Assassin: Darkblade Book 1 by Andy Peloquin

4.5/5 Stars An EPIC Dark Fantasy Novel with emphasis on the Dark.

I picked up this rather chunky tome with quite high expectations and I am pleased to say it did not disappoint. The opening scene is action-packed and the story doesn’t much let up from there because it sets off a house of cards type chain of events that takes not just the Hunter of Voramis on a ride but the reader as well.

If you like your dark fantasy… well…dark. And, if you love Diehard’esc none stop action only harder with more blood, more deaths than Attila the Hun and more twists than a curly whirly then this might just be the book you are looking for.

The story is set entirely within the city of Voramis whose underworld is ruled by the Bloody Hand, and they’re not even the worst crooks (okay, they are the worst but the nobility is not far behind). The city is well-imagined and the descriptive narrative paints it in all its glorious filth, squalor and splendour. You can almost smell it. In fact, smell is often used to expand on each location and, most intriguingly is one of the protagonist’s most used senses. I liked the scent profile the Hunter had for literally everyone he came across, wonderful and imaginative. So many books of all genres talk to the eyes and ears but not many to the nose.

So what is it all about I hear you say? Enter stage right, The Hunter of Voramis.

The Hunter does not know what he is and lives with so many faces it is hard to get a read on him except to say that it is clear, pretty much early doors, he is not entirely human. He does not know his name, how long he has lived or where he is from, just that he came to Voramis many decades ago. Oh, and he is kind of immortal maybe, possibly. I say kind of because he heals from wounds that would kill any ordinary person, and quickly. Though that said, he is not without his kryptonite and in The Hunter’s case, his kryptonite is much more readily available than Superman’s bane. I could argue, justifiably, that it is right up there with vampires and sunlight. I found this to be a massive flaw and one that could be easily exploited which is great because it creates tension the story would otherwise have lacked. After all, an indestructible superhuman is not much fun now, is it?

But that is not all. Very cleverly (in my mind at least), it could be said the Hunter has another weakness only you’ll have to read the book to figure it out for yourself. But I liked this ‘frailty’ because it could also be argued it gave him his strength. I mean comeon, if you’re not intrigued by now why are you still reading this…yeah, I know, I have a point, that’s why I said it.

I dither, so, back to Voramis and our story’s beginning where the Hunter has forged a name for himself as the ultimate assassin. He fears no one and nothing. Until that is he takes a commission for a job that sets him against the Bloody Hand.

I will say that despite the action sequences that play out early on I did get a feeling of, so what? It felt like wacko-mole. Bad dudes popped their heads up and the Hunter would lop them off but then, there was a change and little twists and turns started to wriggle and worm into the story until the undercurrent subtly swept me under and the narrative became so much more.

Overall a remorseless, brooding and menacing tale. The Hunter is pretty hardcore but tantalisingly not always. As ever, if you like the sound of all this or if you are still not sure, then have a read of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature and read the first chapter. That will give you a real feel for what is to come.

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