Innocent by day, killer by night: a dark, twisting thriller about a teen assassin’s attempt to live a normal life.
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?
From Finn Longman, an exhilarating new voice in YA fiction, comes an addictive new blockbuster series for fans of global phenomena The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Killing Eve and The Hunger Games.
Finn Longman is a queer disabled writer and medievalist, currently based in Cambridge. By day, they're a library assistant; by night, they kill (fictional) people in their YA and Adult novels. With a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and an MA in Early and Medieval Irish, they spend the rest of their time having extremely niche opinions on the internet.
This dark and gritty futuristic YA novel had an intriguing premise with a slow build up but not enough explanation of the world this story takes place in. ACE/ARO assassin, Isobel, has escaped her abusive parents and the murderous guild that has turned her into a lethal weapon. She craves a normal life but her bloody past just won't let her go. When she makes a fateful error she is thrust into a new battle for survival against a deadly enemy. It might have been mentioned in the story and I missed it, but I only know Isobel was ACE/ARO from the own-voice author's notes at the end which, by the way, were well worth the read as it gave me some more context for the story. I'd recommend reading them beforehand. From memory there are no spoilers. A darkly violent but entertaining YA thriller.
Obviously, I think this book is great, because I wrote it, and it took years. I love Isabel Ryans, my screwed-up stabby murder daughter, who is essentially the human equivalent of a roomba with knives taped to it, and I hope you will too! You may also enjoy this book if you are interested in murder, intense ride-or-die friendships, ace protagonists, colourful solar-powered dystopian walled cities, street art, and/or the use and misuse of Esperanto.
It's a pretty dark book, though, so I thought it would be useful to provide some content warnings, in order that you know what you're getting into.
Content Warnings (no actual spoilers, but hidden behind a spoiler so you can choose to read them or not)
I'm happy to provide more details or warnings to those who need them, so please ask if you have any questions or concerns <3
Un roman HYYYYPER addictif que j'ai pris beaucoup de plaisir à découvrir. C'est très sombre, mais très original et vraiment bien mené par l'auteurice. J'ai beaucoup aimé la manière dont les personnages sont construits et exploités et j'ai été emportée par l'intrigue même s'il y a moins d'action en mode baston que ce à quoi à je m'attendais vu le résumé. Une très belle découverte : je pensais que c'était un tome unique, mais maintenant, je vais attendre la suite avec impatience !
A fast paced, murderous thriller following an ace-aro teen assassin with a chronic illness as she attempts to live a life away from her abusive parents and the oppressive life of murder guilds.
A dark and gritty exploration of trauma, PTSD, abuse (parental, medical, physical and mental) and the pains it takes to get help with a chronic illness, Finn Longman brilliantly places very contemporary issues within this dystopian setting.
This works brilliantly as both a standalone and the start of a series and I look forward to seeing where Finn takes this story in future books.
There was so many characters that deserved so much better in this book. I can’t even explain how heartbroken as the end I was when it came to Isabel and Emma.
Even though Isabel is known to be this deadly secret assassin and she only lets select people know about it for their own safety. Mortimer and Daragh deserve the absolute world because they knew exactly who and what she thought she was and they supported her through everything reminding her she deserved the chance at humanity she craved and I will never stress this enough but I absolutely LOVED their characters. Emma oh my god I can’t even she was able to read the closed off part of Isabel and she had such an impact on her. I don’t even want to think about what is going to happen next cause I’m absolutely heartbroken.
What an amazing debut novel. I love dystopian type fiction and this thriller nails it.
A story of abuse, chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety and murder may not be to everyone's taste but it is told perfectly, it twists and turns so much I never see what's coming next, and for me, who 99% of the time can guess where a book is heading, I had no clue. I had so many "wtf just happened?!" moments, I lost count of how many times I had to go back to make sure I'd read it right.
Knowing Finn had coeliac before starting to read, and having it myself, I knew where the inspiration for the poison came from, a substance that makes your body attack its only immune system is exactly how gluten attacks a coeliac. A brilliant twist on a poison.
Warning though, don't get to attached to any characters...you just never know if they are what they appear.
