Girton Club-Foot is an apprentice to the world's greatest assassin, Merela Karn. At the age of fifteen he's already great at taking lives, but his latest mission comes in contrast with anything he has learned so far: Instead of killing someone, he's called to protect him. Prince Aydor is the heir to the throne, but someone is set to assassinate him. Girton and Merela are the only ones who can prevent that, and therefore they have to infiltrate the castle under false pretenses and uncover not only the Assassin, but the man who hired him as well.
"There was only one thing my master valued highly enough to betray everything she had live and trained for. I did not see it then, but now I am older I see it as clearly as the nails on my fingers. Me. It was me. Merela Karn, the greatest assassin I ever knew, gave up everything for me. Dead gods help me. I should have run. For both of us. I should have run."
Starting Age of Assassins I was fairly soon disappointed, not by the book's faults, but by my own expectations. The book was branded as Night Angel/Assassin's Creed kind of epic, and therefore I was expecting similar traits to these franchises. Soon enough I realized that this wasn't the case, and I tried to set aside my expectations and see where the story would lead me. Finishing the book, I can say with certainty that although Age of Assassins has nothing to do with the famous video-game or with Brent Week's debut, it's equally good and entertaining.
If you didn't know that Age of Assassins was Barker's debut then you probably wouldn't guess it. It is crystal clear from the very first pages that he has pureed as many thought to the story as someone else would do in a whole trilogy. Marrying action and mystery without one overshadowing the other isn't an easy feat, but Barker has done so perfectly. The action sequences are told by a distinctive, cold and calculative perspective that is perfectly fitted to the story Barker wants to tell; a story that is laid out to the reader with a straightforward prose through some masterfully intertwined plot-arcs with small snippets of information that you will miss if you blink an eye. World-building, characters and magic system are all weaved into each other, balancing every aspect of the book and resulting in a complex and enthralling story. Finally, the finale gave a satisfying conclusion to the reader, but also a crave for more. All in all, Age of Assassins is one of the greatest debuts of this year, and R.J. Barker is an author to look out for.