Tough Traveling- Assassins

Started by Fantasy Review Barn, now run by Fantasy Faction.  Tough Traveling is back my friends!  Yes, the best fantasy specific meme around is finally up and running again.  So join us every week as we tour the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.  For a history of what came before check the tag above.

This weeks topic is Assassins:

Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even blunt-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money).

Let’s jump right in!

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Fantasy Review: ‘City of Miracles’ by Robert Jackson Bennett

A boy chases laughter through the city. Followed by a presence he can’t see the boy keys in on laughter, any laughter, and throws himself desperately toward it looking for shelter or a way out. In a land once ruled by miracles the unnamed boy uses the only one he has at hand hoping for it to prove useful just one more time. And when finally hitting a laughter that rings a bit false…

And with this captivating scene City of Miracles begins.

One of the finest fantasy series of the decade is getting its conclusion. And with it some major questions will finally be answered, especially those surrounding Sigrud, a character who always stole the reader’s attention but never was able to get out of the other protagonists’ shadows. But City of Miracles doesn’t lazily ride off into the sunset, oh no. In City of Miracles the action is turned all the way up, all the feels are given at regular doses, and (spoiler alert) there are miracles abound. Yes, questions will be answered. And a whole wide world of questions will be left to wonder about. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘Certain Dark Things’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A simple enough novel in which a woman runs from those trying to do her harm after a drug war spills over to something more personal. Only the major parties involved happen to be vampires. Which makes things a little more…not simple?

Certain Dark Things is completely engaging yet very simple in execution. The story follows Atl as she ends up in Mexico City while on the run from the rival family who killed her sister. Mexico City is not a good place to be a vampire; sanitation crews are always on the lookout in an attempt to keep the city bloodsucker free. A hunger for young human blood makes hiding out even harder so Atl recruits a teen street kid for a meal. She then makes a decision that could be a mistake by letting young Domingo live.

It is dark and emotional. Domingo goes from crush to possible love interest but Atl always knows her past and future involve blood and heartbreak. A jaded police officer on her trail fights her conscience when the system doesn’t provide the support but a human gang does. And Nick, the spoiled son of a vampire lord, provides the perfect mix of evil and youthful arrogance while acting as the main villain. Continue reading

Non-Fiction Review: ‘ Baking Powder Wars’ by Linda Civitello

A bit out of place on this humble blog as unless I missed something there were no dragons involved in this non-fiction book about the history of baking powder. Nor did any of the major companies involved prone to hiring any type of magical assistance. So feel free to skip this review if the riveting battle between companies trying to sell flavorless white powder does nothing for you.

The Baking Powder War caught my eye because I am fascinated by the history of marketing and the blurb promised plenty of this. I was not disappointed on this front but I also got so much more than I expected. This was not a minor marketing battle between rival companies; the ‘war’ statement in the title of the book was in no way hyperbole. It can also not be overstated just how important the creation and distribution of this product was both in its time and leading up to today.

For those that don’t cook baking powder is a product that leavens bread. Almost any bread product bought today (outside of artisan loafs) as well as most cakes, cookies, etc contain this product. If you put it in an oven and it gets bigger, or if it is soft and fluffy, you know it has baking powder. If it can be cooked in less than an hour the same statement holds true. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘Low Town’ by Daniel Polansky

So I have an honest question. How much does a first person narrative absolve semi-pragmatic aspects of an otherwise good to very good story? If a third person account says someone speaking a foreign language is jabbering it is quite often called out; but if a criminal overlord with some mild racist tendencies brings it up it is not necessarily the lore of the land but rather one man’s train of thought. I really don’t have an answer to this question at all, and it didn’t affect my personal enjoyment, but it was certainly something I noticed and thought about.

But I am doing this wrong. Reviews shouldn’t start with a negative should they? Ok, back it up, start with what I liked.

1. I like the first person noir feel Low Town had. The story starts with the protagonist finding the murdered victim of a well publicized missing child case and against his own best interest getting involved in the investigation. The narrative voice was STRONG. ‘The Warden’ has an obvious feel for the streets and quite realistically moves between the underworld he currently owns a piece of and the law he used to be part of. Take the best parts of Sam Vimes (feeling the street trough the souls of his feet) and Tracer Bullet (giving just a bit of levity to the proceedings). Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘Red Sister’ by Mark Lawrence

This torture as training thing that keeps popping up in modern fantasy… is it going to stay a thing? Because frankly it hit its peak in The Long Price Quartet where it lasted all of a short prologue and has just gone down hill from there. A teacher poisoning her student to teach a lesson in being prepared is less edgy than it wants to be; it is no longer even shocking.

Red Sister is the latest outing from Mark Lawrence. It will be popular and win all kinds of fan awards. It is exactly what one would expect if they heard Lawrence was writing a new novel with a young girl as a protagonist. Or if a person suspected the author planned to respond to past criticisms with a giant ‘take that!’ A bloody outing where said girl has a horrible past, something about her that makes her special, and then cuts a bloody path toward a bit of vengeance. The all-girl academy trains near invincible warriors in the aforementioned torturous methods (though to be fair not to the preposterous extremes seen in some other recent releases). Continue reading