Review: Assassin of Fire and Sacrifice

Assassin of Fire and Sacrifice by Mary Mecham is the second to last book in the Sacrificed Hearts series, which I have been binging for the past two weeks. This book is a little different from the others. It is the only one in which the main character voluntarily sacrifices her heart by responding to a marriage request from her worst enemy with the intent to kill him and liberate the people she was brought up with. As a result, the romance in this book is fraught with anger and mistrust, making it less of a "cozy" love story than the others. The "monster" in this book is the legendary phoenix, but he spends most of his time as a man, and a rather meek one at that. Though such a hard-hitting premise appealed less to my personal taste than some of the others in this series, I had very few qualms with the writing itself, which was full of twists and drama.

Azora is an orphaned soldier with an immunity to fire due to her ancestry. Similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, the fire nation in this world is violent and feared. When an opportunity arises to marry a prince from the fire kingdom of Pyren, Azora sees a valuable opportunity to eliminate him and possibly others who have hurt or enslaved the citizens of Termarth. She volunteers to be his bride and brings two of her closest companions to Pyren to ensure the job is done properly. However, upon meeting Tarquin, she realizes he is nothing like she expected. Not only does he have very little political power, but he is so gentle he wouldn't even harm a fly, let alone murder her people. All he wants is to have a nice happy marriage that might bring peace to their lands, which becomes rather challenging after her constant reminders of how much she hates him and wants to do him in.

Some people would find this type of love story endearing, but I am not one of them. Though some "enemies-to-lovers" resonate with me, these two did not seem to be a great match for each other. Tarquin is clearly terrified of Azora from the very beginning and is too naive to see through any of her lies, leaving him feeling brutally betrayed when he finally learns the truth. On the other hand, Azora is so fierce and hateful that she is lucky Tarquin is willing to forgive her at all. Their tepid romance is surrounded by murder and political conspiracies that make it difficult for the two to have time to get to know each other at all, let alone fall in love. I understand that they were supposed to get closer by supporting each other through loss and hardship, but I didn't feel like Azora was very supportive of Tarquin for most of the book. He deserved better.

The biggest strength of this book is its worldbuilding. There was a lot of thought put into the cultures of both Termarth and Pyren, and the conspiracies around Azora's past that were revealed at the end were shocking yet believable. In fact, these conspiracies and revelations were far more interesting than Azora's relationship with Tarquin. As a result, this book stands out as an entry in the Sacrificed Hearts series, which consists mostly of powerful love stories. Most of the drama in the book revolves around deception and who to trust. Though the big traitor reveal at the end made sense without being too predictable, the one issue I had with it was that after the character's true nature was revealed, their personality devolved into a Saturday morning cartoon character complete with an evil monologue. The exact same thing happened in To Defy a Dream, another Mary Mecham book I reviewed, so this might be one of her writing staples.

Assassin of Fire and Sacrifice is a unique installment in the Sacrificed Hearts series, offering a complex and intense storyline that deviates from the typical "cozy" love story. While the worldbuilding and plot twists shine, the romance falls flat due to the mismatched characters and Azora's relentless anger and mistrust. Despite being well-written, this book didn't resonate with me as much as others in the series, but fans of "enemies-to-lovers" tropes and political intrigue may find it captivating. The reveal of Azora's past and the conspiracies surrounding it are expertly woven, making this book a compelling read, even if the romance doesn't quite hit the mark. Overall, it's a solid addition to the series, showcasing Mecham's skill in crafting intricate worlds and plots. Stay tuned for my review of the final book in this series!


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