Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But his latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.
In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.
4.5 stars. This is a story of a boy becoming a man. A story of broken promises, lies, and betrayal. A story of a mother and a son, though not in the conventional way. A story of people both loyal and false. A fantasy who dunnit (who’s gonna do it?) with assassins to boot. I absolutely loved it.
It is so refreshing to find a story that is so unique and compelling. From the main character, to the magic system, to the story itself, I found myself drawn in from the very beginning.
The biggest strength of Age of Assassins was its character work. There were no characters that felt flat or cartoon-ish. Each character had believable motives, a distinct personality, and depth that went beyond their actions. In my opinion this was quite the feat as this is a single POV novel.
We follow Girton Club Foot for the entirety of the book besides the prologue. Girton is the 15 year old assassin apprentice to the best assassin in the land, Merela Karn. Girton may be good at killing, but he still has the heart and emotional maturity of a child. I loved this in that we got away from the cold, emotionless assassin trope that is so prevalent in “assassin fantasy.” The result was a story with much more heart and humor than I typically expect from a novel filled with assassins. Girton was a compelling main character to follow and his character growth throughout the story was both engaging and believable.
R.J. Barker knows how to write a fight scene. The action sequences, from the training yards to unexpected attacks from nowhere were exquisitely described. At times, I felt like I was there watching the fights in person.
My favorite part of Age of Assassins was the mystery aspect. Throughout the entire novel Girton and his master are trying to find out who is trying to kill the prince. In my reading experience, this was a wholly original idea in the fantasy genre and I was hooked from the very beginning. The tension from the constant assassination threat kept up throughout most of the story so our protagonists never felt safe. Their lives were always in danger and not only from the possibility of other assassins, but also the people around them vying for power.
Although we don’t get a ton of information about the magic system I still really enjoyed it. The magic of this world is tied into the health of the world and its inhabitants. There is a cost to using this magic to the sorcerer, to the land, and to its people. I liked that a lot and am excited to explore that more in the next two books.
Age of Assassins is a character driven, gripping, tension filled story. If you haven’t picked it up I urge you to do so. If you want something unique and refreshing, this is it.