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The Wounded Kingdom #2

Blood of Assassins

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The epic sequel to RJ Barker's fantasy debut Age of Assassins, set in a world ravaged by magic, featuring a cast of assassins, knights, and ambitious noblemen.

In a desperate bid to escape the bounty on his head, assassin Girton Club-Foot has returned to Maniyadoc, but the kingdom he knew no longer exists.

Three kings battle for supremacy in a land ravaged by war-and one of them is his old friend Rufra. With threats inside and outside the war encampment, Girton races to find the traitor behind an assassination plot. But his magic can no longer be contained and Girton may not be able to save even himself.

It's assassin versus assassin for the life of a king.

The Wounded Kingdom
Age of Assassins
Blood of Assassins

480 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 13, 2018

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About the author

R.J. Barker

18 books1,039 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 326 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
April 2, 2019
4.5/5 stars

Blood of Assassins magnificently transitioned The Wounded Kingdom into a much darker series in an awesome way.

Girton and his master have been living as a mercenary for five years since the end of the event in Age of Assassins. The past five years experience has changed or repressed Girton's personality to something worse. This sequel was a much darker book than its predecessor; at times I feel like it totally belongs in the grimdark genre due to how grey the moral code of Girton was. Barker strengthened his storytelling skill in this installment by making sure the story was unpredictable, full of intense twists and turns, and the entirety of the book to focus heavily on the theme of redemption and prejudices against sorcerer/magic. Plus, the murder mystery aspect in the book also was much more engaging to follow than before.

“Don’t be a slave to old hatreds, Girton. People change, remember that. Forgiveness is its own reward.”

That particular line above holds a lot of weight because it pretty much summed up what the theme of the book was. Now, this doesn't mean that the novel was a light-hearted or hopeful one; the tone of the book was darker due to Girton’s character development. I’m honestly amazed by how good Barker’s characterization writing in this book was, and that doesn’t exclusively apply to Girton; whether you liked his development or not. Believe me, Girton will most likely infuriate you; I’ll be completely surprised if he doesn’t because as far as I know, I’m pretty sure the majority of readers and the author himself wanted to slap him. Think of Fitz’s stupidity, multiply that by ten and that should give you an insight on how maddening Girton can be. Girton was rash, impulsive, selfish, and extremely paranoid. However, somehow Barker managed to make sure that Girton's thoughts were well-conveyed that I can’t help but be invested into reading his journey. Girton needed to grow up and fight his inner demons, as always, this kind of mental journey won’t be a smooth ride as friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness will be tested over and over again. There were also plenty of awesome unpredictable character developments that I can't mention due to spoilers reasons; let me just say that Barker took me by surprise with what he did towards one character I highly despise in the first installment.

“There is no greater teacher than hard lessons, Girton. And your lessons have been harder than most.”

I mentioned that I wanted more battle sequences because in my opinion Barker really handled his action scenes beautifully and guess what? I got what I want in this installment. Warhammer strike, the piercing arrow, the elegant sword dances, tension-packed duel, and siege; Barker handled all of it greatly. Blood of Assassins truly lived up to its title and now, if you want an action-packed assassin killing scenes, you’ll get what you want in this book. The action sequences in the book kept me fully immersed and all the battles were vividly imagined in my head due to how well-written each movement of the battle was.

There were a bit of pacing issue I had with the first half of the book and I was mildly bored during some section. However, the second half of the book totally redeemed everything and made the book a read that kept me on the edge of my seat as my thoughts kept on wondering towards the dilemma of “will he do it or not?” and “what will happen next?”

I don’t have much more to say, this book ended up better than I thought it would be. I still can’t believe how incredibly overlooked this trilogy is; both two books so far received 4.5 stars from me and I will immediately continue to read the last book of the trilogy. Blood of Assassins was a great sequel that retained all the great parts of the first book and improved upon almost every single thing in it; truly spectacular and a complete roller coaster ride. Highly recommended!

You can order the book HERE!

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
310 reviews1,326 followers
January 26, 2018
I received an advanced review copy of Blood of Assassins in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank RJ Barker and Orbit Books. *May include minor spoilers*

The second novel in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy picks up the action 5-years after the climactic events of Age of Assassins. The assassin Girton Club-Foot and his master have been operating as mercenaries since they left Maniyadoc. They've travelled throughout the majority of the Tired Lands following violence and battles, putting their skills in dealing death to use and getting paid for completing vicious and bloody set objectives. On the road and after a confrontation his master gets poisoned and Girton races to return to Maiyadoc, which is ruled by his old friend Rufra; seeking aid and hoping to find sanctuary. Times have changed as have the people Girton trained with half a decade earlier. Three of them all believe they are the rightful King and are now competing for the throne. Girton focus now is on being at his friend's side and finding a cure for his master's ailment.

