The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini

The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini

3.9 14
by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
     
 

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In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards. In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy's chains to rescue him, but he escapes.

Venice is at the height of its power. Duke Marco commands the

Overview

In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards. In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy's chains to rescue him, but he escapes.

Venice is at the height of its power. Duke Marco commands the seas, taxes his colonies, and, like every duke before him, fears assassins better than his own. In a side chapel, Marco's thirteen-year old cousin prays for deliverance from her forced marriage. It is her bad fortune to be there when Moorish pirates break in to steal a chalice, but it is the Moors' good fortune - they kidnap her and demand ransom from the Duke.

As day dawns, Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, prepares to kill the man who let in the pirates. Having cut the traitor's throat, he turns back, having heard a noise, and finds a stranger crouched over the dying man, drinking blood from the wound. The speed with which the boy dodges a dagger and scales a pillar stuns Atilo. And the assassin knows he has to find the boy. Not to kill him though - because he's finally found what he thought he would never find.

Someone fit to be his apprentice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Grimwood shifts from alternate reality SF (End of the World Blues) to alternate history fantasy, exploring a Renaissance Venice in which witches, werewolves, and vampires get drawn into the inevitable court intrigues. When a raid on a Turkish ship frees a young vampire named Tycho, the vampire apprentices to Venetian assassin Atilo, ready to be employed as a weapon by the mother and uncle of Venice's impotent duke. Both politicians and supernatural entities engage in cruelty and nastiness that almost overwhelm the story; many of the scenes, such as murders of children and a forced impregnation, are not for the squeamish, but little is gratuitous. This grim tale will appeal to fans of political and historical fantasy as well as those who appreciate more traditional interpretations of vampires and werewolves. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Lady Giulietta di Millioni, the teenaged cousin of the duke of Venice, attempts to flee her enforced marriage to King Janus of Cyprus, a man rumored to be cruel and interested only in acquiring an heir. Preventing her escape is Atilo il Mauros, the Moor who has protected her since her childhood and who leads the Assassini, Venice's elite group of enforcers. Her fate, however, and the fate of the city lie in the hands of a young man who stalks the streets at night—and who is said to exist on blood. The author of "The Arabesk Trilogy" (Pashazade; Effendi; Felaheen) turns to historical fantasy in this tale of politics, love, and the supernatural. In his capable hands, 15th-century Venice springs to life, along with a varied cast of nobles, pirates, and supernatural creatures. VERDICT This well-written book should appeal to fans of both period fantasy and vampire fiction.
Kirkus Reviews

Alternate-world fantasy from the talented and versatile author ofEnd of the World Blues(2007), wherein Marco Polo's family founded the dynasty that rules Venice.

In the early 15th century, Venice is powerful but must play her enemies—Ottomans, Byzantines, Germans, etc.—off against one another. Alonzo, the idiot Duke Marco's uncle, rules as Regent, his authority enforced by a cadre of assassins and the mage-alchemist Hightown Crow, while Alexa, Alonzo's sister-in-law, and her witch A'rial keep Alonzo in check. Alonzo has arranged for Marco's cousin Giulietta to marry Janus, the king of Cyprus, ostensibly as an alliance against the Turks. However, Alonzo's real plan involves arranging for Giulietta to be impregnated; she has been ordered, following the birth, to poison Janus and his relatives. So when Giulietta goes missing, Alonzo spares no effort to find her. In the hold of one ship, Alonzo's guards find a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Eerily beautiful and unnaturally strong, Tycho escapes as soon as he's brought on deck. Later, Atilo il Mauros, the duke's master of assassins, comes upon Tycho sipping blood from a murder victim. Tycho evades Atilo's men and escapes with astonishing speed. Since the assassins' ranks were recently decimated in battle with werewolves secretly led by Prince Leopold, the bastard son of the German emperor, the aging Atilo knows he must find the boy and bind him as his apprentice. Grimwood adroitly combines a satisfying complexity with visceral detail and bouts of astounding violence, knit together by suitably Machiavellian intrigue.

