Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Fallen Blade The Fallen Blade
Act One of The Assassini
by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: John Toon

"Supernatural romance reimagining of Othello" is the five word review for this book, or rather for the series of which this is the first volume.

The kidnapping of a member of the Venetian nobility leads to the burning of a Turkish ship in Venice's harbour and the release of its contraband cargo, a vampiric young man called Tycho. Once his abilities as a killer come to the attention of the authorities, Tycho is captured and apprenticed to the Moor Atilo, ex-Admiral and now head of the Duke's secret order of assassins. When the Turks threaten to invade Cyprus, a valued ally of Venice, Atilo is brought out of retirement and sent to lead the fleet, and we leave the story at the end of this volume more or less around Act 2 Scene 2 of the source play. Along the way, Atilo begins to suspect some romantic intrigue between his apprentice and Desdaio Bribanzo, his fiancee.

As it happens, Tycho is more interested in the Lady Giulietta, the kidnap victim whose other suitor is a werewolf. Tycho isn't sparkly, thank goodness – the 15th century setting is far too grim for that – but you might forgiven for coughing the word "Twilight" into your fist.

Grimwood's writing career has its origins in cyberpunk – and it isn't long before Tycho is dressed in full black leathers and dark glasses, along with the medieval equivalent of sunscreen – but he's made a very capable transition to historical fantasy. There's plenty of grime and brutality, including a few scenes for which the reader will need a strong stomach. Where Grimwood excels is in the political intrigue of the Venetian court, with Regent Alonzo and Duchess Alexa fighting for the upper hand over the head of the idiot Duke Marco IV. There are a few bum notes in the dialogue, and Grimwood's punchy prose style may not appeal to all, but on the whole this is a lively adventure tale that bodes well for the rest of the series.

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