As mentioned, times have changed. Once again presented in the first person perspective, Girton is not the same character he was when Age of Assassins concluded. Beforehand for him, the killing was an art, a poem, a song, a ballet, now it is just a necessity in this ever-decaying world. He replaced his blades with an almighty war hammer and is not always the rational thinker the way he was. His master has to tone down his destructive nature and as someone who has magic within him, he could wield catastrophic city annihilating power. When his master is ill he sometimes loses his focus and has a creeping voice in his head offering him all the possibilities he could wish for. It's like Girton is suffering from a sort-of magic influenced psychosis or schizophrenia yet still remains intelligent, fiercely loyal and an assassin at heart. Blood of Assassins features a variety of unfamiliar characters, new religions, and unvisited settings. I'd say half of the ensemble we are familiar with name-wise, however; not always with who they have become. My favourites to be reintroduced were Nywulf, the former sword trainer and now war commander, Boros, once pretty boy warrior and now a scarred veteran out for revenge, and Rufra, an overthinking but loved King who can't see the threats and dangers within his camp and the surrounding world.

As well as aiming to heal his master and aid Rufra if he can, Girton is tasked with finding a spy. It is in this area of his focus that the amazing mystery and espionage element that wowed me in the first book is reintroduced. Age of Assassins blew me away with its mix of sleuthing and fantasy that seemed completely original to me, making the story one of my favourites from last year. In great fashion Blood of Assassins is more of the same and the writing is just as beautiful and poetic in manner. Similar to my thoughts regarding the prior book, I don't think anything written here is coincidental and Barker maps his work out expertly in this puzzling narrative throwing up twists, shocks, betrayals, and surprises where we have to reanalyse where certain characters loyalties may lie. Some of the set-pieces featuring battles and sieges are true standout moments. The world presented here is truly decaying and that is reflected in just how dark some of the scenes in this story are. I didn't care too much for a few of the brief interlude dream sequences but that is the only negative I have. That isn't to say they won't be engrossing to others. In my opinion, Barker's work is superbly unpredictable and engaging and Blood of Assassins is just as enjoyable and addictive as the first. If anything it's a better standalone written in a style that has led me to devour both his books within a handful of days. If you haven't already - do yourself a favour and start this series. Girton is a brilliant character and luckily King of Assassins is only a few months away from release.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
698 reviews868 followers
April 23, 2021
I received an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars.

An impressive sequel to an excellent debut, Blood of Assassins draws upon the compelling character development of Girton Club-Foot to underscore a storyline which is at once engaging and unpredictable.

RJ Barker's debut, Age of Assassins, is a coming-of-age story which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. There were varied and mixed reactions, however, due to expectation. Most readers who were disappointed expected a book about an assassin kicking ass and taking names. While Girton did do some of that, it was not in the way that one typically anticipate from a story with an assassin in the title. Although for me, this was the reason why I liked Age of Assassins as much as I did. It was not what I thought it would be, but I still find it entertaining and fascinating. A club-footed assassin? Who would have thought it could work? Well, it did. By employing the fighting art of the assassin in the form of dance-like iterations, which club-foot or not, one can imagine the swiftness and fluidity of such movements negating the deformity.

I cannot mention much about the plot without spoiling the first book, except to say that the events herein take place 5 years after the conclusion of the preceding volume, and we return to the Tired Lands where a war wages between three kings. Girton, after travelling across various lands with his master lending their deadly skills to whoever willing to hire them, found himself landed squarely in the midst of the war and back in the company of his best friend, Rufra.

The five years which have passed seem to have quite a psychological impact on Girton. With his dark and fatal secret, known only to him and his master, Girton struggled with inner demons and frankly, a significant level of angst. The story was told from the first person perspective of our main protagonist, and as such, the reader gets substantially under his skin and deep into his thoughts and emotions. There were times when I got annoyed with him and wanted to smack some sense into his stubborn head. At the same time, however, I can also empathise with his inner conflicts and obstinacy judging from what he has experienced, seen and done. In the end, I still rooted for him and found the growth of his character compelling and realistic.
We are cursed to be the sum of our deeds, black as they may be. They are like an arrow; once the shot is made, there is no escaping the consequences.

