A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Takes some liberties, which author explains in a note at the end, but includes many historical people, places in London near end of Elizabeth I's reign. A very few words and phrases in Cornish, Gaelic, French translated. A major element involves first performance of play Twelfth Night and may inspire teens to read or try to see that Shakespeare play. Author's note mentions books that informed, inspired her to write this one. Bibliography provides lots of references for further reading.
Ultimately, no one else is to blame for your problems but yourself. Your decisions, and how you respond to things other people do, are what determine how things turn out for you.
Positive Role Models
Kit, aka Katherine, is a good model of determination, bravery, doing what she must once she finds herself alone in the world. But her need to avenge her father's death blinds her so that she makes some bad decisions. Ultimately, she learns she's the only one to blame for getting into trouble; there's hope that she'll make better choices now that she's matured a bit. Toby's a positive representation of someone who's attracted to both men and women, and is easy to empathize with as someone who's suffered recent loss of a loved one. He's a good person, is protective of Kit, but lacks strong moral compass, convictions that would make him a more directly positive role model.
Violence & Scariness
Central plot element is an assassination plan, so details about that are frequent topics. How to kill someone by severing the carotid artery is explained but not gory. A few fights with knives, swords, punches, kicks, and choking with some mention of blood but no detailed descriptions. Killing a chicken is briefly described. Mention of hearing bones crunching, smelling blood while walking through neighborhood where people fight one another for money. Hints at Inquisition-type torture like screws and the rack used for interrogation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing between Toby and Kit, both when Toby thinks Kit is a boy and when he knows she's a girl. A brief description of caressing skin under clothing. Brief talk about "liking" both boys and girls. A pun about "coming" and breathing hard. Occasional reference to women who sell their bodies. Backstage nudity and slapping behinds mentioned. Sex as a Christmas gift implied. A kiss as the stakes in a dice game.
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"F--k," "f---ing," "s--t," "arse," "pisser," "whoremaster," the Cornish word "cac" translated as "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes take place in taverns and mention drinking ale. An antiquated word for wine, "sack," is used several times at a party. Kit has some hot mulled wine on a cold night. Occasional mention of alcohol in passing, like someone who looks like they enjoy brandy, seeing amber liquid in bottles in the library, etc. The "mellow" smell of tobacco mentioned once, several other times it's mentioned as an unpleasant smell. Toby tries a cigar and nearly passes out. Gamblers play dice games in taverns, and the rules of one game are explained.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason is romantic historical fiction by the author of The Witch Hunter series. The setting is London at the end of Elizabeth I's reign and involves a plot to assassinate her, so planning details and some non-gory but detailed instructions on how to kill someone with a knife are major plot points. Other violence involves fights and scuffles with knives, swords, punching, kicking, and choking. Blood's mentioned but not described in detail. The central romance is between Kit, a teen girl disguised as a boy, and Toby, an older teen who's attracted to both men and women but so far has only ever been in love with a man. Some kisses and caressing under clothing are described briefly. Profanity is rare but surprisingly strong, including "f--k" and "s--t." Alcohol is mentioned briefly in passing several times, and a few scenes take place in taverns and mention drinking ale. Tobacco is a novelty but Toby tries a cigar and it makes him feel sick.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of the genre will enjoy this historical fiction's romance and intrigue. It colorfully imagines the first staging of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and the aged but no less awe-inpiring Queen Elizabeth I. Teens will be drawn to An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason's story about disguise and deception, especially in how they relate to gender roles and the way we present ourselves to the world. Descriptions of locations may rely too much on readers being somewhat familiar with Elizabethan London -- they paint a clear-enough picture but aren't as truly immersive at they could be. The modernized language makes it easy to understand but lacks any real wit or sparkle.
The plot builds toward an exciting and fast-paced end, with a twist or two that will keep the pages turning. The end of Kit and Toby's story is pretty predictable, but satisfying especially for romance fans. Occasional strong language, non-gory violence, and themes of gender identity and sexual preference make it best for historical-fiction fans in high school or older.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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