Blood of Assassins – RJ Barker


Published by Orbit Books, February 2018
Source: review copy
THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING . . .

The assassin Girton Club-foot and his master have returned to Maniyadoc in hope of finding sanctuary, but death, as always, dogs Girton’s heels. The place he knew no longer exists.

War rages across Maniyadoc, with three kings claiming the same crown – and one of them is Girton’s old friend Rufra. Girton finds himself hurrying to uncover a plot to murder Rufra on what should be the day of the king’s greatest victory. But while Girton deals with threats inside and outside Rufra’s war encampment, he can’t help wondering if his greatest enemy hides beneath his own skin.

Hark back to June of last year. I’d just read Age of Assassins by a chap called RJ Barker. I thought it was jolly good[1] and that it would most definitely be on the illustrious[2] Books of 2017 list[6].

Wind forward to January 2018. A parcel arrives at Espresso Coco HQ, nestling amongst many of its brethren. I open it and out pops Blood of Assassins.

OOOOH. [FX: STREAMERS AND GENERAL MERRIMENT[7]]

Blood of Assassins takes place five years after the events of Age of Assassins. Girton has grown older (though not necessarily wiser) – he and his master Merela Karn have been travelling the lands as mercenaries and have returned to Maniyadoc to find three kings vying for control. Then things take a turn for the worse, Merela is poisoned and Girton must balance saving his beloved master and helping an old friend unearth a spy.

I could go on, but that would rather spoil the story. And what a story it is – part whodunnit, part fantasy, part spy story. with a health dose[8] of stabbing and murder and blood. Deftly plotted, with a host of splendid characters, Blood of Assassins takes the already brilliant concept and cranks everything up to 11 across the board. The action scenes are astonishingly beautiful and almost poetic in their pacing. Time seems to slow[9] as Girton glides through the steps, leaving bodies in his wake.

The central mystery is as strong and cleverly plotted as any I’ve read in the copious amounts of crime fiction I’ve read. The battle scenes are staggeringly brutal and almost cinematic in scope. Girton’s battle with his true nature feels visceral and real and you find yourself whispering ‘Oh, Girton…’

A splendid addition to the series, and I can’t wait to see what Girton gets up to in book 3, King of Assassins. Luckily we won’t have too long to wait.

I give this book five bloody stabswords out of five.

Many thanks to Nazia at Orbit Books and RJ Barker for the chance to read an early review copy. You can find RJ over on twitter @dedbutdrmng where you can distract him from writing at your peril.

[1] True. It is jolly good.
[2] for a given value of ‘illustrious’[3]
[3] yes, I used the exact same gag last year. Sue me[4]
[4] OMG DON’T ACTUALLY SUE ME. I am but a poor, lowly bookblogger and have naught but these few books[5]
[5] oh so many books. SAVE ME FROM THE BOOKSES
[6] it did. Look.
[7] Wasn’t she in Star Wars?
[8] I’m not entirely sure that’s possible…
[9] Like that scene in Serenity where River is watching the Fuity Oaty Bars ad and everything goes dead silent and she starts to move, time stretching out as she spins and strikes and moves like a leaf on the wind[10]
[10] STILL TOO SOON. DAMN YOU, WHEDON

Author: dave

writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, bookworm and stationery geek. Doing fun things with digital.

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