Can't wait for the next one!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
An absolute masterpiece of a YA thriller: a darkly compelling page turner that I read in a day. But it’s also so much more than that, dealing deftly with contemporary issues and written with a powerful voice.
Although this is far from my usual choice of reading I was hooked from the first pages. Finn's writing is exquisite, and their storytelling ability no less than their skill with words. This is an easy crossover book into adult fiction, and will appeal to a broad range of readers.
I was quickly invested in Isabel's world, and my heart ached for her throughout the book. I kind of wish Finn had thrown a little more happiness at her, but I guess that wouldn't have made such a good book.
Isabel is caught up in a dystopian world of rival factions, killing, and revenge, but ultimately her story is one of being backed into impossible corners, and being let down by those who should look after her. The story artfully explores themes of child abuse (physical and mental, more than sexual), family loyalty, illness, lonlieness, and anger.
Isabel has so many barriers up around herself that even when friendship is offered to her, by Nick and then by the lovely Emma (another character who is so well-portrayed and tugged at my heartstrings), Isabel is skeptical and distrusting. Meanwhile, the past she is running from catches up with her when she kills someone who harasses her. Scared, sick, alone, she has no choice but to open up and seek help, but this only pulls her new friends into her world of danger. The novel is quite fast-paced, but also slow enough to build the world and characters extremely well. It's quite a rollercoaster as Isabel seeks the lines between family, friendship, life, death, trust, distrust, and when these overlap, experiences fresh heartache and destruction. So many times through the book I wanted to reach into its pages and give Isabel a hug, tell her she's safe.
I found myself feeling slightly sad as I finished this book - not just for Isabel and her pain and loss, but also because I could have happily stayed lost in Finn's writing for much longer. I look forward to reading more of their books, and highly recommend this one to older teenagers and adults everywhere, especially those who have their own experiences of pain and illness. I also found the commentary on society poignant and slightly unnerving - the human experimenting, the world of factions and fighting, seems all too possible in our current world, and, in the footsteps of such books as 1984, this book felt a little too close to 'probable future if not already happening' to be entirely comfortable. It's a thought-provoking book with messages and characters that will linger.
When I read the author's note, the pain and anguish of the story became more understandable, and to revisit the story with that author's explanation of their own battle with chronic illness in mind put a slightly different slant on how I related to Isabel's story.
I did find myself questioning the believability of a 17-year-old renting a flat by herself, but, weirdly, this was the only part of the story that I didn't quite buy into! Teenage Assassin, human experimenting, etc, I had no problems buying into at all!
Congratulations, Finn Longman, on an incredible debut novel.
This was *so good*. The Butterfly Assassin by Finn Longman is an upcoming super compelling YA thriller that follows Isabel, a teenage ex-assassin, who escapes the Guild she was raised in and her corrupt parents, only to find that her escape wasn't as easy as she hoped. Trained & traumatised by a secret juvenile assassin programme, Isabel runs away in search of normal, but old habits die hard and soon her new identity is blown, drawing the attention of two guilds. Set in the enclave town of Espera where warring Guilds are the seedy backdrop of everyday life, this novel interrogates warfare, murder, biological weaponry and complicity amongst many things. One aspect that really spoke to me was Isabel's experience with pain - the trauma of former injuries and a new illness, how she copes or doesn't cope. The way that you learn to keep going and fight through despite your body screeching at you. And so it's really quite a pacifist novel with a strong core of disability at its heart, while also taking the reader on an exciting ride through Isabel's desperate attempts to have a new life of her own. This is a furious yet hopeful howl of a book, and I am desperate to find out what happens next. It's out on the 26th of May and I think fans of The Girls I've Been will particularly love this.
This literally beats all the other YA novels I read, regardless of genre. Lots of YA novels I read includes a romantic subplot which ok sometimes I do find myself kicking my feet at but honestly I have been hoping for a story that does not include one and The Butterfly Assassin just nails the coffin. Also as a psychology student (even though my classes haven't covered that part yet..), I would say the psychological aspects are very accurate and I could understand the decisions made by Isabel cuz at first I lowkey did not understand her (ok I am just privileged..) but I soon grew empathetic and I am like really fond of her now and I just want to like, choke every single person that harmed her. OH OH and hello?? Morally grey characters?? Ok maybe I am putting the label wrongly but imo it feels right to label some of the character morally grey even though some do end up leaning more towards the good side but I love me some morally grey characters because who doesn't like discussing morals.
