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I Belong

Review: Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Hi-Res AssassinsHeart HCTitle: Assassin’s Heart

Author: Sarah Ahiers

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Assassin’s Heart (Book #1)

Publication Date: February 2, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062363786 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978- 0062363787 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed


With shades of Game of Thrones and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a tale of love, lies, and vengeance. Fans of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson will devour the flawlessly crafted action and inventive world building.

Seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana is a trained assassin. She was born into one of the nine clipper Families in the kingdom of Lovero who lawfully take lives for a price. As a member of the highest-ranking clan, loyalty to Family is valued above all, but that doesn’t stop Lea from getting into a secret relationship with Val Da Via, a boy from a rival clan. Despite her better judgment, Lea has fallen in love with him; but she’s confident she can anticipate any threat a mile away.

Then she awakens one night to a house full of smoke. Although she narrowly escapes, she isn’t able to save her Family as their home is consumed by flames. With horror, she realizes that Val and his Family are the only ones who could be responsible. Devastated over his betrayal and the loss of her clan, there’s just one thing on her mind: making the Da Vias pay. The heart of this assassin craves revenge.

Quick & Dirty: Families of Assassins, a Goddess of death and the search for revenge.

Opening Sentence: I squatted quietly on the sloped, tile roof of a bordello, cloak pulled around my body for warmth, bone mask secured against my face.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Lea Saldana is unlike any other protagonist I’ve come across. Firstly, she and her entire family are assassins (aka ‘clippers’). I immediately assumed that she would hate the murderous life she’s born into but Lea practically worships her ‘career’ path. She’s proud to be part of the Saldana Family; the first in rank of the nine assassin families. Stranger still is that she considers herself a disciple of the Goddess, Saffraella, who is the Goddess of Death and resurrection. Before Assassin’s Heart I couldn’t imagine a God that promotes killing people, but Lea explains several times that her Goddess grants resurrection to those that follow her. Even if someone is murdered, as long as a holy coin is placed in their mouth, their soul will swiftly be reborn / resurrected. Lea’s entire town/city follows Saffraella, so they are all aware of how the clippers work, and requesting an assassination job is as simple as ordering pizza!

It must’ve been easy, to be a commoner. To know if they were murdered at the hands of a clipper, they would be reborn as an infant into a better life. To know there was someone who would seek vengeance on their behalf or take their life if their sadness was too great. To not worry about gods and their demands and Family ranks.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of rivalry between the Families, especially between the first and second ranking families: Saldanas and La Dias. Lea’s secret romance with Val La Dias reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, until Val betrays Lea for his family and has her entire family slaughtered! Lea survives and the rest of the story is focused on Lea’s quest for revenge.

“Luck doesn’t last forever,” I quoted the familiar assassin motto.

The story is addictive and I can’t deny that I was hooked from the first chapter. There’s always something exciting going on, whether it is being chased by ghosts, burning houses or family arguments. However, my main peeve with Assassin’s Heart was the amount of repetition and Lea’s carelessness. Throughout the book she keeps making stupid mistakes that almost cost her life and her narrow escapes bordered on ridiculous. She’s supposed to be an excellent clipper but her attention wanders so quickly that I don’t understand how she survived so long. Plus, she’s constantly whining about how it’s her fault and her anguish because of Val’s betrayal, but the next minute she almost-forgives him. As much as I enjoy being in the character’s head, being in Lea’s mind was like a game of ping pong!

He followed me, leaning over to look in my eyes. “You don’t get to roll over people. Just because you have permission to end lives doesn’t give you the right to destroy them first.”

As irritating as Lea could be, her character really grows in the story and she begins to show indications of humanity. Her unconventional upbringing and her family’s murder helps the reader understand why she is so distrustful. However, once Alessio comes into the picture, he changes her for the better. Les is super funny, sweet and supportive and complemented Lea’s traits.

“Are you ready?” I asked him.
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Your soul could be pulled from your body and you could wander the dead plains for a thousand years?”
“And that’s why I keep you around, kalla Lea. For your sense of humor.”

Val, on the other hand, was a selfish, vain brat and I could not believe how cruel he was. The worst part was that he thought it was his duty to betray the ‘love of his life’ and have her family killed!

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.

Assassin’s Heart has an interesting storyline, unusual characters and lots of action, but there were far too many times when the fantasy world struck me as unrealistic. A good fantasy would drag me in and force me to believe in the magic and legends, but unfortunately, Assassin’s Heart didn’t achieve this.

Notable Scene:

Three things reminded me of the children’s stories my father used to tell me. It seemed those characters always needed three things too: three kisses, three magic cakes, three breaths from a corpse. But the heroes of those stories always succeeded, and I’d already failed my Family. And I didn’t think there’d be a happily ever after at the end of my tale.

Assassin’s Heart Series:

1. Assassin’s Heart


FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Assassin’s Heart. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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