Age Of Assassins by RJ Barker

A review

Girton Club-foot is not just a fourteen year old boy, he is an apprentice to one of the lands best assassins. But this latest job hasn’t gone the way they expected. Instead of being sent in to kill someone, they are there to protect them. To use all their skills to find this assassin before he can strike.

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I don’t even know where to start on this one. I had been seeing a lot of talk about book two all over the place, and as I’m always fashionably late to jumping on a bandwagon, I thought it was about time I gave book one a shot. This book was tough to put down, the characters were complex and endearing, the world and magic was fascinating and the writing… ooh, it was superb. It was an absolute treat to read.

Girton Club-foot has to play many roles as an assassins apprentice, usually that of a slave to get the job done. Slaves aren’t seen by the Blessed so what better way to get in and out. The nature of their job means they are often on their own, isolated, never staying in one place for long. Girton adores his master, he hero worships her, she saved him from death when he was six and as a result she has his unwavering loyalty. So when he has to play the role of a squire, he is suddenly thrust into a long-term situation unlike any he has ever been in before.

“Scrawny,” he said. I heard laughter from the other boys. The squiremaster silenced them with a glance but I could feel the eyes of the other squires on me. It was a peculiar pressure, like an acid heat on the back of my neck that melted away my confidence, slowly stripping away Girton the assassin and leaving behind something lesser: Girton ap Gwynr, a scared and lonely boy.

Girton is one of the sweetest, most endearing characters I’ve come across lately. He is so innocent and kind-hearted. Yes I know that doesn’t make sense considering he is an assassin, but this is really his coming of age story. It’s a story about a boy realising that his hero, his master; is human and makes mistakes. It’s about a boy learning how to make friends and balance his responsibilities. It’s about a boy falling in love for the first time. It’s about a boy coming to terms with what he really is.

It’s also a murder mystery. The way the story was weaved together had me accusing everyone at one point or another. Even Girton. Just so you know I wasn’t even close, so typical. The murder mystery feel, makes it stand out from the fantasy crowd, it has the swords, it has the magic and action but it also has a cosy feel, you are waiting for the big reveal, the skeletons in the closets. But I never once skim read to get to that point. I was enjoying the writing so much, I never wanted to rush it. I feel like it’s not a book you can’t rush through. The way it’s written tends to slow you down. Especially the fight scenes. It’s like they are set to music and so as you read them, you are reading them to the beat in the music.

The fist comes down. Into the third iteration, the Maiden’s Pass. She laughs as he gets it wrong again and walks right into her. One foot around the other so he sways to the side and the fist swishes past his ear. Into the fifth iteration, the Boatgirl’s Dip. She holds his hand and twirls him under her arm. He grabs Ryneal’s forearm with his defence arm twists it until he hears the crunch of the elbow joint dislocating. Then he’s behind Ryneal, stabsword out. He ends with the eight iteration, the Placing of the Rose. She bows and takes the pretty flower with a laugh. His hand is against his partner’s neck. Except this time his partner is not his master and his hand holds a blade which is buried in Ryneal’s flesh.

Girton’s behaviour and attitude was so realistic. He sulked when he didn’t get his way, he bent the rules and he sometimes drank a little much. He wasn’t fearless, he was afraid of death like everyone else, but he still got in and got the job done, he was brave. He believed in doing the right thing even when it would have been easier to run. He was loyal and a bit of a smartass.

Age of Assassins is a wonderful fantasy novel, it has it all. I loved the magic, the world, the characters, I could not pick one thing about the book I didn’t like. I am looking forward to getting my hands on book two.

Age of Assassins was released by Orbit in 2017. You can grab yourself a copy from Book DepositoryAmazon or Booktopia.

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