Published: August 1, 2017
Series: The Wounded Kingdom #1
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
TO CATCH AN ASSASSIN, USE AN ASSASSIN . . .
Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their 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 land.
Books about assassins are awesome. That could literally be a one-line review, but I suppose I won’t be lazy and I’ll go into more detail. Orbit has been rolling out a phenomenal array of books this year and the fantasy debuts I’ve read have been quality reads, including Age of Assassins.
Age of Assassins is the story of the assassin Girton Club-foot, which is an accurately descriptive moniker as he does have a club-foot. The story is told by an older Girton, largely focused on the events unfolding in the city of Maniyadoc when he was about fifteen, with a few flashbacks from prior years thrown in for added detail. Girton and his master Merela Karn are captured on a job and brought before Queen Adran who blackmails the duo into protecting her son from an assassin. As the saying goes, who better to stop an assassin than another assassin? Adran’s son turns out to be a power crazed little maggot that isn’t worth protecting, so it’s probably a good thing she had serious leverage otherwise Girton or Merela would have let him have an ‘accident’ about 45 minutes after taking the job. Girton is charged with playing the son of the noble ap Gwynr family and playing the part of a squire in training. His squire training introduces him to a host of boys around his age who are more cliquey than your average high school girls though for good reason. One group has thrown their support behind the loathsome Aydor ap Mennix and the other has decided to support Tomas ap Dhyrrin, who some claim is the rightful heir. This, plus about a dozen other things combined, means that literally anyone could be the assassin.
This book is a nice introduction to the very likable (if occasionally whiney) Girton, his master, and a cast of characters that I think will play significant roles in upcoming books. I liked that there was some variety between the characters – some were likable, others not so much. Some kind, cruel, suspicious, honest, elderly, sickly, etc. Not everyone was a hardened warrior and they had realistic flaws because this isn’t an epic fantasy. No, it’s a bit more down to earth than that. I also liked the air of mystery here… I spent the entire book wondering who the assassin was and when it was finally revealed, I realized I had been SO WRONG the whole time!! That was a great surprise and I all but cackled with sinister delight.
Age of Assassins was a pretty great debut, but it isn’t without its flaws. First of all, I would have liked some more in depth world building and better descriptions of certain things. I was particularly enamored with the mounts (not horses!), with their antlers, tusks, toed feet, and long lives, but there was little description of them beyond the most basic characteristics. The magery and the ‘soured’ lands were also lacking in description for something that played such a profound role in shaping the world and characters. Overall, I really liked the book and would definitely recommend the audio version for its solid narration. I can’t wait to see what the sequels have in store for us and I hope that Rufra makes more appearances as he was one of my favorites! He reminded me of Sevro from Red Rising for some reason – perhaps the fact that he didn’t fit in well, but was the most loyal of friends.