Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Hmm....what to say... what to say...
I was attracted to this book by the fact that it was fashioned as an epic fantasy/romance hybrid and that the heroine was a trained assassin.
But when I finished the book I don't think Vitalia, the heroine, will go up there as one of the most effective assassins I've ever read about. Frankly, she probably wouldn't even get an honorable mention.
I think the premise was good. Vitalia has been recruited since childhood to join a mysterious society known as The Circle. Their goal is to free their people, the oppressed Riorcans from their conquerors known as the Kjallans. Vitalia is half-Riorcan/Half Kjallan but looks full Kjallian. She can infiltrate their Kjallian society. She is given the assignment to kill the Emperor, a young man named Lucien in order to create unrest, a shaky succession & possibly a civil war so that the Riorcans could rise in rebellion.
Except it doesn't quite work out that way. Somebody else has an assassination plot against Lucien and they deploy theirs much faster than Vitalia can hers. Realizing that their plot is in tatters, Vitalia regroups and instead of killing Lucien she rescues him. She also falls in love with him.
I actually think the basic set up made a lot of sense and could have been rather exciting. I liked the turmoil of years and years of careful set up and plotting by the Circle and Vitalia falling to pieces in one second by forces they could not anticipate. And I also liked the idea of Vitalia having to change her plans in the field.
The problem, though, is in the execution. Vitalia should come off as this clever, quick witted, person who thinks fast on her feet. She doesn't quite, though. She comes off as rather ineffectual and someone who is being led by love and circumstances. I didn't like this about her. She didn't inspire confidence in me as a person who was this world class assassin. Sure she gets herself and Lucien out of some scrapes but instead of feeling like Vitalia was the reason this was happening it just felt very plot convenient.
I thought the romance was rather sweet, though and liked that aspect tons better than the whole war/assassination plot. And I liked that Lucien wasn't some super-charged alpha guy. But rather presented as someone who was a thinker and a strategist. He's a smart leader not a brawny one.
By far my biggest issue with the book, though, is Vitalia's assassin training. Yeah, she learned fighting and there is a magical system in the book that she also uses as part of her assassinations. But the method that is emphasized is killing during sex. Sure it is smart for a female assassin who targets men to use all tools at her disposal including sex. But in this book, sex was not a method. It was the method. So Vitalia's MO, as it were was to fuck as guy and kill him during climax. This really rather devalued her as an assassin imo and it was why I really couldn't take her seriously, because she was always all up in her feels about it.
Hence, I enjoyed the romance but everything else was really rather oddly executed.