Imagine you are an author, filled with joy, pride, and an immense sense of accomplished upon the completion of your first book series. You spend the next six years in relative isolation crafting, molding, and shaping your ideas for a new epic fantasy novel that will set your mark on the world as the brilliant writer that you said you were going to be as a child. This is what happened with Robert V.S. Redick and Master of Assassins is his brilliant works for the world at large to enjoy and celebrate. Master Assassins is the story of two brothers being drafted into a war they don’t want any part of. Led by a Prophet descending into madness with aims of conquering the known world. The scope, worldbuilding, and amazing character moments kept the pages turning for me hour after exciting hour. If this is the best Robert V.S. Redick has written so far, I can’t wait for the sequel to grace us with its presence.
We find ourselves in the desert world of Urrath, in the eternity camp of the mad Prophet as she prepares her soldiers for the holy crusade. Right off the bat, we see a non-European or medieval setting but rather a Middle-Eastern setting and Asian influence with the stakes just as high. What is interesting about Urrath, is that it is essentially quarantined (much like we all are at the moment) from the rest of the world due to a plague outbreak. The outside world has been sending healers to gather information about the plague and to assist where they can. Master Assassins is the story of two half-brothers in the Prophets army trying to stay out of trouble: Kandri and Mektu. Kandri is the more mature and level headed soldier with mysterious past and considers himself the guardian of his half-brother. Mektu is the more adventurous and crafty brother whom has a knack for getting into trouble. Mektu has tried on several occasions to get Kandri to abandon the war campaign and leave for salvation, but Kandri knows that abandoning his post will be met with death. The war camp itself is riddled with the sins of the flesh in every shape and form. Drugs, booze, human flesh and all the while the you hear whispers from the soldiers of the camp being haunted by an evil spirit.
When the mad Prophet declares a Holy war against the outside world, all the soldiers cheer except for Kandri who doesn’t believe this Prophet is the savior of them all. The penalty for being a non-believer is death and the generals have ways to test this loyalty. Kandri and Mektu have been rivals since childhood but things turn for the worst when Kandri, through a series of unfortunate events, spills royal blood and is forced to flee with Mektu to the Land that Eats Men to seek homage from the death squad. They are mistaken for Master Assassins. Pursued by the death squad, the two brothers soon come into possession of a message and the contents of that message will shape the contents of Urrath forever.
The story is told through the eyes of Kandri in the third person present tense. I hadn’t come across this type of writing style before and it took a few dozen paged to become familiar with it. Soon it became as easy as riding a bike. Also to be noted is the vast amount of flashback passages we find in the book. Generally, authors tend to divide character flashbacks by chapters, but Robert will input a flashback mid chapter and then continue on with the story as if Kandri was daydreaming. I will say that there is just as much page time in the flashbacks as there is in the present day. We learn a lot from Kandri’s flashbacks including: His family, interactions with Mektu, and his love for his childhood sweetheart and where she will ultimately end up.
The tension and interactions that Kandri and Mektu have with each other drive the story to go along with the incredible worldbuilding Robert V.S Redick has created. The prose just flows along beautifully page after page absorbing you into a state of eternal bliss. We also get to experienced ancient swords, flaming gauntlets, and huge tigers that the royal family rides. Kandri and Mektu meet several characters along their journey all with different goals and motives in mind. Robert V.S. Redick will also shock you on several occasions as the story will not always go the way you will anticipate. This is the story of a rebellion bubbling its way to the surface until the pot boils over. Will you sink of swim?
Anybody looking for a non-medieval setting, beautiful prose, and want to be immersed in a fantasy world from beginning to end, Master Assassins is the book for you. I’m not sure if this book has been on your radar or not but I can see the sequel beeping in the distance and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!