Kiss of the Assassin by Jayla Jasso is an exciting and emotional fantasy romance centering on Jiandra and Yajna, two people on very different paths in the country of Villeleia – one who’s trying to save the people of Villeleia, and one who’s trying to start a war. Jiandra Stovy isn’t your typical revolutionary, but she’s got a huge heart, so when a magical stone comes into her life, she knows that it’s her ticket to saving her queen and country. Meanwhile, Yajna has very different plans: to murder the queen and start a war. When these two cross paths, more than sparks fly – their pairing will determine the fate of a nation.
Jasso really knows how to set a scene – Kiss of the Assassin flows like a movie, but it’s hardly thin in description. The prose is a completely immersive experience, as Jasso deftly paints scene and character, so the sights and smells – and emotion – come through vividly. A common romance trope is for the two protagonists to hate each other at first, but in this scenario, the stakes are truly high, and the shifting POV’s gives intriguing detail about each person’s perspective.
Shifting perspectives can sometimes work to a book’s detriment, as it can be like starting the book over with a new character. That’s not the case here – to the contrary, it’s this narrative style that makes the book so effective. Another bonus to Jasso’s storytelling in this novel is that it is not wholly centered around the two protagonists, and has a number of subplots involving political intrigue, assassination plots, and other subplots that weave together seamlessly. The main romance isn’t even the only romance in the plot, which ups the ante emotionally, and propels the narrative forward.
With all these subplots, the reader could get bogged down in extraneous detail (especially if one just wants to get to the heat), but such is not the case for Assassin. The novel manages to be both fast-paced and thorough, which is a testament to Jasso’s strength as a writer. If anything, Jasso could slow the narrative down even more. But then, with characters and place so firmly established, it opens up the potential for more books in this world, and readers will be clamoring for more.
Overall, Kiss of the Assassin strikes an expert balance between two elements of fantasy: romantic and magical. For those looking for a romance novel that is weighted heavily on eroticism, this is not that sort of book. It is a full-fledged work of fantasy fiction, with elements of erotic romance, which is really to the book’s credit. Though the novel is at core a romance and hits those notes satisfyingly, it doesn’t do so at the expense of story or character. Coupled with her first novel, Carribean Jewel (reviewed here on SPR), Jayla Jasso is definitely a new romance writer to watch.