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Description From Goodreads:
The Kingdom of Sieunes is rife with taverns, dirty streets, and clay pipe smoking citizens all toiling to feed their families and keep themselves in something little better than rags. With a foiled revolution just ten years prior still burning in the hearts of many, the royals enlist the aid of assassins to keep things in order. The townsfolk entertain themselves by dreaming of better times to come and regaling in stories of the undead said to walk the graveyards at night… and of Cameo the killer with corpse-like eyes…

Scarred and jaded Cameo is one of the most effective assassins in the employ of the Association, moving from one mission to the next as long as the alcohol keeps flowing. Her acceptance of the murder-for-hire lifestyle is thrown into doubt when she meets a local highwayman with a penchant for fine clothes and women, and then she begins to think about breaking with the company but no one ever breaks with the Association under good terms.

CAMEO THE ASSASSIN, by Dawn McCullough-White
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: *** 3 Stars
The characters drew me into CAMEO THE ASSASSIN, and though I hated the ending, the novel was an entertaining read, and a nice break from physical perfection and honorable heroes.

Characters: **** 4 Stars
It was nice for once to have characters who aren’t physically perfect, or even very desirable. The author did a great job making me feel connected to these imperfect people and able to relate to their foibles.

Cameo is a coldly compassionate assassin, with dead gray eyes to match. She has a fairy tale monster reputation for living in graveyards and killing children who don’t go to bed, but she doesn’t kill indiscriminately…well, unless she’s paid to do so.  When she’s assigned to kill Black Opal, a notorious highwayman, she finds she can’t go through with it, and ends up alienating herself from the Association she works for in order to keep him alive. She’s an interesting mix of self-loathing, empathy, loneliness, warrior, and friend.

Black Opal, the apparent love interest, is a bit of an enigma. A dandy with a passion for fine coats and makeup, he is described both as pock-marked and handsome, and he has only one eye. While he is a womanizer, constantly picking up on ladies and whores alike, he has a soft spot for Cameo and becomes incredibly jealous any time she takes any interest, platonic or not, in another man.

Secondary characters include Bel (Opal’s partner in crime), Kyrian (a young acolyte who’s more than what he appears), and Wick (the leader of the Association and a witch capable of convincing everyone but Cameo that she’s a beautiful young temptress rather than an ugly old woman who smokes too much). Overall, a very well-rounded cast.

Plot: ** 2 Stars
The plot wasn’t terrible, but the ending killed it, no pun intended. There was a reasonably strong story arc with a good balance of action sequences and character development. However, it sometimes felt like the author was trying to build suspense by not telling the reader something that the character knows. For example, Cameo is given a task by her Master, but we’re not told what that task is until she’s practically done achieving it. Even given that, I probably wouldn’t have given the plot two stars, except that there was no ending. The book ends seconds after the climax, literally ending with an ellipsis and the word “End”. There are several plot points left open and no emotional release. I know the story continues in a trilogy, but each book should still be a complete novel.

Setting: ** 2 Stars
The story is set primarily on the road out of Lockenwood, in a quasi-eighteenth century world, but the characters just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…you get the idea. The description is limited, even when they visit taverns or inns along the way. I really wanted more sensory detail throughout the novel.

Romance: ** 2 Stars
Cameo and Black Opal are an odd pair. Arguably, neither is the ideal of beauty, and yet they are attracted to each other from the beginning. That being said, Opal is more concerned about his makeup and being desirable to everyone than he is about wooing Cameo (not that she would be easily wooed, but that’s beside the point). Meanwhile, Cameo is stuck in a loop of self-pity and can’t see that Opal likes her, despite his obvious jealousy when she’s around other men. Though they help each other through some rather horrific and violent events, they don’t actually come together in a romantic way until the last couple of pages.

Genre – Dark Adventure Fantasy: **** 4 Stars
CAMEO THE ASSASSIN is a pretty good representation of a Dark Fantasy novel, despite its flaws. There’s blood and violence, undead creatures, and two different graveyards. While I abhorred the ending of this first book, I imagine that the entire trilogy is probably a pretty decent story, and I may even give the second book, CAMEO AND THE HIGHWAYMAN, a chance.

Note: This review was requested by the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.

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