In the interests of not totally spoiling a book that isn’t technically out yet, this is just a compilation of thoughts. As far as quality goes: if you liked Son of the Black Sword, then you will have to read this book. If you haven’t read Son of the Black Sword, then get it and read it; it’s Correia’s best work to date.
House of Assassins is the immediate continuation of it, and also the second book of a trilogy. While somewhat affected with Middle Of Trilogy Symptom, it still expands the world, the characters, the story, and the stakes. Now I really, really, really want Book 3.
The plot is mostly as summarized in the back blurb (NOTE, spoilers for SotBS): Thera, unwilling prophet of the Forgotten, has been stolen by the wizards of the Lost House–the titular House of Assassins. The maddened and ambitious master of the wizards, Sikasso, intends to gain her power for his own use–by teaching her how to master and use them. It’s an uphill battle, given that Thera has the magical ability of a frog rather than a princess; but Sikasso is, as the narrative dryly points out, an excellent motivator. If she doesn’t learn, they’ll give her to the Inquisition.
Meanwhile, Ashok and his new army–the Sons of the Black Sword–march to follow the command of a god they do not believe in and rescue their prophet, who also doesn’t believe. Meanwhile, the corrupt and evil (no, really evil. No. Genuinely without redeeming merit or value, evil and vile) head of the Inquisition, Omand, is putting his plan into motion…and the world may die because of it.
So, thoughts: [Some spoilers, be wary]
– If Correia extends this trilogy into an Umpteen-Part series, I’m going to be pissed. I want to know how THIS story finishes. There’s plenty of space to continue exploring Lok, righting wrongs, adventuring across continent and ocean…in ANOTHER story. Everything has been put in place for Book 3 (Destroyer of Worlds) to blow my socks off, and I am awaiting it. When is it going to be coming out…?
– As I mentioned, this book does have a slight case of fantasy-journeyitis. Chunks of the narrative is simply following characters from Point A (here) to Point B (over there, where the next plot event is scheduled to happen). On foot. Or on horseback. Or on boat. Or while being stalked by wizard assassins. Correia mostly uses the time for character development; but still. Now, this is a standard of the fantasy genre, and I really should overlook it…but a) someone who specializes in fast, pulp-fantasy, high-action pacing should know to minimize this; and b) it’s a trope I’m particularly sensitive to, so it annoyed me.
– The Point-A–>Point-B dilemma also pops up at the climax, and I’m unsatisfied with how it was handled. As it is, it makes Ashok look rather stupid, and wastes a certain amount of time and energy. Hopefully, it’s something that will be corrected with another round of beta reading and editorial feedback. Or perhaps I’m being too picky. But I was vaguely unsatisfied with the final battle, after the all-out, gloriously gory One Man Last Stand of book 1. Ah well, so I just have to wait for Book 3, huh?
– I was wanting a heck of a lot more information about the origins of Lok, the black steel, Ramrowan, etc. What is the deal with Angruvadal? If it’s still able to help, why doesn’t it? If it can’t, what is it waiting for? And now I’m going to have to wait for Book 3. Damnit.
– Random observation: what is it with the motif of women and damaging their hands with magical powers? I saw it in The Invisible Library, and here again in House of Assassins; vaguely remember something of the sort in Lioness Rampant, and again in The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
Oh, but the good stuff: [DEFINITELY SPOILERS]
– Thera actually does get rescued by the end of the book, so there is none of that infuriating “Your Princess Is In Another Castle” nonsense. THANK YOU. And by rescued, what I actually mean is, “Someone’s got to save all our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”
– There’s a really great action scene where Ashok and Jagdish have to infiltrate a brothel. In fact, the entire bit where Ashok is attempting to go undercover is really magnificent, mostly because he knows his limits and doesn’t actually try. (“I thirst. Bring me water. Now.”)
– There’s a lot more characterization. Thera, Jagdish, Sikasso, and the newcomer Inquisitor Javed (who is so casually psychopathic and also charming and amiable, even Omand is slightly put off). Omand himself gets some time in the spotlight…and it becomes very clear that whatever shreds of a chance at redeeming virtue might have been hinted at in the first book, aren’t actually there.
How bad is he?
He has a captive demon in the dungeons of the Inquisition.
It’s scared of him.
– There’s a good bit of dry humor (“and then Sikasso proved what an excellent teacher he really was”), such as the Historian-Librarian feud that almost gets Rada locked out of the Museum, and other such moments.
– I think my favorite over the top action sequence is when Ashok gets hung on a hook…through his heart…and proceeds to lift himself up the chain and yank the hook free with his bare hands. That’s what I’m talking about.
Rated: Want Book 3 now….!