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Blood of Assassins by RJ Barker

Blood of Assassins by RJ Barker
Book Name: Blood of Assassins
Author: RJ Barker
Publisher(s): Orbit
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: February 13, 2018 (US) February 15, 2018 (UK)

Age of Assassins was my favorite fantasy novel. It was close to being my favorite novel of any genre. The reason I write in the past tense is because the sequel has improved upon its predecessor in multiple facets.

While Age of Assassins was a dark coming of age story about a 14-year-old assassin and his master/maternal figure, Blood of Assassins acts as a longitudinal character study taking place over five years later where much has happened off page to shape a very different Girton Club-Foot.

Girton, the former underdog, who spent much of the first novel under cover, and being chastised as “cripple” is now known throughout the lands as a fierce killer, and of course, a loyal friend of beloved King Rufra. While not wanting to spoil the book in any way, Girton’s master is left incapacitated for a great deal of the novel leaving Girton on his own this time around to solve another political murder with far higher stakes.

Age of Assassins at times feels almost claustrophobic, being set entirely in the compounds of Castle Maniyadoc, this novel takes Girton outside of the barricade on a vast and expansive mission. The battles are longer and more intense, the angst is more profound, the lines and boundaries are more gray as a once obvious enemy returns to win favor with Girton and his king, and of course the antlers are…antlerier?

What makes this novel so brilliant, aside from the obvious political intrigue, and beautifully cinematic battle sequences, is the emotional resonance, particularly when it comes to the relationship between 20-year-old Girton, now a hard, detached killer, and fiercely loyal king’s warrior, and his master. While there were beautiful moments in Age of Assassins, they were particularly moments between a relatively optimistic child and his mother figure. Now, with the years having hardened Girton, and with his boundaries raised to the point of paranoia, these tender moments between he and Merela hold even more weight.

RJ Barker writes beautiful, often poetic prose. What may begin as a direct monologue at times becomes abstract poetry and it is woven so seamlessly in to the novel that it is difficult to tell when the change begins, as the reader is swept away.

RJ Barker’s Wounded Kingdom series is not a typical assassin story. It is a tale of friendship, loyalty, love, and most of all perseverance at the hand of adversity. Blood of Assassins is a brilliant and often beautiful piece of literature from one the most talented writers out there. I wish I could give it 20 stars. I can’t wait for the finale!


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