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Review: Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Allies & Assassins
by Justin Somper

Series: Enemies of the Prince #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Hardback: 496 Pages
Publication: May 27, 2014
by Little Brown Books BFYR


Prince Anders, the ruler of Archenfield, has been murdered, leaving his younger brother, Jared, to ascend the throne. Sixteen-year-old Jared feels unprepared to rule the kingdom and its powerful and dangerous court, yet he knows he can rely on the twelve officers of the court to advise him. He also knows he can just as easily be at their mercy-especially when it appears that one of them may be responsible for his brother's death. Unable to trust anyone, Jared takes it upon himself to hunt down his brother's killer—but the killer may be hunting him, as well. Murder, betrayal, and intrigue abound in Justin Somper's thrilling YA series debut. Exploring the political machinations of the medieval court and the lives that hang in the balance, Allies & Assassins is a gripping tale of a teen torn between duty and revenge.

◆ A copy was provided by Hachette for review ◆

Allies & Assassins is a teen drama brought to a ruling council.

The writing is beautiful. Vivid, carefully chosen details bring pieces of the story to life from descriptions of bodies to the actions of the characters. These were definitely the highlights of the story for me. Additionally, the dialogue meets a balance between court formality and language that modern readers would be comfortable reading. Unfortunately, these aren't enough to make a story for me without a proper plot to support it.

There was a disappointing lack of political intrigue in a book where the ruler has been murdered. Throughout and exiting the story, I didn't have a clear feel for character motivations and who might be plotting against the princedom. For example, instead of developing the council characters through their discussions, the story portrays them for the most part as bickering with each other and bidding for power. While this is understandable, as there are coalitions going on here, I want to see more character development and political intrigue at court. Instead, the story follows two teenagers investigating a crime while the adults around them remain obstinately set in their opinions until presented with tangible evidence that suggests otherwise.

I appreciate how the story switches perspectives in an attempt to develop different angels of the case of Prince Anders's murder. What it ended up doing, however, was drag the pacing of the story and stifle the buildup of suspense instead of building it up. It also took the spotlight away from Jared, causing him to appear merely as a pawn for the older court members instead of a prominent character in his own right. I know that he's only just ascended to the throne, but it's not pleasant when the apparent protagonist acts in a passive role, seeming to have no control over anything. As such, Jared was disappointing as a protagonist.

To my surprise, the Physician's nice Asta plays a more active role in the story. Upon learning that Prince Anders was murdered while assisting her uncle in the examination of the body, Asta takes it upon herself to investigate the assassination. While her intelligent and courage are admirable, this was frustrating on multiple accounts. First, I don't see enough character motivation for her to investigate. Second, she acts with great audacity in using her uncle's name to question people of rank and in daring to approach Jared, the ruling prince. Her excuse is that she doesn't understand court politics having come from a poor village. Nevertheless, she should have some awareness that she's risking her uncle's position and her chances of having a better life by learning a proper trade.

Overall, the tone of the story feels targeted more towards a younger audience, running along the lines of The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. For its targeted age range, however, The False Prince does a better job of developing mystery and intrigue (albeit in a simple fashion) and features a more proactive protagonist.

Additional Information
  • N/A

  • Death
  • Minor violence
  • Couple instances of language

1 comment on "Review: Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper"
  1. Too bad something with wonderful writing lacked in plot and tension and depth.

    It does sounds like it could appeal to some though.

    Lovely review :)


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