The Queen's Assassin / Melissa de la Cruz / Review


Shadow has been training all her life to join Renovia's infamous Hearthstone Guild. She wants to become an assassin like the famous Caledon Holt, Queen's Assassin, but her mother and aunts expect her to serve a quiet life as a lady at court instead.

Caledon Holt, deadliest member of the Guild, is bound to serve the queen by magic. He lives for the queen alone, until the task she sets has been completed.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Caledon together, they pair up as master and apprentice to seek out traitors to the Renovian throne. Both want to escape their fate--a life at court or a life for the queen--and they find more at stake than they believed possible. Their journey has just begun.



Great Building Blocks This book has great fantasy elements laid down right at the beginning. There are assassins and creepy, abandoned abbeys. Letters with official seals summon young men and women to court. A regent queen rules in her daughter's stead. Traitors to the crown skulk in the shadows. Magic and visions tangle together, and ancient and recent battlefields stir up dark memories. A lot of the elements that make fantasy fun are included, which means that this book has lots of hooks for fantasy fans. The cover itself speaks to the classic fantasy of it. If only these elements were attached to a good story...

Entertaining Tropes To build on the fantasy components acting as the foundation of this work, this book is also full of great tropes. Master-and-apprentice, girl-dressed-as-a-boy, mistaken-identity, shared-bed-too-small, training-on-the-run, rivals-to-lovers and more feature in this book. Tropes get a lot of negative press in the writing world, but tropes are what make up any genre. These tropes are fun, and they're what could save this book for the right fan. Unfortunately, their presence didn't make enough of a difference for me.

Strong Third Person Narration Cal's parts are strong. The third person works, and a sense of Cal and his voice and personality come through, which can be hard to find in third person narration. I only wish the entire book had been written in this tense and perspective, because then it might have been better. Alas, Cal's narrative only makes up half of this unfortunate book.


This book commences with two unfortunate prologues. The first is a not-prologue "excerpt" from an old text that does what all bad fantasy prologues do: sets out the entire history of the world in lieu of actual worldbuilding during the story. This is in such bad form that I really need say no more. I was beyond bored before the story could even begin, and worse, the author follows it up with another prologue--this time actually labeled "prologue"--that just extended my agony. There is far too much worldbuilding at the beginning. I hoped it would be worth it to slog through, but my effort here was wasted. Boring Prologue

For whatever reason, especially in Shadow's chapters, this narrative is simply difficult to follow. There are a lot of names and places without any concrete descriptions to hold them down or explain them--a common problem in fantasy. Though there is a lot of worldbuilding right from the start, it doesn't actually build much of a world at all. I was left with constant questions and confusion about the rules, especially around the world's magic. The narrative also switches between first person and third person narration, which was entirely unnecessary and only made the story harder to like. Though Cal's third-person sections were decent, Shadow's first person lacked a real voice, which is a major problem and ultimately defeats the use of first person in the first place. Brain gymnastics shouldn't be necessary for a story like this, but that was the case in many, many aspects. Hard to Follow

Though none of my questions about this world were answered, the same information given out in the prologue was beaten into my skull, again and again. In case I forgot the mind-numbing setup that I had to slosh through at the beginning, the characters were kind enough to repeat it all again whenever it became vaguely relevant to the plot. The overachieving prologue could have been somewhat forgivable, I think, if the author had just left the worldbuilding there--"There you have it; let's move on to the important things." That wasn't the case, however, and the fact that these details were constantly brought up just sealed the fate of the entire world, in my mind. This book can be condemned to the trash heap of bad fantasy. Repetitive Worldbuilding



Anyone who enjoys the old-school, generic feeling of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series should take a look at this female-led basic fantasy. hose who appreciate the crisp and unvaried writing of Christopher Paolini's Eragon might want to take a look at this unfortunately dragon-less fantasy.


Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Date: February 4, 2020
Series: The Queen's Secret
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