In the second part of the trilogy Fabiola plots and schemes in Rome, while Romulus and his friends battle for survival at the edge of the known world. I had spontaneously decided on the trip after reading The Lost Heart of Asia , an amazing travelogue by the acclaimed writer Colin Thubron. After ten days in Iran, I was in love with the country. I visited some of the most incredible places, such as the palaces and huge courtyard in Esfahan, the teeming Tehran markets and best of all, Persepolis, former capital of the Persian empire until Alexander the Great sacked it in the 32os BC.
What better way to give a sense of atmosphere?! But it was in Turmenistan, former Soviet Socialist Republic and newly independent state, that I stumbled upon the place that would feature in The Forgotten Legion trilogy nearly a decade later. In the Turkmen desert lie the ruins of a city called Merv, which was sacked by the Mongols in the s AD. When the Mongols took it, they killed every man, woman and child they could find.
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Then they rode away for 3 days, and came back, slaughtering all those who had come out of hiding. It was the largest number of people killed in one place until the atrocities committed in the 20th century. That horrifying statistic hammering into my brain like the burning sun, I wandered around the site in temperatures exceeding 45 C. Furthermore, the city had seen the arrival in 53 BC of thousands of Roman soldiers.
So far from the Mediterranean, so far from Syria and Judaea? I thought. No way. Yet when I did a little research upon my return, I discovered this to be true: that after the battle of Carrhae, in which Marcus Licinius Crassus had lost his life, 10, legionaries were marched east to Margiana Turkmenistan by the Parthians, there to serve as border guards. Of course I forgot all about this gem of an idea for many years.
It was only when I had been signed by a literary agent in , and had been told in no uncertain terms that my first novel, set in 2nd C. I am very glad that I did, because the rest, as they say, is history! Ben Kane. Skip to content. The Books Clash of Empires When a new empire rises, an old one must fall Clash of Empires 1 Senator Flamininus will stop at nothing to conquer Macedon and Greece, but Philip V is determined to restore his kingdom to its former glory.
The Eagles of Rome series Based on real historical events. The Shrine Free short story When Lucius Tullus gambles on a foot race between rival legionaries, he has no idea that his wager will endanger his very life. The Arena Free short story As Legionary Marcus Piso enjoys a four monthly payday with his comrades, events take on a very dangerous life of their own. As with many YA books, there is an element of romance, but it plays out in a more realistic and non-intrusive way.
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This creates an excellent addition to the fantasy assassin genre that's suitable for a range of ages. Michael J. Sullivan's Ryria series is one of the highest rated in fantasy, and for good reason. His books have sold over one million copies in English and thousands more across their fourteen languages. There's plenty to love here for fans of Tolkien, and just as much for those who aren't. Sullivan's world is set a thousand years after the fall of an empire, with magic all but gone and clashes between religion, race, and philosophies.
However, the true marvel is Sullivan's incredible characterization. Riyria tells the story of the warrior Hadrian and assassin Royce, their adventures together and how they came to meet. Over the course of the six book series, Hadrian and Royce become one of the most iconic pairs in fantasy, with a depth and growth rarely seen in any genre. Together, the two infiltrate fortresses, carry out assassinations, and flee with an entire kingdom at their back.
It's an astounding series made even better by its humble roots in self-publishing. David Gemmell's Drenai Saga burst onto the heroic fantasy scene in and bears no relation to the Draenei from World of Warcraft. His lasting impact on the fantasy world led to the post-humorous creation of the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, with awards going to some of the authors on this list.
It's no surprise then, that Gemmell's' legacy includes some of the best assassin fantasy around. Eleven years after the Drenai Saga's first book, the author wrote Waylander , marking the third in the series but first chronologically. Like Gemmell's previous books, Waylander is an exploration of what makes a hero and if there can be true redemption.
As you can imagine, there's plenty of evil to go around, and plenty of gray areas too.