The worldbuilding in The Wounded Kingdom, though not unseen before, is far from derivative. The Tired Lands is named as such as the land itself is suffering from the kind of sickness that sucks the life out of the earth. And it was caused by sorcery. The magic in the world is imbued into the very life of the land and its beings. People who have the gift to draw upon the magic to perform sorcery are hence viewed to be a great threat to the world. Then there is the lore of the old gods, who have all died, save for one, and 'hedgings'. Given the way the people curse on the names of these hedgings, one can only allude to the possibility that they are evil beings or demons, or perhaps just really powerful sorcerers of old. If there is one aspect of the narrative which I cannot complain about, it is info-dumping. In fact, I would like to get a bit more expository writing. For example, I still do not know what a 'yellower' truly means. And who are all these hedgings, such as Dark Ungar, Fitchgrass and Blue Watta? Instead, there are a few bizarre dream sequences where Girton encounters these strange manifestations. Thankfully, these do not occur with regularity.

The biggest improvement I found in the sequel is the action and battle scenes. There was a lot more killing and death in this instalment with fight scenes that were both visceral and strangely almost beautiful in its gore and violence. Again, there wasn't any 'assassination' of the sort we are familiar with - killing done under the cover of night or covert circumstances. Girton and his master were as much performers as well as killers, their way of fighting almost an art in itself. And I enjoyed this interpretation; this original telling of a non-typical assassin story.

Aside from being engaging, something else about Blood of Assassins made it a real page-turner, and that is its unpredictability.  I had no idea where the plot is heading to, which made me very eager to keep reading whenever I can.  Similar to Age of Assassins, there is a strong element of mystery which our main character is again tasked to unravel. Odd bits and pieces of conversation here and there, a character interaction which did not seem significant, all tied together marvellously as the revelations are brought to light.

The conclusion wraps up the current arc superbly with a scene which had me on the edge of my seat. The best part is that the final book of the trilogy is mere months away even though this is an ARC that I'm reading - Barker is an efficient and great writer, no doubts about it.  And there is also no doubt that I will very much look forward to reading the finishing chapter of this unique tale.

You can purchase the book from Book Depository (Free Shipping) | Bookshop.Org (Support Independent BookstoresAmazon US | Amazon UK

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Gavin.
861 reviews392 followers
February 23, 2018
I felt like Blood of Assassins was a decent enough read but not nearly as much fun as Age of Assassins. I'm not sure if it was a proximity thing or not as I read a bunch of duds in the build up to reading the first book while this sequel caught me coming out of a run of 5 star reads. The end result was I ended up thinking this was a decent enough story but not a particularly memorable or special one.

Girton and Merela Karn have spend 5 years travelling and plying their trade in foreign lands but Blood of Assassins picks up just as the duo are making their way back to Maniyadoc. What they find is a kingdom in the midst of a civil war as Rufra, Thomas, and even Aydor battle for the crown. Girton soon pitches up at his old friend Rufra's war camp where he is tasked with hunting down a spy in Rurfa's inner circle.

The story was OK but definitely not as fun as the story from the first book. It did end well as all the mystery plots came together in dramatic action-packed fashion!

The big flaw of this second instalment of the series was Girton himself. He is 5 years older than he was in the first book but appears not to have matured mentally or emotionally at all. If anything he has regressed and stomped around reacting to things like a 14 year old having a temper tantrum. I was fine with him in the first book as he was quite young but I feel like he should have matured a bit by this one given the time jump! I'd also like to see Girton using a bit more of his magic powers but I guess one of the more memorable aspects of this series is how having magic seems to be more of a hindrance than a help in this world!

The one thing I did really like was Aydor's story arc.

Overall I felt like this recovered from a slow start to develop into a decent enough story. It is coming of age fantasy with plenty of action and intrigue and a slightly YA-ish feel to both the tone and writing.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Audio Note: I feel like Joe Jameson did a good job with the audio. His is always dependably good and seems a great fit for coming of age fantasy stories!
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,007 reviews1,326 followers
January 4, 2021
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“We are cursed to be the sum of our deeds, black as they may be. They are like an arrow: once the shot is made, there is no escaping the consequences.”

Blood of Assassin’s is what I wanted Age of Assassin’s to be. While I thought the first book to be okay but entertaining, this entry takes the series to a higher level. The story follows a time jump a few years after the first book and I believe that gave time to the characters to grow into better ones.

