Title: The Fallen Blade
Author: Jon Courtenay Grimwood (site)
Published: January 27, 2011 by Orbit
Series: Assassini #1
Buy: Amazon/ Book Depo/ Powell's
Synopsis: In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards. In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy’s chains to rescue him, but he escapes.
Venice is at the height of its power. In theory Duke Marco commands. But Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They command the seas, tax the colonies, and, like those in power before them, fear assassins better than their own.
In a side chapel, Marco’s fifteen-year old cousin prays for deliverance from her forced marriage. It is her bad fortune to be there when Mamluk pirates break in to steal a chalice, but it is the Mamluks’ good luck—they kidnap her.
In the gardens beside the chapel, Atilo, the Duke’s chief assassin, prepares to kill his latest victim. Having cut the man’s throat, he turns back, having heard a noise, and finds a boy crouched over the dying man, drinking blood from the wound. The speed with which the boy dodges a dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. And the assassin knows he has to find the boy.
Not to kill him, but because he’s finally found what he thought he would never find. Someone fit to be his apprentice.. (Goodreads)
Review: One thing that Grimwood is very good at is setting the scene. I really felt like I was immersed in his alternate Venice. The descriptions ran a bit long sometimes, but they were so well done that I didn't mind. Unfortunately, all of this describing (no doubt the product of extensive research) left little room for character development. I had a good mental image of each character, but no real feel for them. The story was intriguing, I was caught up in all of the political plots and underground goings-on, but at times it dragged. There was some very graphic violence and some scary sexual stuff, but nothing that felt out of place, over the top, or added just for shock value. I'm sure a lot of people were upset by this, but it's not unrealistic for the times. Unfortunately, it felt like the author spent 10 years researching and planning out the plot and setting for the book, but then just threw in some so-so characters. They had so much potential, but the depth just wasn't there. Also, the way thing turned out between Tycho and Giulietta was not very satisfying. You know, just as a side note. Would I read a sequel? Maybe. It might give me a chance to really love the characters. A lot of first books are a bit sparse on character development, especially when they have amazing and detailed plots. However, I'm not sure if there's enough pull there for me to give it another chance.
PS- The kindle version is only $4.99 right now, check it out.