Overall I would highly recommend it to any of my friends or people who ask me which YA novels to read, I am very much excited and highly anticipating the next two releases!!
Also yes I did finish it in an entire day cuz I am in quarantine cuz I returned from school lol.
was lucky enough to win a give away for this book and I got an advanced copy and!! it was amazing!!! First of all the characters get to say "fuck" which I think is a bonus that should be highlighted. I also really enjoyed the use of languages and Esperanto through the whole book - as a language nerd, it was just made for me. The worldbuilding - a closed city ruled by assassin guilds - is well-crafted and really pulled me in and made me want to discover more of the world. Isabel is also an amazing protagonist to root for. She just goes through SO MUCH and you just want her to be happy. It's also a book that isn't afraid to destroy you emotionally - but not with a big unpredictable twist, more like something you can SEE coming and just makes sense but is still heartwrenching. An amazing read overall, really can't wait for it to come out officially!
The book absolutely destroyed me - and I loved it for that (probably obvious from the five stars I gave it). A raw, visceral and angry portrayal of a traumatised teenager trying her best to escape an abusive system, The Butterfly Assassin is NOT one of those 'sexy assassin takes out the baddies" adventures that runs on adrenaline highs and not thinking too much about consequences.
Don't get me wrong, this story is absolutely a fast-paced, twisty and thrilling joy-ride through colourful dystopia packed with brilliantly drawn characters. But it's also a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking yet ultimately hopeful exploration of child abuse, mental health, loneliness anger and (most importantly) friendship, that will certainly leave you reeling at times - but also makes you want to pour everyone involved a big mug of hot cocoa, wrap them in a blanket and tell them it will all be okay ... even if maybe it won't, for all of them.
Longman's world-building is impeccable - the city of Espera is simultaneously familiar and dystopian, with things like school and a morning paper-rounds existing side-by-side with brutal assassin's guild, colourful underground rebellions and medical experiments which sit just outside the realms of possibility right now (I hope) without ever stretching the credibility of the world Longman has created for their characters.
And speaking of characters, that's where the story really sings. In less capable hands, Isabel Ryans - who makes a lot of bad choices (like trying to settle into a new life and then immediately killing someone in chapter 1) because those are the only type of choices she has - could come off unsympathetic, unlikeable or potentially plain evil. But Longman draws us deep into the head and heart of this messed-up, abused teenager - highlighting Isabel's fear, loneliness, guilt and pain along with her almost giddy nervous excitement as she makes her first real friend (the gloriously drawn Emma, who steps in while Isabel is having a panic attack - and refuses to be pushed away after).
Where the violence, cruelty and betrayal in Isabel's life hit hard throughout the book, the threads of kindness, loyalty and friendship push back - giving Isabel something to fight for (and live for) even when things seem at their bleakest.
If I'm honest, I'm still recovering from the twisty ending - but I'm also desperate for more. The Butterfly Assassin is the sort of book that only gets better the longer it sits in your heart - and no doubt gets hits harder & stronger with every re-read.
An absolutely stunning debut! Prepare your heart, then check it out
Waouh ! J’ai vraiment kiffé ce roman ! Pour dire, c’est presque un coup de cœur ! Alors peut-être que j’ai trouvé le début un peu longuet, le temps que l’intrigue se mette en place et que nous comprenions mieux les ambitions de l’héroïne, Isabel, mais la suite… Waouh ! C’est bien simple, j’ai eu du mal à lâcher le roman avant sa toute fin !
C’est super prenant et bien ficelé et surtout, j’ai aimé ce que j’ai lu entre les lignes.
Dans un monde fictif où règnent plusieurs guildes composées d’assassins surentrainés, Isabel décide de fuir ce qu’elle était et ses parents pour devenir une simple civile. Par certains côtés, cette histoire, son ambiance et ce qu’elle véhicule m’a rappelé V pour Vendetta. Sans doute à cause de ce côté révolutionnaire où certains personnages (comme Mortimer, le prof de menuiserie, ou encore Leo le frère d’Emma) tentent de s’opposer à la suprématie des guildes.
