Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Fallen Blade Review

The Fallen Blade (Act One of the Assassini)
-       Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Kindle Book
This was an e-Arc received from netgalley and Orbit publishing
Venice, 1407. The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own. On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her - an act that will ultimately trigger war. Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he's finally found what he thought was impossible - someone fit to be his apprentice.
The Fallen Blade is set in an alternate fourteenth century Venice and is full of the sights and sounds that anchor it in that world. You can practically taste the smells and hear the sights of an overcrowded and politically charge city. It’s obvious a lot of research has gone into making this world as realistic and as real as possible. The reader is thrown straight into this world with little explanation or clues as to what is happening or who to root for. This happens at several points throughout the story as the action rapidly moves forwards months or changes suddenly and I found it slightly disconcerting. In addition most the characters are unsympathetic and hard to relate to – I didn’t know who to root for – the aging assassin making a fool of himself over a young girl, the politically motivated Duchess, the young vampire who doesn’t even realise what he is or the selfish spoilt princess being sent off the wed a man she’s never met. None of them appealed to me and I didn’t particularly care what happened to any of them.
However, there is something in the writing that kept me reading despite the jarring changes in pace and unsympathetic characters. There are just great scenes which have a filmatic quality to them – the rooftop battle between Tycho and a werewolf and a storm at scene particularly spring to mind. It’s difficult to sum up this book as I feel there is lots of potential for the series but this first book is not quite comfortable to read. Great scene setting and action, but difficult characters make it a hit and miss book.
Recommended for fans of Tad Williams and K.J. Parker. 6.5 out of 10

Part of FTC's Speculative Fiction Challenge Book 4/12


  1. Hm.. not sure this one is for me. I really want to connect with the characters and I need a sympathetic character too. Thanks for the great review! Don't forget that new book smell! ;)

  2. Hmmm, I'm hearing the same things about this book. This seems to be a good read but with some shorts in it. I do have it on my WANT list and I'm curious now. Thank you for the great review.

  3. I just had to stop back by to let you know i have a cool and different award for you. :) Oh, and you should stop by to check it out, you could benefit from it. ;D


  4. Hmm, what an intriguing take on this novel. In the same month another person in the Spec Fic Reading Challenge posted an absolute glowing review of the same novel. I will be incredibly interested now to see whether I agree with your review or hers :-D