Vitala is a rebel assassin who has only ever had one mission, to get into the bed of the Emperor of Kjall and kill him. To achieve her goal she has become a champion of Caturanga, a war like game based on strategy and skill and also an obsession of the Emperor Lucian. As a half Kjall and half Riorcan Vitala is an outsider living in a world where the only people who have ever accepted her are the people who have been training her for murder.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I went into it hoping I would find another fantasy/ paranormal romance to love. Unfortunately I struggled with the characters, the world building and even the plot. Assassin’s Gambit opens up with Vitala making her way to the emperor’s palace. She has become a champion caturanga player in order to get close Lucien in the hopes that she can seduce him and kill him while in bed. Lucien is a war mage and the only way to kill a war mage is to take him unawares in a specific moment. She’s been training since she was a young girl for just this. This time and this purpose. Her mother’s people, the Riorcans, have been enslaved by the empire of Kjall for years and the hope is that if she can manage to take their leader out the empire will be in such chaos that the rebels can take over the government.
Vitala and Lucien seem to bond from the start. Over their board game they develop an interest in each other and Lucien soon asks Vitala to join him on a trip to squash a minor skirmish in a small village. This is the point in the story where I started having issues. Vitala is portrayed as a bad ass assassin, but she turns her back on the only life she’s ever known and the job she’s trained for since she was a girl immediately. Once they get to the outskirts of the village these two are ambushed by traitors in Lucien’s government. Vitala did her duty and managed to get Lucien in bed, before she can complete her mission they are overcome, Lucien is beaten and Vitala is raped. From this point on Vitala becomes Lucien’s partner, at one point even rescuing him from the very people who she promised to kill him for. She decides that her mission has changed and by keeping him alive she will in the end achieve the same goal of throwing the government into chaos.
I think my disappointment with this story comes from thinking that there could have been more fleshing out of all the characters, more tension between Lucien and Vitala, just more of everything. I never believed Vitala as the deadly assassin, once she decides to save Lucien and join him in his quest to regain his throne she lost all credibility. I mean she’s been training for this almost her entire life and she falls in love and it all goes away? In an instant? Lucien finds out she’s his enemy and he never even has a minute of doubt about her motives? I also struggled with Vitala’s sexual issue. It was obviously inserted into the story to create some conflict between the two main characters, but I found the whole thing to be unbelievable. As well as the way she and Lucien discover how to overcome it. In the end the difficulties I had with the characters, their motivations and the way the storyline played out overcame any enjoyment I might have had. Final Grade: D+
“We’ll make our own group. You belong with me.”