Courtesan. Spy. Assassin.
Across the Kingdom of Arestea, the shadowy league of professional killers known simply as the Guild has long since earned its terrifying reputation. And none of its current members are more infamous than the Black Lily. No one knows who the Lily is, but everyone recognizes the efficiency with which he or she brings down even the most guarded targets. There is no one, it is said, who is safe from this fiend once they have caught the assassin’s attention.
Now Lily herself is about to discover if her reputation has been inflated or not, for she has just been assigned the most daunting mission of her career: infiltrate the royal palace and eliminate the entire Arestean line of succession to make room for the Guild’s puppet ruler. It’s a challenging job, but one that will secure her place in the history books should she succeed.
But when unplanned circumstances take the king from his country to help secure the front lines in his latest war of expansion, Lily is left trapped in her assumed persona behind the palace walls and forced to stall for time. And when a particularly bad stroke of luck reveals her cover to the king’s brother, Crown Prince Adrian, Lily finds herself ensnared in her own web, forced to use all her skills of subterfuge and manipulation if she is to stay one step ahead of the naïve but righteous young man and finish her mission — or die trying. (goodreads.com)
Let’s just start with the cover. Because it’s horrid. I’ve certainly seen worse, but this one is not good. Very much “I did this myself in GIMP and it looks okay enough.” It’s just . . . very off-putting, very amateur-looking, and very indicative of a self-published novel. Luckily what’s beyond the cover is markedly better than what this digital manipulation would otherwise suggest.
Markedly better, but still not great. The pacing is somewhat jerky, lingering too long on exposition and unnecessary world craft-type of nonsense that fills in pockets of worldbuilding because you don’t get to see a lot of the world for most of the story. So you get aristocrats droning on about this city and these goods and I found myself not really paying attention during those parts because they were boring. Just get along with the plot, please.
The story itself is pretty interesting and I would like to know more about this assassins guild, especially toward the end there (no spoilers). Unfortunately for an assassin you don’t get to see Lily really do her job all that much. The book starts off on an upswing where she kills an unsuspecting jerk in a brothel and that was fun. But then she slips into her courtesan role with a bad accent where we see more of her heaving bosom than anything else. Most of the scheming is going on in Lily’s head while outside she’s having meals and conversations with people. So for a story about an assassin, there’s not a whole lot of assassining going on.
The sex was . . . odd. Kudos for the bisexual lead, but the sex with the lady’s maid was gratuitous. The thing is, I like erotica. I like sex in books. But it needs to be well-placed. The scene with her and Alec made sense. The scene with the two women didn’t actually contribute to the plot at all and just seemed rather throw-in, kind of hammering home like “WE HAVE A BISEXUAL CHARACTER IN OUR BOOK LOOK AT HER BED THIS WOMAN.” It felt disingenuous.
The relationship between Lily and Adrian, though, I think was the best part of the book. That actually felt surprisingly natural, especially as it developed (again, no spoilers). The antagonism between the two of them was done well without being overblown and I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes at any stupid decisions anyone was making or plot-serving misunderstandings happening because there were none. Those two fit together really well. They each had a calming effect to the other’s personality that served to soften Lily’s edges and unclench Adrian’s posterior.
The world itself was rather typical. Some kind of medieval type of world that isn’t from this one but still has exotic-sounding names and a castle and a “low quarter” with swords and guards and what not. Nothing to write home about.
All in all it’s an interesting enough story, but the plot needs to be tightened. One of the better self-published books, I think, but still room for improvement.
I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.