Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.
Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever – casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.
Man(iyadoc), what a journey.
King of Assassins is the conclusion to R.J. Barker’s wonderful Wounded Kingdom trilogy. Set around fifteen years after the events of Blood of Assassins, King of Assassins follows our hero Girton Clubfoot at the center of the subterfuge that surrounds his best friend, King Rufra ap Vthyr. Rufra is headed to the High King’s court at Ceadoc. With the High King himself recently deceased, Rufra aims to make a play for the throne with Girton protecting his back from blades that lie in the darkness.
Ceadoc is a gloomy capital with people who are just as twisted and gray as the Tired Lands itself. Upon his arrival in Ceadoc, Girton discovers that Rufra isn’t the only King vying for the throne. Other lords and ladies have arrived from throughout the country, bringing with them their own assassins, mysteries, and plots. The Boar-Lord also shows his face in Ceadoc, and his story with Boros is all kinds of compelling.
Like other Wounded Kingdom books, this book features interludes and flashbacks, but this time they are Merela’s flashbacks. I loved hearing more of her story since she reveals so little in person to Girton. Her history with Adran was enjoyable, other parts less so (the term “gut-wrenching” comes to mind).
King of Assassins is a return to the feeling of Age of Assassins – Girton is level-headed (usually), there aren’t as many changes in scenery or huge battles, and there is much more of the backstabbing and bloody spurts of action that result when you put hundreds of people who hate each other in a single castle. The intrigue is strong in King of Assassins, which I enjoyed. Personally the Girton in Blood of Assassins was more fun to read, but “Old Girton” still had several moments where he surprised me. Especially on that last page.
I think in some ways I expected some foreshadowing from Age of Assassins to play out differently in King of Assassins, especially with the history of how the Tired Lands came to be. But R.J. Barker does a wonderful job of wrapping up a compelling trilogy, often in unexpected ways. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed reading Girton, an absolutely unique and compelling character from beginning to the very end.