The Assassins of Tamurin
Eos, December, 2002.
Hardcover, 453 pages.
11 year-old Lale is an orphan who lives in the small, poor village of Riversong, located in a land that brings both ancient China and ancient Rome to mind. Turned out of the village for losing the town's precious needles, Lale is adopted by Makina, the Despotana of Tamurin, known as "Mother" to all the adopted girls. Lale, a great beauty, is eventually sent to the secret school of Three Rivers where she learns all the trades of a professional spy and assassin. Sworn to absolute loyalty to Makina, Lale is magically enthralled -- if she betrays Makina, she will be tortured to death by the hideous and merciless wraiths. Lale is sent to the nearby country of Bethiya with a troupe of famous actors, where she is ordered to seduce and then destroy the ruler of the country, Terem Raithai. Mother despises Terem because she believes him responsible for the murder of her child and family, many years ago. Lale becomes the Inamorata of Terem, but she also falls in love with the ruler, who turns out to be an honorable and just man, despite what Mother has told Lale over the years. Now, as war threatens, and Makina's terrible plans are revealed, Lale must make a terrible decision as to whom she will betray, a betrayal that will most likely mean her death.
S. D. Tower (actually a pseudonym for a Canadian husband and wife writing team) creates a stunning new fantasy world, peopled with peasants, poets, monarchs, sorcerers and assassins, set against a rich background of luxurious palaces, rough countryside, and lively cities. Lale, the orphan who becomes a deadly assassin, tells her story in first person, and her character is vividly portrayed. Makina, the seemingly benevolent monarch who actually runs a deadly network of spies and who has grand designs for the world, is a fascinating character who at times seems to be teetering on the edge of madness. With all the conflicting motivations of the characters and the potential for deception, one never really knows who is right or wrong until the very end of the book, which makes for some very suspenseful reading. A detailed map is the only thing missing from this well-executed fantasy.
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This review was published in the February, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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