A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
What's the story?
AN ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON tells of Kit, a young woman from Cornwall disguised as a boy and hiding out in London after her family's illegal Catholic practices are exposed. In London she meets with other Catholics and determines to avenge her father's death by killing the queen, using a part in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night as cover for the assassination attempt. Cast opposite Kit's Viola as Orsino, Toby Ellis has plenty to hide himself, not least of which is his growing attraction to Kit. Deception and disguise rule the day, but for how long? And what would become of Kit and Toby if their true selves were ever revealed?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason. Would Kit's story be different if she never disguised herself as a boy? What about the romantic attraction between her and Toby?
Why is historical fiction so popular? What do we love about it? Is it OK to change characters and events, or should writers stick to the truth, as far as it's known? Why?
Have you ever read or seen Shakespeare's Twelfth Night? If so, did you like it? If not, would you like to now?
- Author: Virginia Boecker
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: October 23, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 12, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love historical fiction and teen romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.