Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Assassin's Heart Audio

Assassin's Heart Audio

Sarah Ahiers
For ages 13 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Khristine Hvam
HarperCollins Publishers and Blackstone Audio, 2016   ISBN: 978-1504695275

In Lovero nine Families serve Safraella, the goddess of death, murder, and resurrection. Members of these families have the king’s permission to kill people, and indeed death at the hands of one of the assassins (or clippers as they are called) is considered a good thing, for such a death will ensure that the victim will be resurrected to a new life quickly, and that he or she will not become an angry ghost, condemned to haunt the living for eternity.

Lea Saldana belongs to the most powerful of these nine Families. They are ranked the first Family, which gives them power over their rivals. However, Lea’s father worries that the Saldanas will not be able to hold onto their position for much longer. So many of their number died in the plague and they are no longer wealthy. The members of the Da Via Family in particular pose a great threat, and the enmity between the Saldanas and that Da Vias is fierce. They share territory and a history that has created a great deal of bitterness between the two Families.

For this reason Lea is being very careful to make sure that no one knows that she is spending time with handsome and charming Val Da Via. If anyone in her family were to find out that she is sweet on Val she could end up being banished, just as her uncle was many years ago.

One night, after having dinner with Val, Lea goes to her family’s hidden home. Only the Saldanas know where the home is and they all take great precautions to keep its location a secret. Lea is fast asleep in her bed when she is woken up by something. Perhaps it is the smell of smoke, or maybe it is the “sounds of violence” that are coming from the hall outside her room. The house is on fire and someone is attacking the residents.  Lea finds her brother Rafeo. He is badly injured but she manages to get him to his feet and her mother orders her to “Take Rafeo and flee.” Lea has no choice but to obey though she wants to stay and fight the intruders, to fight by her mother’s side.

Lea manages to get Rafeo into the secret tunnels beneath the house, but he does not live long and soon she is alone. The house above burns and Lea has no choice but to take refuge in one of the Family safe houses. She hopes that her brother Matteo will arrive, but he does not. It is likely, she knows, that he died in the fire along with the rest of the Family. Lea is the only Saldana left and she knows that the reason why this happened is because she was foolish enough to trust Val. He must have betrayed her to his Family.

Lea could give up the life and become “a different person,” but instead she chooses to commit herself to vengeance. She will wipe out the Da Vias, and will continue to serve Safraella dutifully. However, going after them on her own is not an option.  For one thing, she has no idea where their hidden house is.

Lea goes to see the king in the city of Genoni, and asks for his help, but he explains that he cannot pick sides. He must remain neutral. One thing he does do is to tell her that her uncle Marcello is alive and is living in the city of Yvain in Rennes. He was once married to a Da Via, so he will know how to find the entrance to the Da Via Family home.

As soon as she returns to the place where she stashed her horses, Lea is attacked by members of the Addamo family. She kills three of them and then is chased by many more out of the city and into the dead plains. There she barely gets away from angry ghosts, just managing to get to a monastery. There a wound she received is tended to and Lea gets counsel from Brother Faraday, one of the priests.

With Brother Faraday’s help, Lea gets to Yvain and she sets out to look for her uncle. By sheer good luck she meets a young man called Les who has clearly been taught some assassin skills. The people of Yvain do not worship Safraella and they do not have clipper families and Lea guesses that Les has been taught by a real clipper.

It turns out that Les’ teacher is none other than Marcello Saldana, Lea’s uncle. Lea follows Les to Marcello’s hideout where she given a very frosty reception. Marcello has no interest in Lea or her thirst for revenge. In fact, he wants her to leave him alone and she is summarily sent on her way.

In this remarkable story we visit a world that is like our own in some ways, and yet so different in others. We spend time with a young woman who is desperately trying to avenge the deaths of her family members, while being beset on all side by enemies who are out to destroy her. Thankfully, a few allies are willing to help Lea, and with their assistance she discovers that there are more important things in life than avenging the dead.