Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: A Born Assassin Series by Jacqueline Pawl

A Born Assassin, Prequel Novella 0.5
by Jacqueline Pawl
YA Fantasy

Helpless is a Born Assassin prequel novella set twenty years before the events of Merciless and may be read in any order. 
After the sudden death of beloved King Alaric, Prince Ghyslain is thrust before the eyes of the nation in an unexpected--and undesired--coronation. With the future of his new kingdom resting heavily upon his shoulders, Ghyslain wants nothing more than to do the one thing his father never dared during his rule: to free the elven slaves. In a city plagued by racial tension, opposing the demanding, cutthroat advisors and courtiers seems an impossible task until Ghyslain meets Liselle, the one woman who is brave enough to stand against them all.


While this is the prequel to the series, and I read it first before hitting book one, it doesn't need to be read first.

Prince Ghyslain is devastated at the death of his father, King Alaric. Although he is about to be crowned king, it's not something he's ready for. He's not even through processing his father's death. But duty calls, and with his mother's loving help, he pulls through as well as possible. Unlike his father, he has different views, especially about the elf slaves. When he runs across Liselle, the slave of his future wife, everything changes.

This book sets the background for a side character and one aspect of the situation the kingdom finds itself in for book one. While interesting, the information is by no means necessary to enjoy book one and offers simply some insight which helps explain certain characters' feelings and opinions. I read it before diving into the first novel but don't believe it changed my reading experience much.

This novella centers around Prince Ghyslain, who comes across as a lost and helpless young man, who has wonderful ideas but isn't very experienced in life. He has a good heart and enough determination that he'll pull it through. When a problem hits, it's easy to root for him attitude and stand behind him as future king. And the situation with the elves grabs sympathy right away. Even though short, emotions in both directions develop strongly, especially for the side characters which are to love or hate.

The writing is well done and scene descriptions smooth. It's slower paced and has a different atmosphere than book one, which surprises when diving from one into the other. This left a little confusion on my side as it isn't clear how the novella fits with into book one until about 20 percent through the main novel. Even then, I missed the rest of Liselle's story since the novella cuts off and concentrates only on the Prince. Still, it's an easy read and does offer a little more depth for the next book.

A Born Assassin, Book 1
by Jacqueline Pawl
January 21, 2019
Young Adult Fantasy
488 pages

"The Guild is my life. I didn't choose it, didn't want it for years. But when I stopped fighting it, stopped trying to resist all the ways they were trying to change me, I realized I enjoy it. All the teasing, all the mocking, all the quips about pointy ears and the girl whose parents didn't want her—they don't matter in a fight. 

I'll be hated for the work I do—and I'll love every minute of it."

Merciless is a Young Adult fantasy epic perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass and George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.

After being taken by the illustrious Assassins' Guild when she was one week old, Mercy has endured seventeen years of grueling training in the art of killing. She is covered in more scars than she can count—gifts from her cruel tutors and the human apprentices who do not tolerate being bested by an elf—and she's more than ready to prove her worth to the head of the Guild.

In the capital city of Sandori, elf-human violence runs rampant and a king mad with grief rules with an iron fist. All that stands between Mercy and her chance to become the greatest Assassin the Guild has ever trained is the handsome and kind Prince Tamriel. If she succeeds in killing him, she will earn the respect and admiration of her childhood tormentors and will be immortalized in the Guild. Faced with political tension, rampant disease, and strange supernatural occurrences, Mercy realizes that her actions not only affect her and Tamriel, but that the fate of the kingdom hangs in the balance.


Fast paced and packed with intrigue, this book binds to the pages and doesn't let go.

Mercy is an assassin through and through. Shortly after her birth, she was given to the Guild and raised with only one purpose in mind. Her heart and her soul belong to the Guild, and she's more than capable at what she does. The only draw back is that she's an elf. Bullied and mistreated by the others, she carries more scars than the rest, but also loads more determination. When she tricks her way through the Trials and receives her first contract, she's sure nothing will keep her from killing her target. But as she waits for the right moment, other secrets unfold, and she realizes much more than a life hang at the mercy of her actions. She holds the entire kingdom's fate in her hands.

Boredom is not a word to describe this read. Mercy is merciless and ruthless to a fault. She can't wait to fulfill her duty as an assassin and is more than capable at handling her job. Raised with only the assassin's life before her eyes, her attitude is logical and realistic, but it makes her difficult to like. While she is very engaging to follow, I found myself hoping she'd realize her mistakes and change. In other words, character arc is big in these pages. The other characters are also easy to fit into categories of like or dislike...until the intrigue sets in. There are many twists, subplots and turns which make this a novel packed to the gills. While some are wrapped up nicely, others hold loose ends, which hopefully, will come around in the next books.

This is not a book easily set down. Every page holds something new and draws in. The scene descriptions sit, and there's a wonderful balance between dialogue, action, and intrigue. Fans of Game of Thrones will enjoy this tale. The only thing I found a little difficult was the narrative form. It took several pages to settle into and even then, kept a distance to Mercy and the Prince. While both were interesting and engaging, the complete connection wasn't there, and it felt more like watching them play out their roles. Even with this, I couldn't put the book down and am eagerly waiting to see what the next book in the series will bring.

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