Series: The Fire Sacraments #1
Published by Talos on March 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Epic
Master Assassins is a great first book in series. It’s overall scope is epic but at the same time it manages to shine the focus on the love and rivalry between two brothers. The world building is really strong, it’s packed with imagination and twists and it promises more goodness yet to come.
Before sinking my teeth into this review I must say that the title could be, unintentionally I might add, a little misleading. The two brothers are indeed fleeing for their lives but the idea that they’re master assassins is a misconception on the part of their would-be capturers. In actual fact the two really stumbled into trouble by accident rather than design but it does become apparent as the story progresses that whilst they might have bumbled into trouble they clearer have a much bigger role to play in future events.
The story starts by introducing to us two half brothers, Kandri and Mektu. The two are soldiers in the Army of Revelation fighting for the Prophet who released their people from slavery. The war camp is a miserable place to say the least. The soldiers are weary of the constant conflict, the Prophet they serve and her 11 sons seem to have turned into tyrannical despots and as if that wasn’t bad enough rumours circulate the camp of a demon that can take over a person’s body and use that body to then cause mischief and harm. The overwhelming feel of the place is one of fear and there’s almost a sense of impending doom which comes to a head when the brothers stumble into trouble and are forced to flee the camp or face torture and execution.
I don’t think I’ll go into much more detail about the plot as there are already a number of glowing reviews that make a good job of doing so. Instead I’ll talk about the elements of the book that worked really well for me.
The writing style. I really enjoyed Redick’s approach. He has a way with words that make his descriptions really lovely to read and incredibly easy to conjure in the mind’s eye and in fact I think this was one of my favourite aspects of the story. The writing just brought everything to life so easily for me. The world building is rich and layered and the place seems to come alive in a deceptively easy way. I particularly enjoyed reading about ‘The Land That Eats Men’. A dangerous place that few survive (I guess the name gave that away). Here live massive creatures in forgotten towers and deserts that were once magnificent seas with thriving ports at either end that are now littered with boat corpses and haunted by the past.
Kandri and Mektu’s stories are gradually relayed to us through flashbacks. I don’t know if this style works for everyone but I found it to be a great way to split up the story and it allowed us to get to know the brothers, providing them with detailed histories and breaking up the story of their flight into more manageable bite size pieces. These flashbacks allow us to see how Kandri and Mektu finally came to live under the same roof, their initial squabbles and reluctant friendship and the rivalries they share in terms of family and the love of a certain woman. It all helps to give you a picture that is complex and relatable. They don’t unconditionally like each other, in fact at times it feels like they could quite easily become enemies, but their shared experiences have helped to forge a strong bond.
On top of this there is a great supporting cast that the brothers eventually seem to gather around themselves. Their ‘Uncle Chindilan’, a straightforward, no nonsense character who has been keeping a watchful eye over the two young men in their father’s absence. Eshett a woman who was abducted by traffikers and sold into slavery from a young age, now trying to find her own family and a young woman called Talupeke who is a rather kick-ass soldier in the rebellion movement against the prophet. They make a strange band of characters indeed. They’re chased by the Prophet’s death squads, the Rasanga. Notorious warriors, virtually unbeatable in combat who ride huge beasts such as the sabre toothed cat displayed on the cover. The two brothers have set in motion events that could change everything. To some they’re a symbol of hope and change. To others (and the majority of their own people) they are despised and outlawed following their actions.
The other really intriguing thing about this story is the elements of mystery – quite a number of which still remain unanswered. The boy’s father. Definitely an unusual man and one to keep an eye out for. And Ariqina – the love interest for both Kandri and Mektu who I imagine we will learn more about in book No.2.
In terms of criticisms. I don’t have a great deal to offer. The only thing I would make mention of is that the first half of the book differs in terms of pace than the second half. The first half takes it’s time a little finding its feet and it certainly isn’t something you can breeze through. Although the first half has a slower pace I think Redick uses the time well to establish everything. I’m sure that this could have been edited to make it more snappy but personally I think that would have resulted in everything becoming more jumbled.
Epic desert style adventure with harsh and unforgiving landscapes. Prophets and warlords battling it out for supremacy. Monsters and ghouls and a twisted finale. I very much look forward to the second instalment.