Tough Travels is a monthly meme that recommends fantasy books based on tropes, themes, and clichés cited in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The meme was created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Fantasy Faction.
Since I haven’t read many fantasy books, I instead create my list at the end of the month, after reading everyone else’s, and include recommendations from them that are interesting to me.
This month’s theme:
Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money).
This topic made me realize that I haven’t read many books that feature assassins. But here are the few I’ve read that do have them:
Again, I start with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The Grey Men are assassins of the Shadow. They are men, and sometimes women, who have given their soul to the Dark One and are thus also referred to as Soulless. They are effective assassins since people’s eyes cannot focus on them, so they are often unnoticed when they kill.
Celaena is the teenage protagonist of The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. She is said to be a notorious assassin, but she was betrayed and imprisoned as a worker in the salt mines for a year. In the first novel, she is released from imprisonment to enter a competition to become champion (basically a personal assassin) to the tyrant king of Adarlan.
Chade is a side character in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, a bildungsroman about the bastard child of a prince who becomes apprentice to the king’s assassin, Chade. Chade is loyal only to the throne and operates in complete secrecy. Hardly anyone knows that he exists. When making this list, I almost forgot to consider Chade and his apprentice, Fitz, the bastard and the protagonist of the story. I think of assassins as men dressed in black with a knife always close at hand. I think of them as people who kill by fighting. But Chade uses poisons and political maneuverings to accomplish his tasks. He’s cloaked in shadow and secrecy and is practically a ghost at Buckkeep. He doesn’t stand out in any way, which makes him a perfect assassin.
The following assassins caught my attention as I read the lists linked to the Fantasy Faction post.
From Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn, I got these two:
Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
Several bloggers recommended the Assassins Guild of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Since I haven’t yet read any books from that series, I am willing to add this one to my TBR. Other books from the series that I’d love to read are Mort and Equal Rites, which I own because I’ve decided to start with the Witches books (otherwise I don’t know where to start with this series).
Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Although this one has an assassin, it’s the author’s name that caught my attention and made me want to add it to my TBR. I don’t often read science fiction, but the one Bujold book I’ve read so far — The Curse of Chalion — was so damn good that I’m willing to follow her anywhere, even to take a dip in sci-fi.
Brothers in Arms is actually the fifth in the Vorkosigan Saga, so I’ll have to start with Shards of Honour. It looks like it will be pretty good with clones and stuff.
From Lynn’s Book Blog, I picked:
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
This book is quite popular now. I’ve seen much hype about it and I’m inclined to believe the hype is right. I’m just drawn to the idea of assassin nuns, which sounds really damn cool. Lynn describes this as “a great coming of age story with a strong cast of characters,” so I think it’s one I might like. The story centers around a young girl called Nora, who joins the Convent of Sweet Mercy (knowing this is about assassin nuns and reading the convent name makes me laugh) at a young age.
From the Grim Dark Files, I culled:
Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
In his list, Peter included Royce Melborn, an assassin from the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles, which I’m guessing are two related sets of fantasy series. I have heard of the Riyria Revelations and would like to read Theft of Swords, which contains the first and second books. Peter describes Royce as having “lightning fast reflexes” and “scarily efficient sense,” which makes him seem like a pretty awesome character. It also seems that there’s more to him, like there might be some mystery about his abilities…maybe?
Black Cross by J.P. Ashman
Of all the assassins I read about in the posts linked to Fantasy Faction, Longoss of the Black Powder Wars series by J.P. Ashman is the most appealing to me. Peter describes him as “the filthiest, foulest assassins ever” and for some reason, that held my attention. I guess it’s because I’m used to assassins being regimented and orderly, like what I usually see in movies, so I’m tempted to try the series just to meet this character.