Pounce on this one.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316074391
Publisher:
Orbit
Publication date:
01/27/2011
Series:
Vampire Assassin Trilogy Series, #1
Pages:
450
Sales rank:
745,255
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Fallen Blade

Act One of the Assassini
By Grimwood, Jon Courtenay

Orbit

Copyright © 2011 Grimwood, Jon Courtenay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316074391

PART 1

“… what a hell of witchcraft lies

In the small orb of one particular tear…”

A Lover’s Complaint, William Shakespeare

1

Venice, Tuesday 4 January 1407

The boy hung naked from wooden walls, shackles circling one wrist and both ankles. He’d fought for days to release his left hand, burning his skin on red-hot fetters as he worked to drag his fingers free. The struggle had left him exhausted and—if he was honest—no better off than before.

“Help me,” he begged, “I will do whatever you ask.”

His gods stayed silent.

“I swear it. My life is yours.”

But his life was theirs anyway; even here in an enclosed space where his lungs ached at every breath and the air was sour and becoming sourer. The gods had abandoned him to his death.

It would have helped if he could remember their names.

Some days he doubted they existed. If they did, he doubted they cared. The boy’s fury at his fate had become bitterness and despair, and then turned to false hope and fresh fury. Maybe he’d missed an emotion, but he’d worked his way through those he knew.

Yanking at his wrist made flesh sear.

Whatever magic his captors used was stronger than his will to be free. The chains with which they bound him were new, bolted firmly to the wall. Every time he grabbed a chain to yank at it, his fingers sizzled as if a torturer pressed white-hot irons into his skin.

“Sweet gods,” he whispered.

As if flattering the immortals could undo his earlier insults.

He’d shrieked at his gods, cursed them, called for the aid of demons. Begged for help from any human within earshot of his despair. A part of him wanted to return to shrieking. Simply for the release it would bring. Only he’d screamed his throat raw days ago. Besides, who would come to his grotesque little cell with no doors? And if they did, how would they enter?

Murder. Rape. Treason…

What else merited being walled up alive?

His crime was a mystery. What was the point of punishment if the prisoner couldn’t remember what he’d done? The boy had no memory of his name. No memory of why he was locked in a space little bigger than a coffin. Not even a memory of who put him here.

Earth strewed the floor, splattered with his own soiling.

It was days since he’d needed to piss, and his lips were cracked like dry mud and raw from where he tried to lick them. He needed sleep almost as desperately as he wanted to be free, but every time he slumped his shackles burnt and the pain snapped him awake again. He’d done something wrong. Something very wrong. So wrong that even death wouldn’t embrace him.

If only he could remember what.

You have a name. What is it?

Like hope and freedom, this too remained out of reach. In the hours that followed, the boy hovered on the edges of a fever. Sometimes his wits were sharp, but mostly he inhabited a blasted wasteland inside his own skull where his memories should be.

All he saw in there were shadows that turned away from him; and voices he was unable to hear clearly.

Pay attention, he told himself. Listen.

So he did. What he heard were voices beyond the wooden walls. A crowd from the sound of it, arguing. And though what he heard was little louder than a whisper it told him they spoke a language he didn’t recognise. One voice snapped out an order, another protested. Then something slammed into the wall directly in front of him.

It sounded like an axe or a hammer.

The second blow was even harder. Then came a third, his wooden world splintering as sweet air rushed in and fetid air blew out. The light through the narrow gap was blinding. As if the gods had come for him after all.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Fallen Blade by Grimwood, Jon Courtenay Copyright © 2011 by Grimwood, Jon Courtenay. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and christened in the upturned bell of a ship. He grew up in the Far East, Britain and Scandinavia. Apart from writing novels he works for magazines and newspapers. For five years he wrote a monthly review column for The Guardian.