The title of the book is synonymous with its main character, a famous assassin who is betrayed after a particularly notorious contract. Waylander is in many ways an anti-hero, but that doesn't stop him from feeling real. Gemmell's characterization carries the story, both through the protagonist and the rich supporting cast. It's a grimdark novel once more, but one that pioneered the genre rather than emulating it. It's filled with fast pacing, concise writing, and vivid imagery. Though they hinge on existing series, the Waylander books are accessible and brilliant enough to enjoy standalone.
It succeeded almost unheard of hype, with trailers, apps, and 'best-seller' labels right off the bat. Admittedly, the quality tails off by the end of the series, but it's easy to see why it garnered so much interest. Hoffman writes a fourteen-year-old character who grows up in order of monks that worship pain. Understandably, this can warp a boy, and Cale is cold, vicious, and complex.
Despite this, he still has a sense of justice, and it's this that leads to the assassination of the Lord Redeemer Picarbo and a subsequent escape from the twisted monastery. Despite some strange contradictions along the way, the characterization and pacing of the novels make it just good enough to deserve a place on the list.
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It's a page turner, toeing the line between fantasy and horror, with many diverse characters. Some readers will hate it, and others will love it, but it's definitely a breath of fresh air. Robin LaFever's Grave Mercy drags you into the trilogy with a great hook and only gets better from there. It's set in an alternate 14th century Brittany, where fourteen-year-old Ismae escapes an abusive arranged marriage to a convent, where her unique abilities make her the perfect assassin protg. Though she takes to the profession as a better alternative, there's still plenty of conflict here.
Part of the story is Ishmae's coming of age, from delicate child to a questioner of the convent's morals. There's a lot of depth to be found in the character, but the rest of the series presents the viewpoint of refreshing new characters. It's in these latter books that LaFevers really begins to find her strength.
The second book details the story of Sybella, who trained at the same convent as Ishmae. However, where Ishmae is hesitant and inexperienced, Sybella is trained and deadly. LaFevers manages to create a harrowing, emotional story whilst still developing the other characters in the story. The third book follows in a similar vein, with the viewpoint of another previously introduced character. In all, LaFever's series is a great combination of history, subverted fantasy tropes, and YA It has romance, vengeance, and strong female characters. The changing perspectives mean that even if one protagonist isn't to your fancy, there's another to try out.
On top of that, the author manages to encourage real attachment to the characters and great entertainment without constant action scenes. Best of all, the series isn't yet over. After a four-year hiatus, LaFever will return to the series next year, with a second book following in Pratchett's huge volume of work makes adding him to the list feel like cheating, but at the same time, it wouldn't be complete without him. For the uninitiated, Pratchett's world consists of a large disc that rests on the backs on four large elephants, which in turn stand on a turtle as it swims through space.
It's a bizarre concept, matching the strange yet hilarious tone of Sir Terry's work. In some ways, his world echoes earth, and you can guess which period Pyramids is influenced by. Teppic is the prince of that small realm and is in training at the Assassins Guild. His time there is cut short when his father dies, and Teppic must return home to build his Pyramid and take on the politics of the throne.
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The premise is simple, but Pyramids brings something rare to the sub-genre: humor. Pratchett has a hilarious variety of characters, from the High Priest Dios to a camel literally named 'You Bastard'. At pages, it's a short yet incredibly amusing read, with nothing too complex in terms of plot. Despite this, Pratchett's brilliant writing and metaphors bring it to life. Sci-fi fans may know Kage Baker for her popular series, The Company. It's a blend of fictional world and humor, and her debut fantasy series is no different. The Anvil of the World describes the assassin Smith as he tries to leave his old life behind and become a simple caravan master.
Of course, things are never that easy, and Smith is set upon by a myriad of demons, magic, and other kinds of trouble. Like Pratchett, Baker uses humor to provide a great critique of society and its flaws. However, her unique blend of humor surpasses even him at points with subtle jokes and great dialogue.
Simultaneously, Baker manages to use that dialogue to grow her characters. Lord Ermenwyris one of the most unique personalities in fantasy, and not just because he's half demon. He somehow manages to be a coward yet strong, selfish yet loyal and annoying but oddly likable. Through all these contradictions Baker somehow makes him feel real, alongside the rest of the odd cast. However, the book is more like a series of novellas than a full novel.
