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Book Title: The King's Assassin|
The author of the book: Stephen Deas
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.51 MB
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Loaded: 2750 times
Reader ratings: 5.3
Date of issue: October 18th 2012
ISBN 13: 9780575094567
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"'People sometimes do very strange things once they get what they want. They turn out not to be quite the people they were pretending to be.'"
This is by far Deas' best book yet. The narrative is gripping, compelling from the first until the final page of the book. This archetypal fantasy series has seamlessly become the best formation of an anti-hero book I have ever read, and every word pulled on my heartstrings. The plot is vibrant, powerful, cruel and the characters emotions cut like knives. Beautiful.
"What did he have to look forwards to? Nothing. A short life, vicious and pointless."
Berren's personal journey begins as an adolescent runaway full of shock and remorse and hope. Valliant, hopeless, he strives to keep to the standards of his lost love Tasahre in a world where all that is good is slowly crushed beneath capitalism's indifference. "I loved her! She was everything that was right and god and you killed her! And why? She tried to stop you from murdering someone. She had you beaten! She tried to let you live! She gave you every chance!" Finally, he excels at fighting. But he can't enjoy it. "They'd both become murderers and now he had nothing left, nothing at all except a remembered pain deep and bitter enough to make him gasp and stagger." He tries to hold onto the hate, the rage, the last vestiges of emotion that might bring him back to the vulnerable perceptive boy he had once been. "Two years it had taken, but the sun was starting to shine again at last, and yet he barely even felt it. What he felt, when he looked, was numb." But it's gone. Berren is empty on the inside and he has an agonising self-awareness of this.
"'So you'll be teaching him how to fight in a battle with real swords and armour and chaos and blood and chopped-off bits of people everywhere, as you so picturesquely put it.'"
After two years a slave on a ship, Berren enters Kalda in pursuit of Syannis' shadow. Instead he finds mercenary captain Talon, Syannis' brother, who takes on Berren as a soldier. "'Syannis thinks you killed Radek for him, but you didn't, did you? I see no pride in you at all. Just shame and fear.'" And he's good. The best. Cruel without understanding why, a genius in steel. "Simple instinct, and his had been to kill, because that's what they'd all taught him: Master Syannis, Silvestre, even Tasahre, although she would have wept at what he'd done today." It seems that at least his subconscious is at bay when he fights. "In the fight he's felt Tasahre beside him, watching him, guiding him, moulding his shape and his movements as she'd used to do. Inside he'd felt at peace."
"I have spoken to you of the first principle of knowledge: that we are beings of two parts. Every man, from the lowest worm to the highest king, has two souls."
But Berren is not free. The warlock Saffran Kuy who cut out part of his soul is still free and manipulating the fate of the tiny border waste-kingdom of Tethis. And now he has a creepy sociopathic princess as an apprentice. "'It fills a hole, you see. Like the Black Moon and the Dead Goddess fill the hole in the world. He showed it to me. You have to keep it closed otherwise something will come through. Not yet, but one day. He's making us ready. To let it in when the Ice Witch brings the Black Moon down.'" The heir to Tethis. The home of exiled Prince Syannis.
"The heady mix of fear and awe Berren remembered as his apprentice were gone, not a trace of it left. What he saw now both made him feel pity and repulsion."
Talon's loyalty to his brother brings Berren to Tethis. The petty rubble of this kingdom of peasants makes Syannis' bloody grudge seem even more petty. "Long ago, someone had built a solid stone house here. Other people had added to it. Someone had started to turn it into a palace and then stopped. Someone else had aimed for a castle instead." Syannis needs Berren as a Bloody Judge, to kill the usurper king Meridian. He has become shrivelled by vengeance, devoid of conscience. "He couldn't look at the thief-taker. So fallen from what he'd been. An idol almost. Everything he'd aspired to be once." It's heart-breaking.
"Was it the thought of death that made them so full of life?"
And Berren wins a kingdom for him
"'Life is cheaper than gold and silver and worth more than both. Nothing changes, wherever I go.'"
The final section of the book is the most beautiful. Syannis is regent for his learning disabled brother and exiles Berren in disgust. But with the last of his virtue, Berren makes a symbolic request, if he can free one slave in payment for all his service perhaps he can do a final deed in the memory of Tasahre. He is denied. This his a haunting parallel of Achilles' demand for the slave-woman Briseis which tears the Greek army apart in the Illiad and eventually leads to the deaths of both Achilles and Patroclus. Berren leaves his soul behind and does all he can to earn this one woman's freedom. He is one of the most successful soldiers in history, and this is all the power left to him to do good. "He was afraid. After three years of fighting, a score of battles, after killing more men than he could count, he was afraid that something inside him had changed and was lost and would never be found again." He comes back. That mote of goodness is still intact.
The ending is perfect. It is revealed that Syannis has been ensorcelled to deny Berren by the princess, but there is one strand of nobility left in the crippled thief-taker that leaves him loyal to his disabled brother even against the strength of magic. "'I love you more than life, but not more than my brother.'" It is a really tragic redemption. Berren is denied again by the princess Gelisya, Helen pulling the strings of Agamemnon, who sets the warlocks on him. But Berren takes back his soul and defies destiny in a heart-stopping final sequence. "The knife could do almost anything, almost anything at all. It had the power of a god inside it, lurking just out of reach." He is so lost, so desperate, he fights fully expecting to die and wins. Everything behind him is destroyed. But he did the right thing in the end. I'm welling up ...
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Read information about the authorStephen Deas is an engineer in the aerospace industry, working on communications and imaging technology in the defence sector. He is married with two children and lives near Writtle in Essex.
Also writes as Nathan Hawke and S.J. Deas.
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