JCG's novels Felaheen and End of the World Blues, won the BSFA Award for Best Novel. He has been shortlisted twice for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, the August Derleth Award (UK), John W Campbell Memorial Award (US), among other awards.

He is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker, currently editor-in-chief of Red. They divide their time between London and Winchester.

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The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1407, di Millioni Family descendants of Marco Pole (see End of the World Blues) rule Venice. The city-state is powerful on the Italian Peninsular but has much stronger enemies across the continent from the expanding Ottoman, Byzantine and German Empires. Political finesse is needed but the Duke of Venice Marco IV is known as "Simpleton" for an obvious reason. His Uncle Prince Alonzo rules as the Regent supported by a guild of assassins and the alchemist Dr. Hightown Crow. Marco's widowed mother Duchess Alexa abetted by her stregoi witch A'rial keeps the ambitious Regent under some restraint. Alonzo arranges for Marco's fifteen year old cousin Lady Giulietta to marry King Janus of Cyprus in a strategically astute move to forge an alliance against the Ottomans. However, his plan is actually much more insidious than a simple pact. Giulietta will already be pregnant carrying a di Millioni offspring when she weds Janus; after their marriage she is to kill her spouse and his relatives. Instead Giulietta vanishes. Alonzo dispatches his top agents to recover her. Inside the ship Quaja, guards find a chained naked teen; they free him only to watch Tycho escape using superhuman speed and strength. Later Master Assassin Atilo il Mauros observes Tycho drinking blood from someone the lad just killed. The aging Atilo knows he has found his replacement at a critical time when his team has been battered by German Prince Leopold's werewolves. This is a fascinating action-packed alternate historical fantasy. Even with the paranormal elements, Jon Courtenay Grimwood captures the intrigue that was so prevalent in early fifteenth century Venice especially at the top levels of leadership, which in turn makes the otherworldly segues seem genuine. With a delightful twist tying the strong subplots together, fans will appreciate this tense thriller. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it loved it loved it! Complex characters and a fascinating spin on some classic horror favorites. Couple this with a plot that twists and turns like the canals of Venice (just as murky to boot) and you've got one hell of a story...possibly quite literally... A must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could envision everything. Grimwood really can tell a story. You get so involved with the politics and the alliances that you forget it's fiction.
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Kirk Boisseree More than 1 year ago
When I got this book, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. Boy did it surprise me! Not for people with weak stomaches against blood and gore--that's my only warning. Other than that it's well written and captivating. I was really drawn to Tycho. In Greek, I believe it is, his name means 'one who hits the mark.' He definitely hit the mark with me, even though he's not the loveliest of people. I quote, "You said the Blade was justice in action. Where would the justice be in killing the innocent?" You gotta love him for saying something like that. He's not completely bloodythirsty and horrible. In fact, he has a protective streak for women and children. Unless he's really, really hungry--which was before Atilo found him, when he was half crazy half dying. Before he found out blood was what he hungered for....
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ElectricBadger More than 1 year ago
Grimwood is a good writer, and I really enjoyed the alternate world he developed, from vikings to Italians. His scenes are wonderfully written with excellent voice and detail, and he wasn't afraid to suddenly change the momentum of his characters. However, I ran into several issues that drew me close to setting this book down. The main one is the constant lack of a foundation in time: chapters skip ahead (and into the past) with little or no warning, and come back to characters immensely changed 'off screen'. Enemies age months from one page to another, for instance, and are suddenly in love - while the reader is still trying to figure out how they met. Also, while I'm a fan of grit in my fantasy, this novel takes that notion to uncomfortable depths: there's a recurring and graphic theme of young girls being raped (particularly by family and friends) and callously murdered. Including by the protagonists. While it made the characters have more depth, I suppose, it ensured that nearly none of them were in any way likable - I made it to the end out of curiosity about what would happen, not any sense of hope that someone or another would triumph.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago