I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
A decent debut, The Perfect Assassin impressed me most with its fascinating worldbuilding.
It is refreshing to see more and more fantasy releases of late not relying on the more traditional Europe-centric medieval setting for its worldbuilding. In The Perfect Assassin, the setting was decidedly Middle Eastern with an interesting twist. Ghadid was a city built hundreds of feet above sand dunes, made up of numerous connected platforms balanced on top of pylons. As the spirits of the deceased roam the sand dunes seeking for new bodies, such construction of the city was meant as a form of protection. The possession of such spirits can render a person mad, and sometimes even kill. My favourite element in the worldbuilding was the currency of water, which fit well into the desert scenario. The commodity was not only precious for sustaining life, it also powered miraculous healing and the magic needed to control the deadly spirits. As such, the deliberate act of wasting water can bring about a death sentence.
The story was primarily centred around a murder mystery. One which was tasked to a freshly ‘graduated’ assassin to solve. Amastan was not your usual assassin. While he was delighted to pass his final test, he was also relieved that learn that there was a ban on assassin contracts because he wasn’t certain that he can kill. A senior official, termed as a drum chief, was found dead when contracts were supposed to be non-existent. And Amastan had to find out who did it, or his entire family of assassins would take the fall for the murder.
I love mysteries in my stories. It can overshadow the assassin aspect and I’d still be fine with it, so long as I also cared about the characters. This was where the book fell short for me. The writing was easy to read. The setting was atmospheric. Some of the action scenes were exciting. However, I was just not fully invested in Amastan, the main protagonist. I wouldn’t call the character development disengaging as we do get to be in Amastan’s head pretty much all the time. Somehow or rather, the character development didn’t resonate with me all that much. For those who are looking for diversity and inclusiveness in their reads, you would get LGBT representation in this book. And for the record please, the gay romance had absolutely no bearing on how I felt about the characterisation.
The handling of the plot and pacing also felt a bit clumsy at times. Fortunately, it did not extend to the ending which I found satisfactory. The title of the book can be deceiving as well, as it did not in any way allude to a story about a superlative assassin with loads of badass action. It did, nonetheless, make sense right at the end.
The Perfect Assassin will be released on 19th Mar 2019.