“By the third day the rumour can no longer be contained. It is whispered in the black tents, shared like smokes among the men on patrol, murmured in the drill yard before the bellowed morning prayer. It is weird and horrific and yet a curse no one can fail to understand. Someone’s mind has been stolen, and the thief still walks the camp.”
This opening paragraph told me everything I needed to know about the novel in advance. It was going to be intriguing, exciting, beautifully written and I was going to love it. And oh my gosh, how I did. Even now that I finished reading it a few days ago, sometimes I just get this urge to re-open it and read on, to lose myself in the adventure again, only to remember that… bollocks! I already finished it!
In a harsh land, quarantined off from the rest of the world due to a deadly plague, ruled by a psychopathic tyrant who wields terror with practiced ease, two brothers run for their lives. They run from the wrath of their ruler, chased by their entire nation, hunted by elite forces, bloodthirsty monsters, and creatures darker, deadlier and more sinister still, through barren fields of devastation, towards the great desert called “The Land That Eats Men.”
Robert V.S. Reddick expertly weaves many threads back and forth into a rich, colourful and epic tale of rivalry, adventure, friendship, mystery and love. Kandri and Mektu, the two main characters find themselves in one extraordinary situation after the other, yet it’s their troubled relationship that make their story even more absorbing. In some instances, the bond they share reminded me of that between Thor and Loki from the Marvel universe. Kandri, a bit like Thor, is valiant, thoughtful and caring, while the younger brother, Mektu is selfish, mischievous and careless. He annoys Kandri no end with his continuous troublemaking, who in turn is worried for him half the time and wants to kill him himself the other half. Unlike their Asgardian counterparts, they are far from being Gods. They are flung into the heart of danger by chance rather than face it by choice. Yet the harshness of their world, the threats they need to face, the choices they have to make, sets the bar impossibly high. They must clear it or die.
And as if all this wasn’t enough to make a great book, the level of mystery surrounding the half-brothers, their past, their families and the world around them impressed me greatly. I very much enjoyed the way the secrets slowly untangle as the story flows through the pages, satisfying many of my questions, yet leaving enough unsolved to make me eager for the next volume.
On the first page of my copy there is a note from the senior editor, in which they say Talos Press is proud to present this novel. They have every right to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to find in the future that Master Assassins was just the beginning of a masterpiece in the making.
Many thanks to Mark Lawrence for gifting me his own advance copy for Christmas. I hope he will be able to acquire a hardback soon, I know how much he enjoyed it, too! 🙂