Isabel qui en a échappé tente de se reconstruire. D’oublier son passé de tueuse et les horreurs que ses parents ont commis sur elle. La maltraitance d’enfant est mise en avant par de subtiles métaphores ; Isabel est brisée. Seulement, enfin au début du roman, elle ne sait pas encore à quel point.
Malgré les horreurs qui l’attendent, j’ai été happée par le récit. C’est très sombre, c’est noir et ce n’est pas beau du tout, mais ça reste hyper addictif. Parce qu’on a envie de savoir ce qui va lui arriver. Tout comme les amitiés qu’elle va réussir à construire malgré ce qu’elle est. Emma, la meilleure amie d’Isabel, est un bon personnage, le genre altruiste qui place l’amitié plus haut que le reste.
Entre jeu de pouvoir, coup bas, etc. Isabel va vite réaliser qu’on ne fuit pas aussi facilement. C’est une héroïne complètement détruite qui essaie malgré tout d’entrevoir un peu d’espoir dans ce monde sans pitié régi par des monstres qui n’hésite pas à enrôler même des enfants. La plume de l’auteur.ice est géniale, prenante ! Très imagée aussi. L’action est présente et plus on avance et plus la tension devient insoutenable, et ce, jusqu’à la toute fin.
J’ai vraiment adoré ce roman et je suis très curieuse de découvrir la suite, car j’ai cru comprendre qu’il y aurait un tome 2. Cependant, ce roman peut se suffire à lui-même.
J'ai vraiment beaucoup aimé ce livre, qui, même si dans le même registre que ce que je lis habituellement, changeait assez. L'atmosphère qu'il dégageait, déjà. Elle était vraiment envoutante, captivante, mystérieuse. Elle me faisait beaucoup penser à celles de six of crows et de killing november. La touche d'intrigue politique en plus était vraiment parfaite. Le contexte, le passé du personnage... tout venait progressivement, très lentement, laissant des points noirs dans nos connaissance et rendant l'histoire vraiment addictive. Addictive. C'est vraiment le mot qui peut caractériser ma lecture. Les personnages sont vraiment très attachants, et j'en ai beaucoup apprécié. Ils sont tous vraiment bien construits, avec des passés sombres. Isabel est une anti-héros parfaite. J'avais envie de la secouer certaines fois, j'étais vraiment à fond dans le livre. Et le personnage de Darragh. Je le kiffe. Il est si bien façonné, si attachant, si gentil... L'idée de l'espéranto dans le roman (je n'en dis pas plus) est juste admirable. La réalisation aussi, d'ailleurs. Car ça aurait pu devenir lourd. Les sentiments ont été magistralement bien retranscrits, et l'écriture est dingue. La tension et l'angoisse sont présentes dans tout le livre, et aussi bizarre que cela puisse paraître, je parvenais à m'imaginer comme jamais cela ne me l'avait fait ce que ressentait Isabel : quand elle pleurait, ses pleurs résonnaient dans ma tête, quand elle avait mal, j'avais mal. Certaines fois, j'aurais juste peut-être aimé que ce soit écrit à la première personne, mais finalement, je ne faisais même plus la différence tellement c'était bien écrit. L'histoire paraît basique mais est pourtant très complexe et je n'arrivais plus à m'arrêter. Et la fin... elle m'a littéralement retournée, remuée. Elle est sans bienséance, sans filtre, franche, et c'est un gros point positif. Elle aurait pas pu être mieux, et même s'il y a une suite, elle se suffit. Et la couverture... c'est magnifique !
This book was fire! But the good kind. A whirlwind of suspense, tension and assassin drama. I was on tenterhooks for the entire time and with the main storyline, it made for a very intense follow along and wow, I did not foresee what the plot of this book would be like but I loved it.
It was not what I was expecting but this was even better than the idea I had in my head of what this was going to be like. It by far surpassed my expectations and was so much more than I thought it would be.
It was dark, had a real ‘against the clock’ impending doom feel to it which had you on the edge of your seat, tearing through the pages to see what would happen. Once I’d gotten to grips with the gangs and the rivalries and the set up to the story, it was easy to follow and such a thrilling read.
