This is the fourth review in my ‘Buzzfeed Recommends Series’ where I read and review all the books Buzzfeed recommended in their article: ’15 Brand-New Young Adult Novels That Are Just So, So, Good’. You can read the summary for that here.
‘The Queen’s Assassin’ is YA fantasy novel and the first book in the ‘The Queen’s Secret’ series. It currently has an average rating of 3.38 on Goodreads.
The book follows the story of Shadow and Caledon, one who wishes to join the Guild and serve her country, the other the Queen’s deadliest assassin. A surprise attack brings the two together and they team up to hunt down a new threat that’s threatening to tear their country apart.
‘But the queen thinks only of her country. She will stop at nothing to find the scrolls, for they are the key to her family’s protection… and her country’s salvation’
We have a little problem with this book and review, I can’t actually remember what happened or how certain plot points fit together, but it turns out after checking a few other reviews I’m not the only one suffering from this problem! I did have hopes for this YA when I read the synopsis as whilst it didn’t sound like anything new, it could have brought some new twists to the YA genre – unfortunately, this reads like a lot of other YA fantasies I’ve read and carries on the same tired tropes and concepts we’ve been reading for years.
The main female character is a young girl called Shadow, who I thought I was going to like as she’s an apprentice for The Guild – a network of people who are sworn to fight their country; unfortunately Shadow is an annoying YA female protagonist, whose only trait I think the author had on the page when planning this was ‘badass’. There’s not much to define Shadow by other than she’s rash, seems entitled and doesn’t seem to respect that you have to put in hard work to succeed in life. She seems to feel like she deserves a place in The Guild no matter what, and decides she’s capable of not only breaking Cal out of the most high-security prison in the country, but also to lead him across a country and fight any enemies they encounter with her tactics, when she has NO training and he’s clearly more qualified. She was a frustrating character, she walked around if only her thoughts and judgements were correct and the author never seemed to challenge her on that so she never grew beyond that point. Other than these negative traits I can’t really name any other traits about the character.
Cal’s main personality trait seemed to be complaining about women and staring at their bodies, particularly Shadow’s – and that was it. I can’t really tell you much else about him. He was forgettable and honestly I want to forget him – all he did was talk poorly about women and then try and deny he was attracted to Shadow, honestly it was just tiresome. It’s sad as well as he could have been great, he was sworn to be the Queen’s assassin due to a magical oath his father took that meant until they completed a certain task his father and his whole bloodline were forced to serve the Queen – that could have been amazing! We could have had a thorough exploration of mental health, but instead he was just boring. I imagine if I was eleven or twelve, or maybe even a young YA reader I would melt over how ‘mysterious’ he is as a figure but at twenty one I know better – he’s bland. He’s a boiled potato with no seasoning guys.
Just like any other YA fantasy you know that the author got Cal and Shadow to fall in love by the end of the novel. Whilst this can work and is completely fine when done well, I honestly don’t know why these two are together. Their relationships, other than Cal’s lude comments about Shadow, didn’t even feel ‘romantic’ – they constantly bickered and never seemed to get on in any form. I understand the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope and I’m a total sucker for it when it’s done well, but this felt rushed and not fully developed. Honestly I think this would have worked better if the author had decided to flush this out as a friendship that had developed slowly, they read far more like that to me than romantic partners.
I’m not even sure what the plot of this was to be honest, it was so lost in everything else going on – Shadow’s irritating personality, no personality Cal and their forced romance meant the plot was left largely forgotten. I know the plot centred around the idea that the country had successfully lead a revolution against monks over a decade prior, these monks had hoarded the knowledge of magic and had oppressed the people of the country through that. It was alluded to that they were returning now after all these years and Cal was dispatched to discover how – but honestly that plot was lost. I don’t think we or Cal discovered much about that plot line, and really we spent a lot of time focusing on the politics and lives of Duke and Duchesses who were far more concerned with appearances than anything else.
However, there were plot twists and revelations in this but they were easy to guess from about page 20 as a YA reader. Also, when they were revealed the author spent about two sentences on them, which was ridiculous considering whole chapters were spent on elaborate balls and events that were meant to make us think Shadow and Cal were perfect for each other – spoiler alert: they weren’t. It was honestly very strange, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such little plot progression.
This may be a personal problem but this is told in dual perspective from both of the main character’s – which is great most of the time, but for some reason Shadow’s perspective is in first person and Cal’s is in third. It just doesn’t work. I can’t think of a reasonable explanation for the why the author chose to do this, it was really weird and disorientating to go from reading first person to third person continuously.
I also found the writing to be a little lazy at time, Melissa de La Cruz suffered from the problem of telling us rather than showing us a lot of the time, she also introduced plot points when she had written herself into a corner and needed the protagonists to escape. There were a few times Shadow managed to save them only because she went ‘oh and I suddenly remembered a story my Aunt told me of great power…. hmmmm…. I wonder if I can do that???’ and then guess what? She did! Even though that power hadn’t been mentioned in anyway before that fight, and I think that’s quite lazy writing personally. Also, there were times when one of the characters would bring something up about another character and mention their habits, but we would never see these habits actually take place in the narrative – we were just told that they possessed these habits. I know I’m being picky but for me that’s a problem as a reader because it tells me the author hasn’t properly planned out the characters or plot, and just introduces things for convenience sake. It’s a problem I’m not sure all reader would have.
Overall, this was a very disappointing read full of quite series problems, and ones I’m quite concerned over considering De La Cruz is not a debut author – I would be more forgiving if she was, but she has experience writing. If your reader can’t remember the plot and finds your characters irritating yet bland, it suggests this book needed more time in the editing stage. I know I have been very harsh on this book but it had potential, it could have been a solid YA fantasy if the characters and plots were flushed out further, and more time was spent developing them than writing about outlandish balls.
This is the third book out of four I haven’t enjoyed that Buzzfeed recommended in that article, and I am slowly losing hope in this series as time goes on.
Buzzfeed Recommends Series: