Many of the reviews applauded the excellent world building but I really am wondering which world building? There was absolutely no world building. This story entirely takes places in a fucking cave. Was it magical? No! Our TSTL heroine lost 99% of her magic due to reasons unknown and we were expected to accept it like that. Magic apparently can go puff and the biggest sorceress can be cast out and send to her sure death as the new teacher to an assassin school. There is an ominous emperor with dark magic sorcerers reminding me very much of evil magicians in The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan.
Ileni our heroine is stupid, makes stupid decisions, thinks stupid thoughts and acts stupid. She complains a lot about her lost magic, what she would have done if she still had them and so on. She also assumes every assassin in this cave wants her dead. All you hear her think is: if he wanted to kill me, he wants to kill me, let him kill me. She had so much potential but in the end she was just a boring 1.0 version without any redeeming qualities. She is totally judgmental and grasps everything only from her high horse perspective. Her incentive to change her opinion about the assassin’s guild comes not out of conviction but out of sexual attraction. She laughs only when half hysterical and always clasps her hands, clenches her hands, grips her skirt with her hands.
I almost lost it and dnf’ed the book around half way through but the story hadn’t taken the worst turn yet. The worst came in form of the BIG LOVE and I HAVE FEEELINGS FOR YOU confessions. The romance was so foreseeable, abrupt and un-romantic. After the first kiss about 80% into the story we have insta-love thoughts aka “I can’t let happen anything to you, blabla” … all very schmaltzy if you ask me.
The book is not bad bad. At least up until the soppy part this story was quite entertaining despite a lack of world building, a stand-offish, assuming heroine and the assassins being under the master’s spell. If you don’t have high any expectations to a young adult fantasy go for it. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend this.