Age of Assassinsby R.J. Barker
Series: The Wounded Kingdom #1
Published on August 1, 2017 by Orbit
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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 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.
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You look like you need a new fantasy to read. Yes? Perhaps I can convince you to read Age of Assassins? I’ll be honest, I took a chance on this book because, although I love fantasy, it’s been hit or miss for me lately but I’m excited to announce this was a “hit!”
At first, the first person point-of-view was a bit off-putting. It’s one of those things, much like the genre’s been lately, where I either really like it or I don’t. Took some getting used to but I soon fell into Girton’s story.
The teen assassin is an interesting character. For starters, he has a club foot and the disability presented does act as a small obstacle here and there. I’ve never read a book where the progatonist has a disability of any kind so I really liked that Barker showed that kind of representation in this book because Girton is pretty awesome. It didn’t define his character, but was a part of him and I think that’s an important message to send.
Because Girton is an assassin in a book about catching an assassin. Which, I was expecting more fantasy trope-y assassin stuff but I didn’t get it but also I’m not disappointed? Instead, there’s plenty of mystery and political intrigue and all that good, gritty fantasy stuff that I also love. Barker did a great job of taking your typical fantasy world with all the different problems that tend to go along with a kingdom and dove into the shadows and grime. It’s not a light, upbeat fantasy, but it felt real. It was very easy to fall down this rabbit hole.
I think part of this is because the book doesn’t have a massive cast of point-of-view characters. So often I see books get too ambitious. The plot tackles a million different storylines and I never really get to know the characters unless the book is 800+ pages long. There are exceptions but I liked that Age of Assassins stayed focused on one character and gave him a depth and life that I don’t see as often.
Finally, the writing. Like I said, it didn’t hook me right away. The style just didn’t… click with me, not until later on. But the way Barker brings together the intricate world-building with the character development and all the mysteries really worked well. I didn’t feel like I was on the edge of my seat but the fight scenes flowed well, the plot twists surprised me appropriately, and the ending was satisfying while also setting up for a sequel.
For a fantasy debut, this is one that y’all need to keep an eye out for. I think this is the start of a fabulous new series!