Genre: Fantasy – Mystery
Paperback: 408 pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Orbit & Hachette Audio for my review copy of the audiobook.
Age of Assassins has an interesting mystery/thriller vibe with an endearing lead character in Girton Clubfoot. Low-fantasy aspects are a backdrop to the central story: a queen is using Girton and his master, Merela Karn, to find a hidden assassin in her court. With danger at every turn and knives hidden in the darkness, can the world’s most dangerous assassin and her slave-boy assassin apprentice root out a killer before they are killed themselves?
R.J. Barker’s writing is extremely well-executed, especially for a debut! I loved the interspersed “This is a dream” sequences that occur when Girton goes to sleep (and when he’s rendered unconscious). The change in tone during those scenes really made them more vivid and gave some much-needed backstory to how Girton Clubfoot came from crippled slave boy to dangerous assassin. The jump rope scene… I was almost in tears.
The interaction between Girton and his Master was perhaps my favorite part of this book. They trust each other completely. The amount of love that Merela has for Girton is evident in the way that she fosters his development as an assassin and as a person.
I liked this book a lot, but it did leave me wanting more. Everything wraps up just fine and is okay to read as a standalone, but I have a lot of questions about some of the lore of the Tired Lands, Merela’s past, and that huge foreshadowing moment at the very end of the story. I suppose that is the point, since this is book one of a trilogy.
Age of Assassins is a tremendous debut. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of The Wounded Kingdom trilogy!
~~~Beware, all ye who enter here: Saucy Spoiler Section below. Text is white, highlight it to read.~~~
Did anyone else think that the entire “root out the assassin” plot was contrived by Merela as a rite of passage for Girton ? I say this because throughout the entire book, Merela seems like she’s leading Girton to make assessments about evidence they’ve obtained and use deductive reasoning to figure out who the hidden assassin was. If she’s the best assassin in the world, couldn’t she figure this out herself? Merela was often doing secret things while Girton was in training, so it wasn’t beyond reasoning that she was busy setting up some of these situations for Girton to figure out.
Of course, this would mean that Merela and Queen Adran had an arrangement beforehand, since they were shoehorned into this plot by being caught in the first place. I thought perhaps Barker was giving us hints to some kind of hidden relationship between Adran and Merela – maybe they used to work as assassins together, or something of that nature. Anyway, I went through the whole story with this assumption and was only proven wrong at the very end!
Also, odds that Girton is a full-blown sorcerer by the end of this series? Is 100% too high?
Review by Griffin