Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Oleander ‘Lea’ Saldana has a secret, but she never expected that secret to be so deadly. When her entire Family, the first of the nine Families, is murdered in their home by the rival Da Via Family, Lea knows that such betrayal can only be returned with utter revenge. Narrowly escaping her own demise, she races to find her exiled uncle in hopes that he’ll aid her in killing the entire Da Via Family.
I was instantly captivated by the promise of a Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet premise. However, the poor character development and repetitive, predictable plot caused me to have serious problems with this 2016 debut.
When we’re first introduced to Lea, we’re led to believe that she is an extremely capable, bad-ass heroine who knows her stuff. Ahiers throws us right into the action as Lea is on a “job” where she’s been hired to clip (kill) someone. She does so quickly, quietly, and is home for dinner, so to speak. Then cue the romance; Lea is secretly courting Val, a member of the Da Via family and no one can know. Already, I knew this would cause trouble. Soon after, her family is murdered and Lea turns into this apathetic and quite frankly, stupid character; making mistakes and decisions that someone of her caliber and training shouldn’t be making. It became distracting.
Her quest for revenge immediately dwarfs any character development. Literally every other page has this line in it: “killing the Da Vias was the only thing that mattered any more.” I am not even exaggerating… Ok, we get it. She believes she has nothing left in her life and needs to kill them. Except, she DOES have options (as SEVERAL characters attempt to bring to light), but she just refuses to see them. This is when I started to lose respect for her and her story.
The ending had to be what tipped me over the edge. I REALLY have a problem with deus ex machina plot resolutions because they are so convenient and hint at lazy story telling. Lea is suddenly given this huge opportunity to achieve her revenge and it all just seemed so ridiculous. Even Lea LITERALLY shrugs it off as no big deal… really?? So is the reader also to assume that this event was no big deal? It just didn’t sit right with me and that was my tipping point where my thoughts on this novel went from bad to worse.
Sadly, the world building is the only positive aspect about this novel. I loved the culture that dictated the goings on of the people in Lovero, Lea’s city-state. Each city serves a different god and therefore their cultures are markedly different. Ahiers had some serious potential there, but it all seemed wasted.
The premise promised so much but Assassin’s Heart needed to be developed far more deeply than the author allows herself to do. There was too much stuffed into this one book and it didn’t work for me. This story could have easily been a three-part series.
Thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.