THE QUEEN’S ASSASSIN by Melissa De La Cruz. Review.

THE QUEEN’S ASSASSIN by Melissa De La Cruz.

Putnam. p/b. £8.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Cordyn Holt, personal advisor to the king and commander of Renovia’s security forces returns with the worst news. King Esban is dead. It is believed the Aphrasian monks have finally been crushed but the Deian Scrolls which contain all knowledge of their magics have not been retrieved. Now the lives of Queen Lilianna and her daughter, the king’s heir, are in danger.

Holt is sworn by blood and by a deeper, magical hold, to protect the queen and her child and to retrieve the scrolls. Until that is done he cannot be released from his vow. It is a burden that passes to his son, Caledon, after he himself is gone. 18 years pass and the scrolls remain lost.

All she has ever wanted was to join the Hearthstone Guild, to recover the missing scrolls and take revenge on their enemies. Shadow’s secret hunt takes her to Baer Abbey – the forbidden and dangerous former home of the Aphrasian monks, and the site of the king’s death. She cannot stop herself from entering but she certainly did not expect to hear voices there or stumble across the son of the notorious Cordyn Holt when she was there.

Shadow’s antics are followed by a message – her mother has summoned her to the palace. Now her life is going to change and not in the way she wanted it to. Caledon Holt, the Queen’s Assassin as he is more commonly known, also receives a royal summons, which cannot be good since he disregarded the queen’s orders to visit the abbey in search of the scrolls that would free him of his father’s sworn vow. Thanks to that vow Cal has no choice but to answer the summons and face the consequences of his actions.

The Queen’s Assassin is the first in a young adult series entitled The Queen’s Secret. De La Cruz gives us a lighthearted and heartwarming read following two young people who discover as much about each other as they do of themselves and whose stories intertwine irrevocably as they chase after their enemies and hunt for the missing scrolls upon which their future freedom rests.

Shadow is undoubtedly the main character here and her narrative is told through the first person, which cleverly conceals her various truths from whom she chooses and enriches the reader’s understanding of her actions and motives as the story unfolds. When Cal takes on the point of view he does so in the third person, leaving him always at a slight distance from the reader, cleverly replicating the arm’s length at which he holds himself from others, given his duties.

Whilst somewhat slow to start through a double telling of past events (as much of what is laid out in the first chapters was already told in the prologue) the narrative does pick up the pace and weave in a good amount of action and intrigue as Shadow’s adventure takes off. The twists and turns are foreshadowed, teased and revealed in good time and the worldbuilding offers a unique and interesting blend of styles that appeal visually and work well to illustrate the difference in status of some of its key characters.