My Fair Assassin by C.J. Anaya

My Fair Assassin by C.J. Anaya

I chose this fantasy romance because I wanted a quick, easy read. There is more to this story than I expected, however. We get a fun, fated-mates romance with language and goal clashes even as the main characters work toward acceptance of their link, something Crysta struggles with more than Jareth. There’s a mystery in who Crysta is and why Jareth was sent to her, while her history brings up important questions of belonging and conformity.

The story begins with a fae assassin appearing in Crysta’s apartment. Though he announces he’s come to kill her, she fails to react as he expects. She redefines his honorable task as murder and shows no fear. On her side of the picture, she’s thrown by her attraction and his politeness, but hides her confusion behind a tough exterior. Her reactions to Jareth are pointed and immediate, and the opposite to what the situation requires. It’s a good start and a promise the rest of the book fills nicely.

Crysta’s voice is a fun mix of sarcasm and sweetness. She wants only to fit in, to be loved. Still, she’s built up many walls to protect against the hurt she’s come to expect. Her background allows the book to look at issues of consent and abuse through how she reacts and mentions of her history. The foster care system is not favorably described.

She comes across as older than her biological seventeen years at times, a sign of her rough childhood, but her frequent use of slang fits. The slang also provides for an ongoing hilarity between her and Jareth as his understanding of English is literal while slang most definitely is not. Her need to stand on her own makes for an important, and often amusing, conflict with Jareth. He is used to commanding rather than asking. He rarely expects to be rejected while she always expects to. Yet in this circumstance, those positions are reversed.

Jareth is an alpha in presence and skill. In personality, though, he’s much more aware of his whole being and accepting of his emotional drives, be they curiosity or attraction. This could have been a jarring combination, and yet it works. The balance between his abilities and his personality allows him to compromise when appropriate, something crucial around Crysta. He’s not perfect, or idealized, just a well-rounded character who is willing to consider the needs and opinions of others.

The book is written in two simultaneous voices: Crysta’s internal monologue and what’s happening outside of her head. It’s first person point of view, so this isn’t unusual, but it is well done. I could intuit things about the world and what was happening that even Crysta doesn’t recognize, and with no info dumping.

This is a book for the readers who find the main characters’ acceptance of the transition from our world into one filled with magic too easy in a lot of fantasy. While I figured out what was going on before Crysta, I did not question her need to find even extreme rationalizations rather than accepting a truth outside of human existence. Especially with her struggles to belong. It’s a weird place to be where I’m more open to the possibility of the fae than a fictional character, but there you have it. Humans are amazing in our ability to rationalize and come up with even far-fetched reasons for things rather than expand our view of the world or change our minds.

I appreciated the description of Crysta’s differences and how people reacted to her. She shares the experience of someone with a physical or psychological disability when trying to integrate into normal childhood. Her reactions are familiar as well as how she considers herself flawed and expects to be disappointed. That’s not the answer to her circumstances, but it doesn’t change the problems society’s message of conformity brings or soften the cruelty often faced by those who fail to blend in.

This was a delightful read with a mix of deeper issues and humor. It’s a fated-mates story, but they don’t let that truth stop them from getting to know each other before accepting their fate. The key story elements surround choices and sacrifice, and not just from one of them. I had some quibbles with the mystery, but it’s secondary to the love story and to Crysta coming to accept the truth. I enjoyed their interactions and watching them learn to love each other enough that figuring out the first part of the mystery early could not spoil my pleasure. We see their respect for each other maturing on the page. It’s built not just on words, but on actions.

The romance is well written. The contrast between her life and history when measured against what we pick up about the fae world offers a wealth of detail to make their lives intriguing. Both situational humor, and subtle messages about personal value and strength, make the book even more attractive. I picked My Fair Assassin up in a multi-author giveaway some time ago. I’m glad it caught my attention then and now.

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