Age of Assassins

By: RJ Barker
Narrated by: Joe Jameson
Series: The Wounded Kingdom, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (221 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

It's a game of assassin versus assassin.

Girton Club-foot has no family and a crippled leg and is apprenticed to the best assassin in the land.

He's learning the art of taking lives, but his latest mission tasks him with a far more difficult challenge - to save a life. Someone is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder.

Age of Assassins is the first in an epic new trilogy set in a world ravaged by magic, featuring a cast of assassins, knights, ambitious noblemen, and fools.

©2017 RJ Barker (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Both a coming of age story and a tale of twisty intrigue, Age of Assassins builds a compelling fantasy world and peoples it with characters you can care about. Riddled with intrigue and dangerous magic, this is a hugely enjoyable debut." (Jennifer Williams, author of The Copper Promise)
"A beguiling story of action and intrigue combined with a poignancy and humor that are as sharp as any blade." (Jon Skovron, author of Hope and Red)
"A dark-humored game of cat and mouse between assassins with traitors on all sides." (David Dalglish, author of A Dance of Cloaks)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Really immersive listen!

This is a tale of not only an assassin’s apprentice, but a young one in a sort of coming-of age story. It’s not the first story of this type that I’ve ever read, but it is definitely a good one to add to my mental collection.

Girton is the apprentice to Merela Karn, a master assassin. Perhaps the best assassin in all the land. This land has been poisoned by magic, and so food is scarce and magic is outlawed. More than outlawed, it’s pretty much anathema. Girton is mage-bent- he was born with a club foot, thought to be something like the result of the remnants of the poisonous magic in the land. Despite his disability, he’s quite skilled as an assassin and as a jester. He doesn’t at all let his club foot stop him from being awesome. Merela took him in as a child rather than let him continue to be a slave, and raised him as her apprentice. I cheered for Girton, because there is something about him that instantly made him likable. I really liked Merela too, because while she is a master assassin, and is often likely to be harsh with Girton, you know she does care very deeply for him all the same. It’s rather heartwarming, really.

They’re hired to come to the castle, obviously as assassins, but also obviously not exactly for an assassination, and it turns out the queen, an old acquaintance of Merela’s, would like to hire them as professional assassins, but only to catch another assassin who is after her son, the heir to the throne. So, to catch an assassin, use an assassin- a really good tagline to use here. Girton is set up in the castle as the son of a minor noble, there to be trained in swordplay. So, he, a boy who has quite a lot of martial skill, has to pretend to have absolutely no martial skill whatsoever, while he and his master try to unravel the mystery of who would possibly try to assassinate the queen’s son (other than everyone, because the queen’s son is a giant tool).

This story is told mostly in the first person, from Girton’s POV, with the exception of a few interludes, which are usually in the third person, told as dreams, and tell a little of Girton’s childhood and how he came to be with his master. This was a nice way of splitting the narrative up, because the interludes were short enough to not be annoying, and informative enough to give quite a bit to the story. The story as a whole is really well told, and the ending had plenty of awesome reveals and other twists and turns.

The narrator, Joe Jameson did a really great job bringing Girton and Merela to life here. He really became Girton and told his story amazingly well. I can imagine it’s difficult to be an adolescent boy, two adult women, a dying man, and a rough-voiced old man within the same chapter, but he did, and so very well. Very immersive.

All told I really liked this story a lot. I can’t wait for more!

10 people found this helpful

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Dark Coming Of Age Story

After listening to Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoat series, I went looking for another series with narrator Joe Jameson. I settled on Age Of Assassins, and am pretty happy with the choice as I continued on and read the complete series. Age Of Assassins is a type of coming of age book, with the main POV a crippled boy named Girton Clubfoot. The difference in this story is that instead of the usual time spent in fantasy books of having our young hero go through some sort of assassin school or training, the book picks up with Girton after he has completed most of his training and is already quite accomplished at age 15. Girton and his master arrive at a castle at the request of the queen and he is tasked with making friends with other teenagers his age in order to spy on them. Only Girton has never made friends before and has a hard time of it.

The story starts off a bit slow, and I was starting to lose interest with the teen hijinks and Girton's akward attempts to fit in, but eventually the plot grows better. There are also some strange dream sequences in the book. However, Girton and some of the other characters like his master were likable which helped me stay with it. By the end I was looking forward to the next in the series.

