I honestly can’t believe I almost didn’t pick up this trilogy; King of Assassins was a superb finishing touch to The Wounded Kingdom.
Bloody, poignant, intense, heartwarming, tragic, and dark; I finished this entire trilogy within six days, I just didn’t expect it to be this damn good and engaging. The Wounded Kingdom trilogy practically stole my life for an entire week, and the only antidote to my addiction was to finish reading the entirety of the series.
Love, redemption, forgiveness, tragedy, prejudice, loyalty, responsibility, family, and friendship; these are the major themes that surrounded the trilogy and they all exploded in this memorable concluding installment. Fifteen years have passed since the end of the previous book, Blood of Assassins and for the first time in the trilogy, Barker moved the setting of the story from Maniyado to Ceadoc. The change in location was a brilliant decision as Ceadoc elevated the series with a new level of tension and grimness; as a setting, it was one heck of a dark place with palpable gloomy atmosphere. A celebration of darkness, crumbling morale, grey moral codes, and plentiful awesome action sequences, there’s no shortage of intense and memorable scenes in this book. Just because the setting of each book in the series was constructed within a single location, it definitely didn’t make the story less impactful. Not only the trilogy was smartly plotted (if you checked the interludes in the first book after you finished this, you’ll find the foreshadowing for the events in this installment within the interludes), Barker’s capability in melding mystery into fantasy to make a compelling narrative was brilliant. Also, whether it was Barker’s or Orbit’s decision, I seriously must praise the formatting in this book that added dramatic moments to some of the scenes. I can’t really talk about them, but the formatting itself helps to totally display just how bizarre and confusing the experience the characters felt during those specific moments.
This installment also marks Barker’s prose at his best. I found myself almost completely immersed in Barker’s prose. The writing in this novel has a way of absorbing me such that I am seeing things with a vivid vision from Girton’s perspective and because of that, every moment became so tense and real. It took a while for me to acclimate myself to the intentional switching of tenses in the last sections of the book, but despite my personal issue with these changes in a single paragraph with no warning, Barker handled them greatly. I am amazed by the sheer character developments that everyone went through; none of the characters stayed the same as they were at the beginning of the first book. If a series weaved a tale of epic proportions with awesome actions, amazing world-building, but the characterizations still don’t click with me, in the end, it would still be pointless to me. Characters matter the most to me and luckily, I was invested and cared so much about knowing Girton’s and his companions’ fate.
Magnificent, vivid, and immersive experience aside, I would also like to discuss a bit about the disabled characters presented in this trilogy. It is with permission from my little brother that I talk about this. I am not disabled, I won’t even claim to understand the difficulty and hardship of being one, but my brother was born with a disability on one of his legs that prevented him from walking normally or participate in any sports activities, and after talking to him about the series, he said Girton sounds like a character he would definitely love to know. I have lived with my little brother for many years, and I found Girton Club-Foot’s story to be highly convincing and inspiring; Girton wasn’t a man defined by his disability; he won’t fall to it, he allowed it to be a part of him, and he rose above himself. Maybe this series won’t become a big hit in the market; it really should be but we’ll never know. Maybe someone eventually will dislike this conclusion – I have no doubt that will happen as taste differs among readers. But maybe, this trilogy might have the power to inspire a person with disabilities, like my brother, to be able to rise above the challenges forced upon them, like Girton and many more characters in the series did. There’s no hard rule that stated we can’t be inspired from fantasy or any work of fiction; my personality and lifestyle were definitely influenced and shaped through countless hours of escapism. Girton to me is not just a stranger; the disturbing images he saw and the emotions he felt, I saw and felt them too. I have known his past, his struggles with his inner demons. No, Girton is not a stranger to me. I’ve read his journey to the end, and I see him as what my brother could be when he decided to rise above himself; not an easy thing to do but after years, I have seen his acceptance and his perseverance by using his main strength – knowledge.
Conclusion wise, I really couldn’t ask for more. Barker ended his first published trilogy with so much impact, and he has definitely earned a new reader in me. I still can’t believe how underrated and overlooked this trilogy is. People really need to move past the expectation of expecting tons of badass assassin actions in the first book and give this series another go with the right expectation; you have no idea what you’re missing here. I absolutely recommend this trilogy to anyone who’s looking for an incredible trilogy with amazing characterizations and elegantly destructive combat scenes. Without a doubt, I will be reading whatever Barker produced next because he showed so much talent just from the first trilogy he wrote; one which he started and finished in 18 months too! King of Assassins was a tragic, heart wrenching, and poignant conclusion; one series that I will definitely recommend to any fantasy reader who has a heart to read.
Read the first word of each paragraph above; so ends the first and last confession of the reviewer, Petrik Leo.
The Wounded Kingdom: 13.5/15 stars
You can order the book HERE!