Book Review

Assassin Of Reality

Assassin of Reality

  • Author: Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2023 
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager
  • Series: Vita Nostra #2

Thank you to NetGalley, Julia Meitov Hersey, and Harper Voyager for sending me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: death, blood

The eagerly anticipated sequel to the highly acclaimed Vita Nostra takes readers to the next stage in Sasha Samokhina’s journey in a richly imagined world of dark academia in which grammar is magic—and not all magic is good.

In Vita Nostra, Sasha Samokhina, a third-year student at the Institute of Special Technologies, was in the middle of taking the final exam that would transform her into a part of the Great Speech. After defying her teachers’ expectations, Sasha emerges from the exam as Password, a unique and powerful part of speech. Accomplished and ready to embrace her new role, she soon learns her powers threaten the old world, and despite her hard work, Sasha is set to fail.

However, Farit Kozhennikov, Sasha’s dark mentor, finds a way to bring her out of oblivion and back to the institute for his own selfish purposes. Subsequently, Sasha must correct her mistakes before she is allowed to graduate and is forced to do what few are asked and even less achieve: to succeed and reverberate—becoming a part of the Great Speech and being one of the special few who dictate reality. If she fails, she faces a fate far worse than death. The choice is hers.

Years have passed around the institute—and the numerous realities that have spread from Sasha’s first failure—but it is only her fourth year of learning what role she will play in shaping the world. Her teachers despise and fear her, her classmates distrust her, and a growing love—for a young pilot with no affiliation to the school—is fraught because a relationship means leverage, and Farit won’t hesitate to use it against her.

Places crash all the time. Which means Sasha needs to rewrite the world so that can’t happen … or fail for good.

Wow, this book. I only read Vita Nostra last year, and reread it recently to prepare for this book, so I could keep the story fresh, and discovered that this is the complex, layered kind of story that makes things a little clearer each time I read it. And I absolutely couldn’t wait to start reading this, but I also knew I wanted to savor each and every word of this book, which I was convinced was going to be as much of a masterpiece as the first one.

To start with, this story worked its way into my brain and refused to let go. It immediately pulled me right back into this twisted world of dark academia, which took me a little bit to adjust to. We start out with Sasha outside of the institute after the surprising outcome of her third-year final exam. She’s watching a version of her life that could have been if she had chosen the other path open to her, the one where she didn’t go to the institute at all, and sees how that path plays out. But while she’s processing the implications of all of this, Farit appears and gets her to return to the institute.

Once she returns, she realizes how different things are. She doesn’t view the outside world the same, and while she knows she fits in at the institute, there’s new tensions there as well. The teachers aren’t as encouraging and friendly, and she doesn’t connect with her fellow students the same way. Whereas she’s always been at the top of the class, she isn’t any longer, and the whole dynamic is different, although Sasha herself hasn’t changed much at all. 

Sasha experiences even more growth in this story. Initially, she regresses a little, but I can’t really fault her for it. She goes through so much, and it’s as if she’s gone through more than a person can be reasonably expected to put up with. But Sasha is a smart, tough, and extremely stubborn woman, and when she sets her mind on a path, it takes an awful lot to divert her. We’ve seen how much she’s willing to sacrifice in the quest to reach her goals, but she doesn’t compromise her values and will go out of her way to help people that she cares about, even if they’ve hurt her. She’s an unusual mix of tough and soft, and I find it easy to identify with her. But I see her start to make adult decisions in this story, basing her own path off of how it will affect others first, rather than thinking of them as an afterthought.

This story was just as complex as the last one, and I get the vibe that reading this a second time will offer just as much increased insight into it when I do go back for a reread. I’m obviously going to be sitting on tenterhooks until the next book comes out, because these are some incredible, mind-blowing books that just can’t really be explained in any way other than OMG YOU JUST NEED TO READ THIS SERIES IMMEDIATELY. Let me simply say that these are among my favorite dark academia series, and they’re some of the most completely unique and original books that I’ve ever read.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 10

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