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Book Review - Darkblade: Assassin (Darkblade, Book #1) By Andy Peloquin

"A fiery beginning to what could be one of the best fantasy series of all time."

"Peloquin has channeled the energy of the greats [Martin, Rothfuss, and Abercrombie] into an epic narrative that is as enthralling and thrilling as it is heartbreaking."

"The Hunter is Peloquin's John Wick, and Voramis is his King's Landing."

BLURB: All in Voramis know the legend of the Hunter. Relentless. Immortal. Death walking. The greatest assassin who ever lived.

Pay the master killer his due and the Hunter will execute any target, carry out any contract, no matter how impossible.

But when the Bloody Hand crime syndicate harms the innocents under his protection, they foolishly make an enemy of the one man they can’t afford to anger. The price of the Hunter’s vengeance is high—paid in blood and eternal damnation. Not even an army of crooks, cutthroats, and demonic creatures of nightmare can stand in his way.

He’s far more than just one man…he’s the Keeper-damned Hunter of Voramis.

REVIEW: 5 / 5 Stars

Peloquin has achieved the impossible: dragging my rent and bloody heart through 750 pages of pure heartbreak only to leave me grinning like a fool during the final pages. Yes, heartbreak. Darkblade: Assassin is not for the squeamish, and every twist and turn of The Hunter's tale is bound to leave shredded pages or bent plastic (for you Kindle readers) beneath your white knuckles. Let's dive into this dark fantasy masterpiece.

The Hunter is one of the three pillars of power in the festering sore that is Voramis. King Gavian might rule in broad daylight, but a vicious criminal syndicate, the Bloody Hand, owns everything else. The flesh trade, the brothels, the black market. If it's worth even an offal-caked bronze drake, they have a finger in it.

A tenuous peace exists between the Hunter and the Bloody Hand. He ignores their wanton degeneracy and corruption, and in return they give him free reign to carry out assassinations—ones he is forced to execute to sate the ravenous bloodlust of a magical dagger inexplicably bound to him. It is not a tranquil relationship, but there is peace. For now . . .

What follows is grim, bloody slaughter. Peloquin is a master of sensory storytelling, rooting you in the Hunter's unstable mind as he battles through reeking back alleys, incense clogged parlors, musty catacombs, raucous taverns, and elegant soirees. I cringed at every blow the Hunter struck and received. Tasted the coppery blood in his mouth and curled my noise up at the stench of death he was so Keeper-damned efficient at doling out. Every thrust, stab, slash, hack, chop, and any other method of dealing immense bodily harm was accounted for, and I reveled in the amount of detail I was being given.

But for all Peloquin's emphasis on action, does his world-building and characterization suffer? Hardly. If anything, these are the true strengths of Darkblade: Assassin. In the middle of all the death, despair, and suffering, my favorite segment was three subsequent chapters that consisted of nothing but the Hunter and a side character talking about lore while climbing a seemingly infinite staircase. Peloquin's mythology is riveting. The talk of gods, demons, ancient civilizations, lost continents, frozen seas, forgotten wars, and alchemy could be ripped from the twitching muscles of this book and would still be fascinating on their own. Bravo, well done!

And characterization? The Hunter is, quite frankly, a mess. But for all his brutality and bloodlust, he is a compelling, likeable mess. He must kill, but he chooses who, why, and when. Even in the midst of his long-term amnesia and despondence at the unending cycle of death and mayhem he must engage in, the Hunter has a code he follows. And, perhaps, even people he cares about. I fell in love with the brooding bloke, and my heart ached when the vicious Peloquin inflicted the unthinkable upon him.

"In these quiet moments, the Hunter became the prey, and he could never escape the lifeless eyes and accusing faces."

This low point in the novel might receive criticism from other reviewers, but not from me. Depression is not something that evaporates with one minor success or simple kindness. Guilt and shame are not overridden by direction or purpose—at least not entirely. They are ever present, like ghosts lurking just out of sight, waiting to drag us back down into the darkness at the slightest weakness or crack in our armor. The Hunter encapsulates this perfectly, and I applaud Peloquin for not shying away from these hard truths.

I could gush for hours about this book, but the highest praise I can give it is this: read Darkblade: Assassin for yourself. It will hurt you. Yet, at the same time, it will also give you hope. Hope that we can rise above our heritage, our circumstances, and our past. Hope that we can be the light in the darkness; the good that doesn't yield to evil. And we don't have to be pure ourselves to take up that fight. We have all sinned, we have all fallen, but as long as we rise to our feet once more, we will never truly be beaten.

Just like the bloody Keeper-damned Hunter of Voramis.

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