It was such a pain to rip myself away from this book as I just needed to know how it was going to end. Certainly very entertaining although I was dissatisfied with a few of the events and how certain things unfolded. A bit too much injustice, some things felt a little rushed and too easy and occasionally the main character got a little repetitive but I did really enjoy reading it and I’m excited to see more from this author and where the story with Isobel is headed.
Thank you to the publishers and author via NetGalley for this book in return for my honest thoughts and review.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
To be honest, I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would. I'm not a huge thriller fan. I don't usually seek the genre out but for some reason, I was drawn to this book and decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did because this book was just the dark and gritty YA book I was looking for.
The book follows Isabel Ryans, a minor who wants nothing more than to escape the secret assassin program she was born into and live a normal life. Traumatised by her parents, one a high-ranking chemical weapons specialist and the other a renowned assassin, Isabel flees and adopts a new name. However, Comma is far from letting her go and we see Isabel's struggle with accepting and letting go of her dark past. She questions if she can exist outside of her previous life and be normal or if assassin was all that she could be.
This book is very much underrated. I really enjoyed myself even though it took me a while to get used to the writing style. Isabel was quite reserved and introverted however you could tell that she dreamed of living the typical teenage existence of making friends, going to school and planning out a future. I felt like the author portrayed this yearning for more really well and also showcased trauma and mental health in a way that felt realistic and authentic. I enjoyed Isabel's character a lot and think she deserves all the hugs in the world.
It wasn't just Isabel's character I loved, it was all the side characters too. Emma was absolutely gorgeous and I wanted her and Isabel to explore their connection a little more. Is it bad for me to say I was absolutely shipping the two together? When that ending came it honestly shattered me. No spoilers but Emma 100% deserved better. I also felt like Nick deserved better. He just wanted to be there for Isabel and then... well... I won't spoil that one.
I am so excited to read the second book. While I was reading the first, I actually requested book two from the library. I hope Isabel can escape her parents and live the life she always dreamed of. This is a book and a series I would strongly recommend for those looking for asexual rep and a really solid YA thriller.
Set in a fictional, closed city immersed in guild rule, readers follow Isabel - now known as ‘Bella�� - a child trained to be a deadly assassin since the day she could walk, after her escape from the bloodshed life she knew.
It was such a brilliant, immersive read - it took me two hours, I don’t think I looked up once. Whilst the concept of a child killer, one that is trained so elitely, may seem far fetched - Longman explains this brilliantly - Isabel is the product, and the greatest victory, of the guilds most controversial training program yet, one which tests on minors.
And her father is its founder.
It deals with important themes so brilliantly - with harrowing explorations of PTSD, familial abandonment, unlikely but unconditional friendship, and, ultimately, the tale of someone who has lived the most unusual of lives trying to settle in her adolescence. It’s coming of age with a significant twist.
Atmospheric and visceral. The Butterfly Assassin is a really interesting look at trauma while also being a gripping tale of teen assassins and murder guilds. Beautifully written and with an engaging voice, you will learn the exquisite pain of wanting your favourites to be ok while knowing they're going to suffer so much more before this is all done.
ADORE THIS BOOK. everyone should read it. I came across a signed copy by accident in Gay's The Word in London and bought it based on the "Keep it stabby, keep it ace" written in the cover by the author, but I didn't know I was about to have my emotions fucked with like that. The PTSD rep? Yes. As someone with PTSD it was very accurate and very well played in the story, and I felt like everything happened for a reason. I cannot wait for the rest of the trilogy, this is one of my favourite books ever. Also AroAce rep makes my aroace baby heart sing. Read this book.
I thought this was great! Very YA, but with some uniquely interesting and emotional beats as well. I loved the ending, it felt conclusive and cathartic. The world feels lived in and nihilistic, and the action is attention-grabbing. Will definitely read the sequel.
(3.5 rounded up) I like this book much more than expected - perhaps because I listened to the audiobook (on 2.5 speed) while driving a long distance and though the narrator's voice was excellent. There was some over-the-top YA-ness (expected) and a few predictable "surprises" (which I wish would have been reworked into something more plausible to strengthen the story). I found the whole guild/city/suburbs/world-building somewhat vague, and the main character's thoughts about herself and her life too repetitive.