Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Master Assassins was such a mixed bag for me. I loved a lot of things about it without being completely convinced by the book itself. However, it’s a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation; I’m certain it will be received more enthusiastically by a different readership. It’s Mark Lawrence’s favourite read of the year, which is a testament to the quality of the book.

Kandri and Mektu are two brothers enlisted in the Army of Revelation, led by a Prophet-madwoman to reclaim the land where their people have been enslaved for decades. After one of the brothers commits an unspeakable crime, they both must flee the murderous rage of the Prophet and her fanatics. A series of very unfortunate (and bloody) events ensues, and Kandri and Mektu must find their way in harsh lands with harsher people, not sure whom to trust, followed by rumours of a cataclysm approaching.

The worldbuilding is meticulous and progressively unveiled. Redick found the perfect compromise between info dumps and letting the reader move blindly forward. There is a lot going on: in this non-European inspired setting the lore is rich and complex, there is a plague devastating the rest of the world, some sort of magic and more advanced technology are hinted at… Cleverly introduced flashbacks add to the understanding of the world.

Master Assassins’ biggest strength is its prose, especially with the descriptions. Vivid imagery is used to convey all sorts of sensory feelings in the extreme conditions the characters find themselves in. Redick has a way with words and his writing is very immersive.

While the plot was certainly action-packed, I did find it repetitive in some instances. The gory melees between the Prophet’s minions and our protagonists were too frequent for my taste, and I felt like it stalled the progression of the story.

Another interesting aspect is the relationship between the two brothers. Kandri (whose point of view we follow) and Mektu are actually half-brothers, and they share a complex bond of rivalry and love. While I didn’t find either brother palatable as a main protagonist, this strange brotherly affection tainted by mistrust, and sometimes even contempt, was fascinating to follow.

Master Assassins wasn’t the perfect fit for me, but I would definitely recommend it to people who like dark and bleak settings and a rich lore. I’m sure the book will be a big hit in 2018. It is due to be released on March the 6th.

 

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