Assassins, Pompous Courtiers, and Romance!

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3.5/5 Stars

Author: Melissa de la Cruz

Publisher/Imprint: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Edition: Paperback ARC, 372 Pages

Hardcover Publication Date: February 04, 2020

A Spine that Shines? Partially

*This review is based on a paperback ARC edition received from the publisher via BookishFirst. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.*

"He is the Queen’s Assassin. And no one is safe from his blade."
-Melissa de la Cruz, The Queen’s Assassin

Initial Thoughts:

It’s February! Hooray! I hope everyone’s 2020 reading goals are off to a good start. I ended up changing my reading order slightly and managed to finish reading The Queen’s Assassin in time for release day (today)! Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped I would. I still enjoyed reading it, but it was another middle rating of 3.5/5 stars.

Here are a few positive notes to begin with:

Overall, I liked this book. You’ll definitely find assassins, pompous courtiers, and romance in this novel!
I LOVED the parts about women’s fan etiquette at court! They add a touch of humor and great details to the story! I actually laughed aloud in one scene. Perhaps my fondness of women’s fans stems from research I did about them as an undergrad. They are just so fascinating!
The handkerchief symbol between the two main characters is so sweet!
Shadow, the lead female character, can communicate with animals! Awesome!
Shadow and Cal, the Queen’s Assassin, go undercover as siblings, and it is quite entertaining to read about.
The villains in this story are quite interesting, and I am curious what they will do in the sequel. There are some pretty good twists regarding the villains!
I also appreciate that the romance in this book is not insta-love. It takes a while for Shadow and Cal to fall in love.

"She will follow her own path; she will turn the wheel of fate on her own terms."
-Melissa de la Cruz, The Queen’s Assassin

What Could’ve Been Done Differently?

I understand that a popular author might have a lot of writing deadlines to keep up with, and I love the idea of this novel, but the execution could’ve been much better. Each book is the result of an author’s hard work and effort, but I do have to point out the negatives as well as the positives.

While I think the romance in this novel is sweet, I didn’t fully connect with the characters. Cal is bound to the Queen by a blood vow made by his father before him. He cannot be released until he fulfills a certain task. I think Cal could use a bit more personality, as the thing that stands out about him the most is his role as an assassin. For most of her life, Shadow has lived alone with her aunts in the woods. Although it is forbidden by her aunts, she deeply desires to become a Guild assassin like Cal.
There are two types of POVs in this book: Shadow’s is first person POV, and Cal’s is third. There were moments in the story when the POVs slightly confused me; it seemed that some sentences or thoughts might fit better in the other person’s POV chapter.
It bothered me that the POVs are used to conceal information from the reader – even though one of the POVs is first person. If the POV is first person, then I think the reader should feel much closer to the character rather than distanced. However, the concealing of info made me feel distanced; if the first person POV character is thinking about a particular thing, then it would make more sense if the character tells the reader what that thing is rather than withholding it.
There are info-dumps and many sections with expository writing. I believe a talented, experienced writer such as Melissa de la Cruz is capable of integrating information more smoothly into a story.
The pacing feels a bit off, partly due to the info-dumps. There are three beginnings in this novel: a history lesson, then a prologue, and then the first chapter of the book. Because of these, the first part of the book feels drawn out, and it takes a while for things to get moving. The climax is surprisingly quick and short, but the final chapters feel drawn out again afterwards.
The revelations near the end of the book don’t quite have the desired effect because the story has been drawn out, and by that point, the reader has already guessed the revelation. In my opinion, sometimes it’s simply better to supply the information to the reader up front rather than waiting until the end for the sake of having a big “reveal.” (A wonderful example is Stain by A.G. Howard. In Stain, the author intentionally spins the story so that the reader and other characters know more than the main character knows, and it works so well.)
Furthermore, without giving away spoilers, I’ll just say that the Queen’s “plan” does not seem like a very intelligent one, because it puts the princess directly in danger.

Final Thoughts:

Despite my criticisms, there are still things that I enjoyed about this book, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to read and review it. I liked the romance, and I am curious about what will happen with the villains in the sequel. If you’re looking for a sweet fantasy romance, you might want to give this one a try. Other readers may enjoy it more than I did! Happy reading :)

*Content Warnings: Fantasy violence; some kissing; one sex scene (not very graphic).*