A Reluctant Assassin (Order of the MoonStone #1)
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
A Reluctant Assassin takes place in a futuristic, socially regressive United States called Auralius. What sets Auralius apart from the current day US are the second civil war, the two additional world wars, and all the repercussions that come with warfare which include countless deaths, environmental destruction, and government reformation. This is where my first issue with the book appears. Other than this information and Kayden’s repetitious observations of the rich’s obsession with satin, silk, and (gold) jewelry, there’s very little world building. Kayden describes what the streets of the poor look like and from there we can imagine what their lives must be like, but we’re never told if the people are resilient or depressed. This lack of world building is also evident in most scenes where we’re told where Kayden is (ballroom, stables, etc.) but aren’t given much description. This allows the reader to be as imaginative as s/he pleases, but prevents Morrows from juxtaposing the livelihood of the rich to the hardship of the poor in the manner she probably intended. While the lack of description does allow Kayden and Dvarius’s inner turmoil to be highlighted, to me, the world felt flat and empty without it.
My second problem with the story was the lack of depth expressed by the characters – the exception being Dvarius, which I’ll explain later. A Reluctant Assassin clearly (and repeatedly) mentions that Kayden was assigned to kill Prince Dvarius by the Order of the MoonStone. However, there’s no backstory on how Kayden got involved in the Order and there are no details about her family. We know her feelings concerning two operatives of the Order and receive snippets of her opinion concerning the rich-poor gap, but we aren’t told much about Kayden. And the same is true for majority of the other characters. There are people the book mentions Kayden interacts with, but we never see the interactions and they aren’t given names. There are 24 other women vying for the crown and yet only two are named and the book only shows Kayden interacting with one. As I previously mentioned, there the world seems empty when only a few are talking and they rarely mention outside the palace.
On the other hand, unlike most of the characters, Dvarius had a bit more depth. His character isn’t fully fleshed out, but he’s more emotive and tangible than the other characters. It was interesting to see the guy stress/obsess over whether the girl liked him for a change. My problem with Dvarius (yes, another issue. You could’ve stopped reading a hundred words ago if you were sick of me.) was his air of indecisiveness. Dvarius is dedicated to his religion, which isn’t a problem. However, there are times when he’ll defer taking action and leave the decision to God, which made him seem more indecisive than faithful. I mean, how hard is it to go see the girl you have feelings, especially when she’s living in your house/palace? No, instead, Dvarius had to be blasé and declare that if he was meant to see Kayden, God would intersect their paths.
Lastly, even though all I did here was (semi) complain about A Reluctant Assassin, I didn’t hate the story. I just saw so many places where Morrows could have improved the story. And who knows, maybe by the time the story is published it’ll be different from what I read. All in all, A Reluctant Assassin tackles the question: what would happen if, after a few more wars, the US turned into a monarchy and a female assassin was sent undercover to kill the prince who was to be crowned king?