Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak – 3 stars
Her name was Adelei.
She was a master in her field, one of the feared Order of Amaska. Those who were a danger to the Little Dozen Kingdoms wound up dead by her hand. The Order sends her deep into the Kingdom of Alexander, away from her home in Sadai, and into the hands of the Order’s enemy.
The job is nothing short of a suicide mission, one serving no king, no god, and certainly not Justice. With no holy order to protect her, she tumbles dagger-first into the Boahim Senate’s political schemes and finds that magic is very much alive and well in the Little Dozen Kingdoms.
While fighting to unravel the betrayal surrounding the royal family of Alexander, she finds her entire past is a lie, right down to those she called family. They say the truth depends on which side of the sword one stands. But they never said what to do when all the swords are pointing at you.
Amidst her enemies, in a land from the darkest reaches of her past, she must decide if she is to be more than another brainwashed puppet. No matter her choice, she must fight to do what is just and right to save the people of the Little Dozen.
Set in the land of Boahim, Amaskan’s Blood is an epic fantasy novel full of adventure, magic, assassins, and political intrigue. This first book in a series by author Raven Oak explores the themes of family and what it means to both find and lose one’s self.
Overall, the story itself is fine. The world is rich and feels real, detail is enough to form a good picture without being too heavy. The plot moves along at a good pace.
Magic is not an important part of the story. This is a low-magic tale that takes place in a kingdom where its use is hated and feared. When it is introduced toward the end, it’s minimal and unimportant.
I found the main character, Adelei/Iliana somewhat difficult to swallow as the ‘best of the best’ assassin, but she passes muster as someone who’s good at it. Emotions seem to get in the way for everything except killing people, which is, I suppose, reasonable. I just felt like she fell apart at strange times while holding it together in moments that struck me as roughly equivalent. She seemed less capable and competent than everyone declared her to be. Perhaps this was intentional.
The book uses a number of flashbacks, all of which are well done in themselves, but the story doesn’t transition between present and past well. In several places, I had to go back and re-read because the story showed the past without a clear shift. Some flashbacks do have a clear marker. The ones that don’t are confusing.
The other issue which made this book difficult to read was one of style. Throughout the book, there are passages where identifying the speaker is challenging, either because two different people speak in the same paragraph, or because one person speaks and another acts in the same paragraph.
This tale explores what family really is and means, and toys with the matters of trust–its creation, breaking, and re-forging–and justice. The writing is, aside from the points noted above, quite good. I recommend this book for avid readers of fantasy not put off by a lack of magic use.