Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby (Hearts and Thrones #1)
April 2, 2013
Reviewed by Mandi
This book caught my eye because I love an assassin heroine. A couple of my favorites being Gin from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series and Shadow Kin by MJ Scott.
The description of the heroine in the blurb sounds pretty awesome:
Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.
Except she isn’t awesome. She is half Riorca, half Kjallan, two lands that are fierce enemies. She considers Riorca her home, having spent a brief amount of time there as child, yet she looks Kjallan, which is why she was taken at a young age by the assassin group, The Obsidian Circle, to be trained to become a deadly assassin. Her mission since she was a young girl was to be trained to kill the Kjallan emperor, Lucien, to then set in motion chaos, hoping to free her Ricora people that are enslaved. Her training is two parts – first Lucien is a war mage which means he can anticipate when something bad is going to happen. To be able to stick a death shard in him, she gets trained to stick it in when the man is climaxing on top of her. Apparently in the throes of an orgasm, he doesn’t pay attention to the incoming warning danger. Her second task is to learn the game Caturanga (like chess) which is Lucien’s favorite. He always invites the annual Caturanga champion to play him at his palace.
So Vitala completes her training, (where she practice kills soldiers) wins the Caturanga championship, and finds herself in front of Lucien ready to play her roll. But here is where the story completely falls apart for me.
While Vitala has to seduce Lucien into bed (so they can have sex and she can stick the death shard into him) she gets seduced herself. She becomes attracted to him about five minutes after she meets him. Huh? She has been trained almost her entire life to kill this man and she gets all goo-goo eyed over him already?
Then before she can get him into bed, Lucien’s second in command stages a rebellion, and tries to kill Lucien. Now before Vitala really knows what is going on, she has a chance to kill Lucien. But she doesn’t take it (I weep). Later she realizes Lucien might be better use to her Riocra people if he is alive. But let me make this point – I never see her act like an assassin. She never comes across as someone who has had a vicious assassin training (yet we are told she has). She falls for Lucien right at the beginning? Where is the intrigue? The suspense? And almost as worse as this, Lucien trusts Vitala pretty much from the beginning. These events would have made more sense if one: Vitalia and Lucien had each hated the other, or tried to kill the other. At least once! And two: Had these events slowed down. The rebellion, the raid, Lucien switching sides all takes place at the beginning of the book. Slow down and let us get to know each player before switching it all up on us.
As the book goes on it continues to go downhill. Vitala is determined to keep it a secret that she works for the Obsidian Circle but slight pressure from Lucien and she folds. Again, not kick ass assassin behavior.
The rest of the book flounders. Letting enemies go when they should have killed them, Lucien not really acting like the strong emperor he says he is and most disappointing, Vitala never coming across as a true assassin.