Book Review: THE BUTTERFLY ASSASSIN by Finn Longman

Title in white on black bookended by blue and white butterfly wings
Genre: Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book
CW: child abuse


Book cover for THE BUTTERFLY ASSASSIN: title in white on blue and yellow butterfly on black

Trained and traumatised by a secret assassin programme for minors, Isabel Ryans wants nothing more than to be a normal civilian. After running away from home, she has a new name, a new life and a new friend, Emma, and for the first time in Isabel’s life, things are looking up.

But old habits die hard, and it’s not long until she blows her cover, drawing the attention of the guilds – the two rival organisations who control the city of Espera. An unaffiliated killer like Isabel is either a potential asset . . . or a threat to be eliminated.

Will the blood on her hands cost her everything?

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE BUTTERFLY ASSASSIN is a stabby, rage-filled book that still has a spark of hope within a tale of loss and death and abuse.

The best way I can describe this book is continually wanting to hug and protect Isabel (her parents a right piece of work), while knowing she would absolutely stab you for it – and also hoping the people who have hurt her (and are hurting her) will get their just desserts.

It is a game of cat and mouse with lots of different parties, all wanting to control Isabel in different ways. The methods vary from underhand to blunt force, but are all pretty awful. But there are nice people trying to help and befriend Isabel. It’s just that she’s pretty suspicious and insular (is that any surprise?) so there’s a nice emotional throughline of her gradually letting herself open up to them.

This is a YA that definitely delivers on the darkness and cost promised by the blurb. No one is safe. It’s not just Isabel who’s in the line of fire, but the whole cast. Be prepared for some “oh no, that did not just happen!” moments (and it totally did happen – no unbelievable sleights of hand here.)Also, if you like linguistic nerdery, the language of the guilds is Esperanto, and there’s a lot in there – both spoken and as chapter headings. There’s plenty of opportunity to try and figure out the grammar (and also the root words that lead to the different pieces of vocabulary.)

While the book itself wraps up nicely, with the major plot points all tied up and the main villains dealt with, there are certainly elements left loose – which is just as well as there’s another book coming. It’s a satisfying read (rather than having a cliffhanger that sometimes feels like a lot is unresolved), but I’m glad there’s going to be more.

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