This book takes a little time to get going, but overall it turned out to be a good tale, and the series gets better as it goes on. The narration was as good as in the Greatcoats series, and Mr. Jameson is becoming one of my favorite narrators. I am looking forward to more books from both narrator and author.

2 people found this helpful

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I'll keep trying

I wasn't really blown away with the characters or story of book 1, but the ratings for later books are above average, so I'll try part 2 soon.

Joe Jameson was amazing as always. I first heard him narrating the Traitors Blade series, which I enjoyed a lot, and that inevitably led me here.

2 people found this helpful

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Great Story

This was a book that took me a while to actually get to for some reason but once I finally did it did not disappoint. The novel combines a grimdark world with an earnest young assassin who is upbeat and just trying to find his place in the world. This may seem like an odd combination but it works very well.

2 people found this helpful

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Done-Well

While I can't say that the story is anything new, the author and narrator come together to tell the story well.

1 person found this helpful

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A great start to a series

A great start to a series. RJs characters are loveable and I'm excited to see if the next book incorporates more magic(sorcery).

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The Scribblings Review of Age of Assassins

Anonymously summoned to Castle Maniyadoc, Girtan Clubfoot and his master, assassin Merela Karn, find themselves trapped and forced into a hunt for another assassin.

Age of Assassins is part mystery and part coming-of-age, wrapped in the trappings of a fantasy novel. The bulk of the story is told in first-person, exclusively through the eyes of Girtan, a young man rescued as a child from slavery and trained as an assassin’s apprentice. From that earlier age, he has had almost no friends or close acquaintances save his master, so when he has to assume the rule of a young noble and join a group of other boys in knightly training, it forces him to acknowledge some of what has been missing from his life.

Complicating matters further is Girtan’s meeting and growing affection for a stable-hand. As Girtan grows to value these friendships it becomes harder for him to be objective about his true purpose; finding the assassin intent on killing the prince. It isn’t made any easier by the prince’s nature; arrogant, cruel, bullying and, having already been shamed by Girtan once, intent to taking any form of revenge he can. Given that he could easily kill most of the other boys, he is often forced to choose between maintaining his cover and the reactions his adolescent hormones demand.

It turns out there are almost as many plots and secrets scattered around the castle as there are people looking to turn the unexpected arrival of a new member of the court to their advantage. While some of these schemes are only tangential to Girtan’s mission, they do act as distractions as he tries to puzzle his way through, and are effectively tied together at the climax, including one which hits a little too close to home for Girtan’s comfort.

One of the advantages the 1st person narrative has is that the reader discovers clues and information at the same time Girtan does, ensuring that the mystery remains foremost. The downside is that is can dilute some of the sense of jeopardy that Girtan faces. But obviously the same does not apply to anyone else and Girtan’s fear for his new friends comes across sharply.

Keeping the action confined to the castle and it’s immediate surrounds also helps amplify the claustrophobic nature of the story as many of the characters, not just Girtan are essentially trapped there. The combat, when it happens, is well handled and the description of Girtan’s fighting style is unique, as he moves in and out of conscious thought, letting his training take over.
Age of Assassins is a very good read and I plan on returning to the Wounded Kingdom in the future.

4.5 out of 5 antlered war mounts.

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Good sorry line

Good action not much gore. the ending could have been better. but overall it was a good book.

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Held my attention

It was interesting and fast read/listen...bought the next 2 to see what happens down the road with the characters

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Creative, engaging and very well performed.

First of a little note to audible: this is a series of 3 books and they should be linked that way. Small oversight but I mention it because I did end up listening to all 3 and am far to lazy to review them all. They are definitely not stand alone books though and a large part of the power of these books lies in the personal transformation the characters go through in the saga as a whole.
I enjoyed these books a lot. Barker creates a bleak world, ruled by class structures and religions in which magic and sorcery is seen as the cause of much of its downfall. Of course the main character, Girton, whose story is told using first person narrative, also has magic ability and is both a jester and a fine assassin. Although he is handicapt by a club foot, Barker does not make the mistake of making this about Girton overcoming such misfortune, something I was afraid would happen when I read summaries of the story, but the perception of people he comes into contact with does play a role. Barker does a very good job fleshing out characters, is strong in her ability to describe scenes of battle and moves through the story at a nice pace.

As far as narration is concerned, Jameson is one of the true masters out there and he does an incredible job here as well.