An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: 23 October 2018
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review
I’m always on the hunt for some good historical fiction, and An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason caught my eye for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t think we see enough YA historical fiction so it always catches my eye. I love the book’s Elizabethan setting, but I was totally blown away by the plot. I was incredibly exciting to read this, but I think it was a great idea in theory and less so in execution. This review may sound a little harsh despite the three stars I gave the book, and that’s because I’m so sad about its wasted potential.
When Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn’t the only secret he’s been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father’s mission, and to take it one step further–kill the queen herself.
Katherine’s opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare’s newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn’t know is that the play is not just a play–it’s a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.
The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play’s leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.
I am still in love with the synopsis of this book. We often see characters in historical fiction on the ‘winning’ side of history, but a book about a Catholic girl who joins a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I? A plan to use Twelfth Night, one of my favourite plays, to find the conspirators (an actual, although not widely believed, conspiracy theory)? Come on! This book should have been absolutely stunning and perfect for me. However, it ended up just being ‘okay’ and I’m so sad. I have seen a number of readers say it started slow and got more interesting toward the middle, however I found the opposite to be true. I was totally gripped by the beginning, but it became a bit of a slog in the middle section and sped up at the end. The story was fine, the characters were fine, but I just wish it had that a little more oomph. There were so many opportunities to really beef up the story that were missed.
Katherine and Toby, like everything else in this book, were just fine. I couldn’t quite get a read on their deeper motivation and desires, although said motivations were spelled out on the page for me. They both just felt a little flat because I don’t think I ever really got to know them on a deeper level. I didn’t find anyone particularly memorable or compelling.
An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason is a fine book, and if the premise sounds interesting to you I do encourage you to give it a try. But for me, it just didn’t live up to the amazing concept.
CW: Animal death
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Have you read An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason? What did you think? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!