The Assassin of Venice – Alyssa Palombo

The Assassin of Venice far exceeded my expectations. You know that England is my usual setting for a book, but who can resist the canals of Venice? Amidst this gorgeous setting, trouble brewed and barely stopped. I give this novel four and a half out of five stars. 

Repeating myself, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I thought it was going to be a romance with some mild assassination and a redemption arc, but it was tough, real, and gritty. The plot was really good, Valentina and her supporting characters well-rounded, and the story less of a romance and more of a tale of what we will sacrifice for love. 

*Disclaimer: you should know that this book has some explicit love and murder scenes, as well as some language. It’s not over-the-top (because it’s not a romance), but it’s not clean.*

I liked the idea of a courtesan-assassin. I always appreciate women who are doing something outside of their expected roles, and the juxtaposition of someone who’s hired to provide companionship also being a killer was very well done. The plot is very twisty, and I don’t know how much I can talk about it without giving too much away. Valentina is a desperate woman, which makes her investigate and reach out to people who she might not normally, and that helps the progression along. While this book is not slow, there are a lot of names and characters thrown around, and though I didn’t understand their purpose at the first half of the book, things started to connect from the middle onwards. The world-building is very good, and I definitely felt immersed in the glamorous and treacherous world of 1500’s Venice.

Valentina was a complex character; she ruthlessly killed in the name of protecting her city, but also found love and family. She felt connections to some of her clients and fellow courtesans and even formed friendships with them. Her emotions throughout this book were so raw and genuine that I felt her anxiety. As I read more of her backstory, I understood how it came to shape her worldview and lifestyle. She’s tough, realistic, and sensitive, yet retains her humanity, even after all of the killing. I admired her as a character. 

Valentina could not have accomplished her mission without other characters, who all contributed in one way or another. One of Valentina’s customers, a priest (it’s cultural, don’t ask), soothed her crisis of conscience. Another took her out for a night where she could relax and gather information. Her fellow courtesans provided information and support, and one provided crucial information, as did her servants. What struck me most was that this help didn’t come from an unending, goodwill, bonhomie-type love – it came from a place of respect for Valentina, and a desire of the other characters to protect their place in their city. It was a case where doing the right thing also aligned with doing a beneficial thing, and I respected the characters for that. 

I was really pleased with the level of detail in this story. Valentina’s commitment to her city, her family, Bastiano, and herself were all impressive. She gave a lot to keep those she cares about safe, and they, in turn, did a lot for her. It wasn’t a romance, but it was full of feeling. I sincerely hope that Bastiano and Valentina will get to live long and happy lives! I’m not sure if this could turn into a series – it works very well as a standalone – but I would like to read about a few of the other courtesans’ lives if it does. 

Published by SamIAmReading

I am an avid reader and lover of historical mysteries and romances, but happy to take review requests and expand my horizons! All opinions in this blog are my own and have been given freely.

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