Review – ‘Requiem For Immortals’ by Lee Winter

Title:  Requiem For Immortals
Author: Lee Winter
Genre:  LGBT, Mystery/Thriller, Romance
Date of Publication: 3rd August, 2016
Page Count: 284 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Professional cellist Natalya Tsvetnenko moves seamlessly among the elite where she fills the souls of symphony patrons with beauty even as she takes the lives of the corrupt of Australia’s ruthless underworld. The cold, exacting assassin is hired to kill a woman who seems so innocent that Natalya can’t understand why anyone would want her dead. As she gets to know her target, she can’t work out why she even cares.

Length: 80,000 words
Themes: assassin · Australia · awakening · cellist · crime · homicide · lesbian · lesbian thriller · Melbourne · murder · music · police

I really enjoyed this one! I recognize that it has its flaws, but the intriguing characters and unpredictable plot hooked me in and engendered so much goodwill, I couldn’t help but overlook any weaknesses. This is definitely a case of ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, but in my case, assassins falling in love with their marks is like catnip, I loooove that trope and this story pulled it off quite well, imo! 😀

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Let’s start off with the few criticisms I had – first of all, we begin in Natalya’s head and are privy to her inner musings, which are all variations on ‘I am infinitely superior to the rest of the human race’, ‘I am above all these mere mortals and they are not fit to lick my shoes’, etc. etc. That grew old fast – it’s funny, but I didn’t mind her killing people as much as I rolled my eyes at her OTT disdain for people so much as breathing in her vicinity. (side note: this is where movie adaptations succeed in my view because characters are more bearable when you don’t read every snobbish or petty thought that goes through their head)

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However, what I appreciated was that she maintained her cold, arrogant persona throughout the entire book. None of this ‘melting the ice queen’ nonsense where the reserved, haughty female character has to soften and become more warm and affable. That always frustrates me when we have six seasons of House where the titular lead is a sardonic grouchy asshat and five seasons of Walter White being a sinister abusive criminal mastermind, yet women aren’t allowed to be anti-heroes in a similar vein. Well, Natalya aka the sociopathic assassin Requiem is all that in spades and more! She’s so badass, and the karmic manner in which she dispatches her victims had me cackling. I pictured her as Natasha Romanov from The Avengers, what with the similar name and cool calm emotionless demeanor (plus the whole assassin thing, y’know, seemed the obvious comparison).

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Allison Ryan is her hapless target – she leads an insipid and boring life, completely crushed under her emotionally abusive mother’s reign of domestic tyranny.Which brings  me to my other main criticism; her mother was so cartoonishly horrible, it defied belief that Allison would give up her beloved girlfriend and leave her life behind to go home to look after a parent that mistreated her to that degree. Not only that, but other characters in the story also dumped on Allison relentlessly, threatening and bullying her throughout – the persecution she suffered was way over the top and I feel that it needed a lighter hand in depicting this more subtly would’ve been beneficial. I don’t want to victim-blame, as I do recognize that people in real life struggle to escape the cycle of abuse, but it didn’t seem realistic that Allison was faced with this constant barrage of abuse and still bent over backwards to please everyone in her life. Even if she was too down-trodden to defend herself, we should still have seen some resentment and awareness of how unfair this was, but she was unbelievably patient and saintly!

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Despite my issues above, the burgeoning relationship between Allison and Natalya completely stole my heart – I adored their interactions so much that I forgave everything else. Allison is the last person you’d suspect would get under Natalya’s skin and yet…it completely made sense. The author really sold what it was about this ‘mouse’ that reluctantly intrigued Natalya – in some of the other books I’ve read with this trope, the only reason the assassin spares their mark is the tedious undeniable sexual attraction they have, which always irritates me because that’s such a lame excuse for a professional assassin to renege on a job. But Allison manages to surprise Natalya, which intrigues her because she’d been conducting surveillance for two weeks and thought she’d pigeon-holed Allison and knew everything about her, so for this unassuming target to demonstrate some character growth and unexpected depths, of course that would arrest Natalya’s attention. Partly professional pride, wondering what else she’s missed, and partly reluctant personal interest. 😉

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It’s interesting just how well-matched these characters are, even though they’re complete opposites, but they bring out hidden qualities in each other – Natalya, with her cutting brand of tough love, encourages Allison to put herself first instead of doing what’s best for those around her. And Allison, with her resilience and emotional intelligence, chips away at Natalya’s walls and has her examine whether she really is an island unto herself or whether there could be room for love in her life.

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I know I’ve been focusing a lot on the romance angle, because that’s what hooked me in and why I kept reading (DO THESE TWO IDIOTS END UP TOGETHER OR NOT?! I honestly had no idea whether there would be a happily-ever-after or not), but the story has so much more to offer. There is a compelling mystery, there’s the messy gangland politics Natalya navigates as Requiem as well as the assassinations she undertakes, there’s a focus on Natalya’s day job as a professional cellist (instead of paying lip service to her carer, this is a fully-fleshed aspect of her character) and the individual character arcs that Natalya and Allison explore apart from each other.

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I loved how many twists and turns this story took, it was never predictable! And there was a moment halfway through that left me completely gobsmacked, I literally had to put my phone down and stare at the wall to process the new development! The author has a whole slew of tricks up their sleeve and had me at their mercy the whole way through, eager to read more. The relationship between the main characters was wonderfully complex, not just based on typical physical attraction, and that’s exactly what I love to read – a carefully developed, organic and well-paced romance that is consistent with their personalities. I found this to be a very thrilling and satisfying reading experience! ❤

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Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Ylva Publishing  via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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