A review by Nalini Haynes
Exiled Blade is the third and final Assassini book, the first of which is Fallen Blade and the second is Outcast Blade. As a review of the third book, there will be spoilers of the first two books.
I had a sneaking suspicion I went out on a limb because Jon Courtney Grimwood seems to be a thorough researcher. The facts caught up with me as the limb broke under my weight. Although I still dislike a feature mentioned in Exiled Blade and in this review, I concede HISTORICAL REFERENCE with apology to the author. I must read and research before being qualified to comment on that particular feature.
Set in Medieval Venice, the Blade in question is Tycho, an unknown quantity whose past is a mystery even to himself. Tycho is Princess Giulietta Millioni’s lover at a time when the choice of consort for the princess could decide the future of Venice.
Allonso had Giulietta impregnated with his seed via a goosequill to ensure his child would sit upon a foreign throne after Giulietta’s marriage and the prompt death (via poisoning) of her new husband. International politics developed apace since those events in the first novel.
In Exiled Blade Allonso abducts Leo, his son by Giulietta, in order to claim Leo as his own after a coup.
Alexa, the widowed co-regent of Venice, schemes for her family and for Venice. Her cold disposition and ruthlessness obscures her love for her family.
Tycho pursues Allonso to recapture Leo and return Leo to his mother. Along the way Tycho discovers a peculiar fortress that, like in The Keep, is built to keep something in, in a cave behind the fortress.
Tycho discovers mythical beings, possibly elder gods, in the cave that is the world’s cunt. ‘World’s cunt’ is exactly the title Grimwood uses, along with descriptions likening the cave to female genitalia.
Not long after the discovery of the cave, its inhabitants determine Tycho’s future without further intervention then promptly vanish from the narrative.
During his encounter with these creatures Tycho suddenly starts remembering events he has never experienced. These memories hint at possible origins of Tycho’s super-nature although the memories have no bearing on this story.
Although vampires and werewolves were becoming a bit passé at the time of Outcast Blade, I loved the first novel because Grimwood developed such a strong sense of place that medieval Venice was almost a character in the novel.
Representations of Gender
Gender issues can arguably be excused (?) with a medieval setting because REALITY. Women are chaperoned, abused (for example, Giulietta’s sexual abuse and forced impregnation) and controlled (Giulietta’s arranged marriage).
In spite of this, Alexa is the most powerful woman in Venice, equal in power to the most powerful man, her co-regeant Allonso. Giulietta’s development includes lessons in power, perceptions of power and perceptions of people masked by power.
If this story was a movie, it’d pass the Bechdel test because women talk to one another and not just about the menz.
In my original review I made opinionated comments about the ‘World’s Cunt’, the cave with supernatural inhabitants; my comments stemmed from ignorance. It has been pointed out to me that:
‘The Heraion, the temple of Hera, the cunt-place, was for centuries in ancient Greece the sanctuary of the whole country…’ (reference: The Wise Wound: Menstruation and Everywoman by Penelope Shuttle)
This new information significantly changes my interpretation of the cave and its inhabitants. It also adds to my already-intimidating TBR pile.
From Gender to Plot
Considering there was no intervention by the inhabitants of the cave later, in spite of Tycho’s subsequent actions, that interlude appears superfluous unless you’re aware of the added layers of meaning. I cannot comment further until I’ve done more research so I can fully grasp Grimwood’s reference to historical beliefs.
The editors seem to have gone on holiday instead of proof-reading Exiled Blade. My copy is a retail copy so imagine my horror when my reading was disrupted by these gems:
- ‘it it’ – instead of ‘with it’
- ‘hand to hard’ – presumably hand to hand
- ‘don”t’ – more than once.
These are just a few examples. The first several pages are by far the worst – it does improve – but errors are scattered throughout.
The first book was creative and engaging. From memory I think it might have been possible to read it as a stand-alone but I’m not sure, it’s been two years since I read it. I’d highly recommend the first. The second novel was still good; there’s an odd change in the pace towards the end then a wrap-up that could have been a conclusion to the story.
Exiled Blade, the third in the trilogy, is an enjoyable read. I’m guessing I would have enjoyed it more if I’d been as aware of the World’s Cunt as I am of Plato’s Cave. My ignorance detracted from my enjoyment, so, ONWARD. MORE READING.