Bloodless Assassin (The Viper and the Urchin #1) by Celine Jeanjean

4.5/5 Stars Great fun, great characters tied in a steampunk bow

The last few steampunk novels I have read left me a little underwhelmed so I picked this up with new hope in my heart but also a little trepidation that it might fall the same way. Well, I needn’t have worried, Celine Jeanjean (great name by the way) delivered and re-injected my love of Steampunk. That said, the steampunk theme is the backdrop to this story and not necessarily central to it. I know some ‘purists’ may have an issue with this, not me. For me, it is always about the story, first and foremost. There are so many genres and sub-genres these days it can all get mighty confusing so I try not to think about it. It is fantasy, there are no rules.

The story grabbed me pretty much from the first page and I kind of held my breath a little hoping its early promise carried through. Well yeah, it did and more. I had so much fun reading this book I found myself actively mapping out in my head when and where I could sit down in a quiet spot and blast through a couple of chapters undisturbed.

The story is set in the city-state of Damsport and is told from the perspective of Rory (our street urchin) and Longinus (an aristocratic assassin). Rory lives on the streets relieving unsuspecting victims of their coin and with Jake, her partner in crime, she is pretty good at it. But Rory has a dream of becoming a master swordswoman and she has found a Sword Preceptor willing to take her on if she can raise the money needed for her training and finally she has done it. The preceptor is in Damsport and she is ready to follow that dream.

I won’t give any spoilers except to say that things don’t go quite to plan (okay maybe just a tiny spoiler) and instead she ends up blackmailing Longinus, an infamous (although famous in his mind) assassin called the Viper with an aversion to blood. Neither much likes the other to begin with but needs must and all that…

The writing is fabulous. Rory is street smart, abrasive and full of guile with a hint (to me) of the artful dodger in her. Longinus is pompous, self-important and egotistical. They don’t know it yet but each of them needs the other. The dialogue between the two protagonists was brilliant and coming from opposite ends of the societal ladder a lot of fun to read. I must confess to enjoying the arrogant pomposity of Longinus a little too much. It outright made me smile and look like a buffoon on more than one occasion.

The writing too is sharp and descriptive without bogging you down with over-detail. I loved the imagery of Damsport, set like a clock face with the Grand bazaar at its centre and the twelve main thoroughfares extending outwards all simply and ingeniously named after each hour.  

For me, the weakest part of the story was the finale. I felt it lacked a little gravitas and held a tiny bit of contrivance. I know, I’m being picky here because all fantasy is contrived but my point is as a reader I didn’t want to feel it. I never got that sense of – this is it, this is the end for our heroes. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish and I liked that the story arc was completed in the whole and left enticingly for their continuing adventures.

I often pick books up from new authors and indie authors (if you have read any of my previous reviews you will know this is true) and it is always a great pleasure to find a gem. This book was a pleasure. Whilst I went into it with little expectation I am happy to say I will be continuing with the adventures of Rory and Longinus.

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