Part one of The Assassini trilogy
a review by Nalini Haynes
Tycho is the Fallen Blade, the central character of this story, and the central thread connecting other sometimes seemingly disconnected ‘snapshots’ of events in others’ lives. Tycho’s freedom, his survival and character development is the main storyline. Atilo sees Tycho after Atilo assassinated an official, deciding that Tycho would be Atilo’s heir as the head of the assassini after seeing Tycho’s abilities. Atilo and Alexa combined forces to capture Tycho in order to train and use him.
Lady Guilietta di Millioni is cousin to Duke Marco, the official ruler of early 15th century Venice, whose unofficial regents are his mother Alexa and uncle Alonzo. Guilietta attempts to run away from an arranged marriage, but is captured by Atilo, a Moore and the head of the Assassini (guild of assassins working for the Duke). Atilo and his assassini protect Guilietta from werewolves at the cost of many lives. Later, Guilietta visits a chapel and threatens to take her own life if she is forced into this marriage with the king of Cyprus about whom there are many rumours. It is in the chapel that she meets Tycho, a vampire who was accidentally freed from imprisonment aboard a foreign ship by customs officials. A strange bond formed between Tycho and Giulietta at that time.
My Italian history is a bit vague, but it appeared to me that Grimwood has done a good job of researching the politics of the era and the history in order to marry a real world setting with a story of vampires, werewolves and magic. Venice appears to be described fairly accurately, based on my knowledge of history and Ruth Cracknell’s Journey from Venice that is a description of modern day Venice. The politics in The Fallen Blade are intricate, with many threads developed and more threads hinted at for further development.
It is difficult to do justice while reviewing part one of a drama on its own. Firstly I will stress that this is the best vampire and werewolf book I had read in a while, being original in its interpretations of the creature (but no sparkly vampires!) The Fallen Blade is not set in 21st century western society, so it had so much more scope for originality and the gothic settings that seem appropriate for these kinds of stories. Occasionally I thought that characters were inconsistent, but I am not sure. Sometimes it seemed that little was said so that the reader was more actively working with the author instead of being spoon fed every detail. Other times, as in one scene too close to the end of the book to go into detail, I felt that two characters behaved in ways inconsistent with their characters to the point of being bizarre, which detached me from the story in disbelief. I thought a similar outcome of the meeting could have been devised with a little more time and thought, but then people really do behave inconsistently at times.
There is much emphasis placed on involuntary bowel movements and loss of bladder control in The Fallen Blade. Some of this was probably gritty realism, but at one point I decided Giulietta had a weak bladder with seemingly endless quantities of urine in the space of one evening.
The Assassini is possibly going to reach the standard of the first two Underworld movies with the added benefit of the historical setting of the third movie. An historical setting didn’t redeem that movie, but benefited The Fallen Blade. The Fallen Blade mixes Machiavellian politics in what was virtually Machiavelli’s setting with vampires, werewolves and magic associated with characters whom all have pasts, motivations and ambitions. However my perceptions of this book are yet unfinished; this book relies on the remainder of the series to reveal whether the characters are fully formed three dimensional creatures who participate believably in an intricate plot. The first act leaves me hopeful, being well paced and well thought out, even if it was perhaps rushed out the door a bit early.
I have never read any of this author’s work previously, so I don’t know how it compares. I would say that The Fallen Blade is for fans of Underworld, and is vaguely reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Angel especially the infamous fifth season but is much darker with less overt humour. If The Fallen Blade was a movie as described in the book I think it would be MA at least due to sex scenes, violence and so forth.
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.