Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

In the city of Espera, assassins rule. Isabel Ryans has left that life behind, forging a new identity and keeping a low profile at a civilian secondary school. But when she kills an intruder, her past starts to catch up with her. Can she ever leave the life of a guild assassin behind?

Espera is a fictional closed city located in Yorkshire. It was created with the purpose of training killers available to hire for the rich and powerful. Need a political opponent killed off discreetly, then Hummingbird or Comma are your choices. The civilians within city limits are there to support this industry, but as long as they don’t interfere with guild business, they lead relatively normal lives.

Isabel knows her teachers are expecting an essay about Espera, City of Hope, which took in refugees from bombed-out cities across Europe and gave them security and a new life behind its high walls – not Espera, the City of Fear, which murdered its way to independence and built those walls in the first place.

Isabel shouldn’t exist. While the assassin guilds are public knowledge, the fact that they were training children is top secret. She didn’t choose that life, her parents were abusive and that is why she is now in hiding. She thought she had done a good job of disappearing.

When Isabel meets Emma Westray, she sees a glimmer of the normal life she has been denied, but then she’s poisoned and it becomes harder to hide the truth. The poison manifests itself as an autoimmune disease, turning her own body against itself. She finds she can’t do the basic things she expects herself to be able to do, let alone be the elite assassin she was trained to be.

Isabel doesn’t deserve her, this friendship offered so freely despite the violence that binds their families together. She doesn’t deserve any of this – her new life, her hopes and dreams – and maybe that’s why it seemed a fair trade and an appropriate sacrifice, to deny herself survival if it would deny her father what he wants.

I liked that she turns to adults for help. She wants to sort things out herself, but it’s important to know when to ask for help. Especially when illness strikes. Some YA would have teens be more capable than every adult around them, but this felt pretty realistic, despite the context.

This is a romance free story. Isabel is asexual and the relationships are based on friendship. I’m don’t think it is explicitly stated on page that she’s asexual but it is mentioned in the author’s note.

Espera is named after Esperanto, the official language of the guilds. Each chapter is titled with a word in Esperanto and its translation if you are keen to learn some words in the world’s most used constructed language.

The Butterfly Assassin is published by Simon and Schuster and will be available in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions from 26th May 2022. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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