Title: The Fallen Blade, Act I of Assassini Trilogy
Author: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Publisher: Orbit Books
Rate: 3 and a half stars
Out of the darkness came an Assassino, his sword already drawn back to take the dying man's head. Blood pumped in a fountain and fell like rain. The battle was ferocious after that. Beasts and men hacking at each other. And then men lay dead in the dirt. Most in riveted mail, a few naked.
Venice in the early fifteenth century is at the height of its power. In theory Duke Marco commands. But Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. Within the Serene Republic, their word is law, but for all their influence, Venice's fate still lies in other hands . . .
Lady Giulietta is the Duke's cousin. She enjoys greater privilege than many can even dream of, but her status will demand a terrible price.
Atilo Il Mauros is head of the Assassini, the shadow army that enforces Venice's will - both at home and abroad.
Prince Leopold zum Bas Friedland is the bastard son of the German emperor and leader of the krieghund - the only force in Venice more feared than Atilo's assassins.
And then there is Atilo's angel-faced apprentice. Only a boy, Tycho is already stronger and faster than any man has a right to be. He can see in the dark, but sunlight burns him. It is said that he drinks blood.
A warning must be presented for the misleading cover; this is not YA books or urban-fantasy. This is historical fiction with a twist of fantasy. This book is closer to Pillar of the Earth by Ken Follet or Imperium by Thomas Harris rather than Vampire Diaries or Mortal Instruments series. You'll find political intrigues, betrayal, conspiracy, and of course power struggle between Prince Alonzo and Duchess Alexa which affected every character in this story as they have to chose side to stay alive.
There are several things I like the most about this book; this isn't a clear-cut story. It's not a story where you can predict the ending. Lets face it, most vampire stories these days, no matter how awesome or complicated the stories were, usually ended up with Happy Ending (yes, I purposely write that with capital). In The Fallen Blade, it's hard to guess where the story with take you. In one scene after Tycho meets Prince Leopold, I thought they will bond together and do some kick-ass payback action. But it doesn't work that way, and more twist and turn were presented, keeping my eyes glued to my netbook screen.
Other thing is the way the author combine the beauty and bleakness of Venice in year 1400s. Venice with all the buildings and sculptures is consider as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but its just in the surface. While reading it you'll find many layers of Venice and not all of them have pretty face and it was true; brothels managed by patricians, young girl from rich family sold into a wedding for even more rich or powerful man, children roaming on the street used according to the needs of powerful parties. Those things really happened in the past and the author cleverly mixed it with fantasy and legend.
Overall there's nothing I dislike about this book although it doesn't make me think about it all the time. It's well-written story with interesting characters and events. This is gory, savage, bloody, sad and can be frustrating at times. But it also grand and awesome in various level. It will capture the fans of historical fiction whose not afraid of a little blood (okay, maybe not so little...).
GIVEAWAY! Check this post to enter our The Fallen Blade giveaway! Comment on this review for extra entries!