This is the first time I read anything by Robert Redick and I am glad I gave him a try. Master Assassins takes place in a world so realistic, it’s almost another character. And just as with other characters, I discovered its personality bit by bit. For example, I learned it has been quarantined. A plague is raging in the “outside world”; a plague to which most of the people of Urrath (as the island is called) are strangely immune. But that immunity and the quarantine that goes with it has a price. The people of Urrath have lost their technology and even air conditioning terrifies them. Instead of science they now have magic and fanatical devotion to a mad Prophet.
This story is told from the point of view of Kandri, a deserter forced to flee everything he’s ever known because he saved a young girl. Kandri, his half-brother, Maktu, and their uncle find strange companions in their desperate flight. Desperate because the Prophet hates them above all others. So much so that she dedicates all her armies and magical powers to hunting them down. The story provides a logical-sounding explanation for her animus. But something about the explanation doesn’t feel right. I kept asking myself, “What makes these two brothers so important? And what about their father, Lantor? What makes him vital?”
We discover part of Lantor’s story. But only part. And every answer begs at least two questions—about Lantor, his sons and the mysterious Prophet. At times, this story reads like a mystery wrapped in a fantasy.
But not entirely. The themes with which this novel struggles are too weighty: love, loss, history, religion, holy war, magic, science, and most of all family. It may seem like too much philosophy for one story. But Redick’s writing flows so easily and contains so much lighthearted banter that I didn’t notice the ideas. This exchange (for example) is how he talks of a world’s desperation for a cure and the power of money:
“You think he [a bookish prince] planned to sell the cure?”
“What did he intend to fight her [his mother] with? Not books I think.”
The story and writing thus combine to make this an engrossing and enlightening book. I highly recommend it.
Product Name: Master Assassins: The Fire Sacraments
Product Description: Master Assassins: The Fire Sacraments, Book One by Robert V. S. Redick