It's split into three distinct parts, the first being quite slow, the second housing incredible description and dialogue, and the third ending on a more serious note. In its entirety, it covers assassination, magic, friendship, and the environment. It takes all of the annoying fantasy tropes and subverts them, leaving the reader grinning and refreshed. If you're a YA fan, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better assassin fantasy book than Throne of Glass. As the novel opens, Celaena is given a chance to end her servitude in the mines of Endovier and her life as a slave behind.
There's only one catch. First, she must win a tournament and become the King's assassin.
The story plays out in a beautifully crafted world where the Fae have been overthrown and magic is banned. A human ruler sits on the throne, and he isn't afraid to use Celaena to kill at a whim. The series has plenty of everything, including a love triangle, action, humor and great antagonists. Though the predictable romance may not call out to older readers, a simplistic, page-turning plot and plenty of fun twists make it perfect for its market.
As the series progresses, it only gets better, with Celaena finally coming into her role and characters building a real connection with the reader. When your focus is character and action, it's easy to just settle for generic medieval fantasy and be done with it. However, at some point, you start craving something new, and that's when series like Tales of the Otori really shine. Though Hearn stays with the medieval era, she opts for a region that isn't often explored in fantasy.
There's no outright statement, but it's clear that the world has a heavy Japanese influence. It's complete with a complex feudal system, samurai-like clans, and shoguns. That rich setting underlies an even richer story of love, politics, and betrayal. Society is made up of complex social classes, religions, and clans, but Hearn introduces them slowly and with finesse.
His descriptions are similar; colorful but not unnecessarily wordy, making it an enjoyable read. The series follows two viewpoints.
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In first-person, there is Takeo, the adopted son of a noble with the ability to create illusions. Then there is Kaede, a teenage girl and political prison written in the third person. It's an unusual mix of perspective, yet Hearn manages to pull it off flawlessly. The blend gives distinct views while still creating a feeling of depth for both, pulling you into the fast-paced narrative.
That excellent combination continues through the series, creating a masterpiece of death, love, and tragedy. Tales of Pawan Kor. Despite the similarity in name, there's little to connect Tales of Pawan Kor and our previous list item. This world is very clearly high fantasy, with beautifully detailed creatures, religions, and magic.
It's very much 'sword and sorcery', but with a flair Persia, India, and China that brings a refreshing environment. The world building is simply incredible, with plenty of detail that will please fans of epics. Equally impressive is Hayden's magic system, rooted in spirit stones of a dead race. The limited nature creates real concern for the well-being of the characters, with no ability to simply magic a way out of situations. And those tough scenarios make an appearance quite frequently. Though Jaska is of a knightly order, his activities are far from savory.
He carries out every command, including assassinations. However, one particular task turns out too much. The request to kill a priestess reveals his master's real ambitions and pits him against the empire he once worked for. It's an intricate, weaving plot, with several pieces that fall into place at just the right time. Believable characters exist on both sides of the spectrum, forcing the reader to question black and white assertions of good and evil. All the while, the story maintains the fast pace, action, and entertainment that we have come to expect from fantasy assassin stories.
The examination of morality is a common theme in assassin novels, but none do it quite like Eve Forward's Villains by Necessity. The author takes the concept and turns it on its head, asking what would happen if good is completely dominant. The answer is nothing positive. The world is out of balance, and it might cease to exist entirely if nobody intervenes.
Thus, an assassin, thief, druid and knight have to step in and bring some evil back. It's a straightforward plot made great by likable characters, humor, and good pacing. Forward manages to keep a light tone, yet force the reader to see things from a different perspective. It's this unique exploration that lands the book a place on the list. Though there's nothing exceptional, it's hard to deny that Villains of Necessity is a whole lot of fun. The subject of McCullough's Fallen Blade series is fairly obvious from the title, yet the series has more depth than you may expect.
The opening sucks the reader into the mind of an assassin without his order. With no solid job, Aral has fallen into a cycle of drinking, thievery, and smuggling. He wants this old life back, and when a delivery job goes sour he gets just that. From there, it's full of action, strong characters, death, and magic. It takes on the form of a mystery, stringing the reader along on a number of clues and forcing them to piece them together.
Though there are natural lulls in the story, they're augmented by character building of Aral and his dragon familiar, Triss. This understanding is only heightened as McCullough continues his six book series, exploring both the relationship of Triss and Aral and the magic system that underlies them. You can't help but urge the protagonist along as he pulls himself out of depression and back into the role of a fighter.
History and fantasy nuts should find an amazing middle ground with The Lion of Cairo. It's set between the Second and Third Crusade, and it's clear Oden has done his research. Assad is a trained assassin, sent by his master to Cairo not to kill, but to protect a young ruler. Unfortunately, there's a necromancer in his way, and he has his own group of assassins. The entire book takes place over the course of a few days, and it feels like it.
There's an incredibly fast pace, with little room to breathe amid the fighting and politics. Somehow, Oden manages to keep the quality high despite this. Fight scenes are realistic and quick, descriptions vivid and beautiful. The book is an excellent ode to greats like Robert E. Howard and Michael Chabon. Tower and Knife. This story from Mazarkis Williams is another that reaches outside the realm of traditional fantasy. A magical geometric disease is spreading throughout the Cerani Empire with very few to oppose it. The king is the only one holding things together, and, unbeknownst to the public, he's sick too.
What follows is a mad scramble to keep this secret, and for the heirless throne. It falls to an assassin, a sorcerer prince, and his foreign bride to keep the empire steady. Williams' world has some influence from the Ottoman Empire, though it's also littered with a well-explained magic system and plenty of court intrigue. Fans of steady pacing may not be at home here, as Williams' tends to ebb and flow as the drama picks up, some things happening all at once, and others very slowly.
However, readers who enjoy minimal hand-holding will take to this style, which makes you join up many of the dots yourself. This also lends itself to the story, which has you second guessing characters and sitting open-mouthed at its twists. The polish gets significantly stronger as you progress through the trilogy, with an elegant conclusion and a feeling of real character depth.
We generate a very small commision if you buy an amazon product linked to from this site. These comissions help us keep the BestFantasyBooks running and funds site improvements. Top 25 Best Assassin Books. Comments 0 Award Nominations: LocusF. The protagonists in fantasy assassin books are often hard, rugged and experienced. Similar Recommendations. Listiverse Recommendations. There's so much about this wonderful series that's right. From a thrilling Robin Hood caper story think a magical Oceans 11 , compelling and complex characters, deep and expansive world-building, fascinating mythology and lore, and a gripping tale.
This is epic fantasy meets underworld fantasy, with the stakes the fate of the world and the heroes a band of brilliant thieves. The strength though is in the brilliant prose, the strong characters, and compelling characterization. And of course, the over-the-top robberies the characters inflict upon those who deserve it. Look, if you haven't read this series yet, do it. We are all still waiting for the release of the 4th book in the series, which has been delayed for at least a year and a half. Comments 0. Read if you like: Westworld, Dark fantasy, badass characters, sci-fi.mail.openpress.alaska.edu/11486-hp-deskjet-3522.php
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The Axe and the Throne M. Read if you like: Great battle scenes, grim fantasy, unredeemable characters. Comments Read if you like: Sherlock Holmes, Victorian settings, revenge stories. Read if you like: Witty characters, fantasy creatures, detective novels. Read if you like: The Lies of Locke Lamora, dark fantasy, first-person perspective.
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Read if you like: Strong female characters, fast pacing, training montages. Read if you like: Anything Sanderson, great magic systems, religion in fantasy. Tears of a Heart Chase Blackwood. Read if you like: Quick reads, page turners, dark magic. Comments 7. Read if you like: The Hunger Games, strong female characters, tales of self-discovery. Read if you like: High-fantasy, bromance, rogues.