off that! The ghosts were so random, I just wish there was more world building around that. And I just didn't understand what difference it made if people were in the 1st or 2nd family other than power, I mean they already have it it sounds like. And the god's favour? Like that didn't make sense either, kill as many people as you can and you will become the favourite? what?

  12. Assassin's Heart had so much potential and I am so sad to hear that it doesn't deliver. Love triangles always have me running in the other direction so I'll probably end up giving this one a pass.

    Promise of Shadows sounds intriguing. I like exploring Greek mythology and prophecies because I quite like the role that fate plays in these concepts. I might have to give this book a shot but I won't be a priority read for now.

    My recent post Review: Air Awakens by Elise Kova

    • I know, lots of people loved AH but it wasn't for me unfortunately! I think Promise of Shadows was more of a typical paranormal, but at least the greek mythology was a part of it.

  13. corrallingbooks

    Oh man, I hope you find some better books soon!
    I know that Assassin's Heart is a book that many of the bloggers I follow loved – pity it wasn't the same for you! :/ Because when there are issues with the logical side of the book, yeah that can be hard to follow afterwards :/
    I think Promise of Shadows is definitely a book I could get on board with though. Hopefully you can reread it once you get into a better mood? :/
    My recent post When I First Saw You | The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

    • Thanks Geraldine! It's not often that books just aren't up my alley but yeah, AH was just really frustrating and ill developed unfortunately.

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