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I Belong

Review: The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

Title: The Assassin Game

Author: Kirsty McKay

Genre: YA Thriller

Series: N/A

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Format: Paperback, 325 Pages

ISBN-10: 1492632759 (Sourcebooks Fire)

ISBN-13: 978-1492632757 (Sourcebooks Fire)

Reviewed by: Tara


Who will be left after lights out?

Tag, you’re it…

It’s 4:00 a.m. when they come for me. I am already awake, strung out on the fear that they will come, and the fear that they won’t. When I finally hear the click of the latch on the dormitory door, I have only a second to brace myself before—

At Cate’s isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?

Quick & Dirty: A sham assassination game soon becomes real as members of the secret society are targeted for real by an unknown killer.

Opening Sentence: It is about 4:00 a.m. when they come for me.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

An English boarding school on an isolated island, a secret society with an assassination game, and a real killer on the loose? That sounded like the premise of an incredible book when I first read it. I hoped for shades of And Then There Were None, Nevernight, and Pretty Little Liars. However, the game ended up being rather tame (or perhaps I’m rather bloodthirsty when it comes to thrillers). Additionally, the characters and the world could have been much more developed.

The story begins with Cate being kidnapped from her bed to be initiated into the Assassin’s Guild. Then, after her initiation, Killer, a game similar to the party game Mafia, begins. The “kills” start off as innocent, such as red dye in a shower stall, and progress to deadly partway through the game. As the game grows increasingly deadly, Cate and Vaughn, her childhood friend and love interest, must uncover the truth about the true killer.

Part of the reason it was so hard for me to get into the book was the lack of tension. There weren’t actually that many “kills” in the game and there was a long waiting period between each one. Additionally, most of the players didn’t really display a lot of anxiety or tension about the game, mostly just going about their daily lives until they were attacked. In comparison, Cate was overly worried and constantly on the look-out. She was a bit overly dramatic about the game from the beginning (when it was actually a game). This meant that instead of gradually increasing tension, the book pretty much maintained a constant level until the finale. One of my main complaints is that nobody actually died. I tend to like my thrillers very dark though so that may likely be something about this book that other will love.

Additionally, the characters weren’t very distinctive. I couldn’t keep all of the players straight since none of the secondary characters really stood out to me. Despite thinking of herself as plain and boring, Cate somehow has three guys romantically interested in her. None of the relationships were very believable and the secondary plot involving Daniel distracted me from the main mystery. However, I did like how the author handled the situation with Daniel.

One of the things that I really liked about this book is that I wasn’t able to guess who the real killer was. I was constantly changing my guess (and some of them were really out there). The mystery itself was done quite well. It was actually somewhat ingenious. Had the tensions and pacing been better, I think this could have definitely been a five-star read. As it was, The Assassin Game was a solid YA thriller that kept me interested until the last page.

Notable Scene:

After we cut ourselves free in the early hours, part of the deal was that we had to clean up and sneak back to school undetected. This was as important— in some ways, more so— than the initiation itself. Stealth is everything in the Game. Although the staff here know about the Game, we have to be very careful about how much we shove in their faces. They expect some disruption, and most of the teachers who actually possess a personality find it quite amusing. It’s tradition. However, the tolerance only extends so far, and it’s a sign of the times that certain methods of Killing have been banned outright. Laxatives—“for a death by “poison”— are out. Bombs have to be extremely metaphorical. And for anyone in possession of a firearm more realistic than fluorescent yellow water pistol, it’s instant expulsion. We play along. As weird as this place is, nobody wants to be kicked out. Least of all me.


FTC Advisory: Sourcebooks Fire provided me with a copy of The Assassin Game. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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