Review: Age of Assassins by RJ Barker

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Cool cover!

I’ve been doing really well at catching up on my audible library lately. I’ve got so much free time for audiobooks (you can read this as doing work but 🌟with audiobooks🌟. Three cheers for multitasking!) This one was a more recent aquisition but one of those that I kept hearing great things about and thus could not resist. So, here we are. 🙂

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.

There are very few things in my life as joyous as bringing joy and my dreams are often of the theatre, of letting go of the hand of Xus, the god of death, and walking out to entertain upon the boards and receive the appreciate hand of the crowd.

I took multitasking to another level entirely with this one, because I couldn’t stop listening to it. So, while I am very used to working and listening at the same time, I’m beginning to get pretty good at playing a video game and listening at the same time now as well. Granted, I wasn’t doing anything important in said video game, but still. There’s something to be said about  listening to a story about an assassin whilst playing an assassin (well, ninja – it’s the same thing in this particular game), even if it’s just level grinding.

This is a tale of not only an assassin’s apprentice, but a young one in a sort of coming-of age story. It’s not the first story of this type that I’ve ever read, but it is definitely a good one to add to my mental collection.

Girton is the apprentice to Merela Karn, a master assassin. Perhaps the best assassin in all the land. This land has been poisoned by magic, and so food is scarce and magic is outlawed. More than outlawed, it’s pretty much anathema. Girton is mage-bent- he was born with a club foot, thought to be something like the result of the remnants of  the poisonous magic in the land. Despite his disability, he’s quite skilled as an assassin and as a jester. He doesn’t at all let his club foot stop him from being awesome. Merela took him in as a child rather than let him continue to be a slave, and raised him as her apprentice. I cheered for Girton, because there is something about him that instantly made him likable. I really liked Merela too, because while she is a master assassin, and is often likely to be harsh with Girton, you know she does care very deeply for him all the same. It’s rather heartwarming, really.

They’re hired to come to the castle, obviously as assassins, but also obviously not exactly for an assassination, and it turns out the queen, an old acquaintance of Merela’s, would like to hire them as professional assassins, but only to catch another assassin who is after her son, the heir to the throne. So, to catch an assassin, use an assassin- a really good tagline to use here. Girton is set up in the castle as the son of a minor noble, there to be trained in swordplay. So, he, a boy who has quite a lot of martial skill, has to pretend to have absolutely no martial skill whatsoever, while he and his master try to unravel the mystery of who would possibly try to assassinate the queen’s son (other than everyone, because the queen’s son is a giant tool).

This story is told mostly in the first person, from Girton’s POV, with the exception of a few interludes, which are usually in the third person, told as dreams, and tell a little of Girton’s childhood and how he came to be with his master. This was a nice way of splitting the narrative up, because the interludes were short enough to not be annoying, and informative enough to give quite a bit to the story. The story as a whole is really well told, and the ending had plenty of awesome reveals and other twists and turns.

The narrator, Joe Jameson did a really great job bringing Girton and Merela to life here. He really became Girton and told his story amazingly well.  I can imagine it’s difficult to be an adolescent boy, two adult women, a dying man, and a rough-voiced old man within the same chapter, but he did, and so very well. Very immersive.

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Antlered mounts = Best Mounts ❤

Although this world does have pigs and cows, there don’t appear to be any horses, and instead a type of tusked, antlered beast that we never get a real name for are used instead for riding. Even if they are described as having many-pointed antlers and tusks, I couldn’t help imagining Xus, Girton’s mount, as Yakul (the best mount ever).

All told I really liked this story a lot. I can’t wait for more! 5/5 stars!

You can see this book on goodreads here, and grab a print copy of it here, or audiobook here.

3 thoughts on “Review: Age of Assassins by RJ Barker

Add yours

  1. I’m glad to hear this favorable review! I met RJ when he did a reading in London this summer and the selection he read from AoA was very entertaining. I was already going to pick up the book, but now you’ve got me quite excited!

    Liked by 1 person

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