The writing is dark, the prose is beautiful and I would not ask for more than that in a novel of this genre. I have to confess that some parts were boring in book 1 and still in book 2 but definitely more interesting and written with more experience.

The plot had some tropes, I feel like every book with a student/ master relationship follows the same outline so I found this to be predictable. Like book 1, there was a mystery element mixed into the story that makes you curious to push throw and with the addition of more action, it made it an intriguing read!

The world-building gets some expansion too and although I am still not the biggest fan of the magic system, I accepted it more in this book. The moral ambiguity made up for a few things I did not like in this series. So overall, it was definitely a good read and if you liked book 1 then you will most surely like this one more!
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews602 followers
April 24, 2021
Blood of assassins is the second book in The Wounded Kingdom. The events in this book happened five years after the first book with Girton and Merela his master in a far off country, they have been here after the events that happened in Maniyodioc. They had to return to their country which has an ongoing war due to the fact that Tomas,Rufra and Aydor all have claims to the throne, the three of them have armies supporting them. A kingdom riddled with war can never progress, especially a kingdom that has huge souring, on a regular time they barely have enough to eat.

Moving on, I love the way the author portrayed the events here, his writing and world building improved greatly, Girton developed, he is still dependent on his master but he has grown a lot.

Girton did things he is not proud of while away but I’m glad that despite all this his love and loyalty to his master and Rufra still remains.
My biggest fear for Girton is his magic, he is trying but I don’t see him succeeding. The quote below is so sad but true about him.

“But I knew pain.
I was familiar with pain. And if pain was the ocean I was lost in, then I would take some comfort from the knowledge that I had swum these seas before.
And I had survived.
I would survive.”

Rufra is now king, he has great ideas that will make the kingdom better, he is trying to get rid of the caste that all but ruins society, and it is working.

Aydor is the character that shocked me most in this, forget the person you met in the previous book, he is dead and gone, he is now honorable and somewhat kind.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,843 reviews516 followers
April 7, 2021
This trilogy combines fantasy with mystery and political intrigue. Girton Club-foot is apprenticed to Merela Karn, an expert assassin. He is also secretly a sorcerer who has never explored his powers and suppresses them with the help of Merela, because in this world sorcery is considered a dangerous curse. At the very beginning of the book Merela is poisoned and Girton has to find a cure for her. He also must solve a murder, identify a traitor and help his old friend King Rufra who is engaged in a war with two other kings. There is a lot going on in this book. However, what really keeps me involved is Girton. He is not a clichéd wise ass and he isn’t on a quest, he has understandable emotions and just wants to to do the right thing for his mentor and friends. Unfortunately, he is politically inexperienced, often comes to the wrong conclusions and acts without adequate information. I also appreciate the female characters in this trilogy, who do not exist solely to serve the men or to wait around to be raped. When I read the first book I had assumed that the author was a woman. It turns out I was wrong.

While I read some epic fantasy, it’s not my favorite genre. I don’t care for stoic fighting machines, romance or the “chosen one “ on a journey. However, I’m really glad that I took a chance on this trilogy, which manages to avoid the things I hate while having an intriguing story line, compelling and relatable characters and exciting (although a few too many) battles. I don’t even mind that it’s a trilogy. Usually the second book of the trilogy bores me silly and I have to force myself to go on to the third book, but this book was so good that I have already bought the final book and am really looking forward to it. I don’t think that the books would work as standalones, even though each of the first two books tells a complete story.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
460 reviews396 followers
January 20, 2019
This book picks up 5 years or so after the events of the first book. It’s going to be difficult to talk much about the plot without spoiling things, so I suggest you not read this unless you’ve read the first book. I audiobooked this one as well and I apologize for any spelling gaffs.

Following the death of the Queen, the land has been split into three factions – those following Rufra, those following Thomas, and those following Ador. A complex situation arises where Girton is forced to accept a mission from Ador – to go to Rufra’s camp and plead for him to look for a spy in his midst. Ador is convinced that someone is trying to kill Rufra and this isn’t the Ador we get to know in the first book. Over the last 5 years he’s had an almost 180 turn around in his personality. On the surface he appears to be a changed man, humble, good to his followers, and ready to give up power to follow Rufra. Girton is extremely wary of working with Ador, but doesn’t see a choice. In the very beginning of the book, his master is hurt and it’s Ador that saved her life.

When Girton arrives at Rufra’s camp and explains the situation he’s met with an almost unyielding resistance on Rufra’s part. He is absolutely opposed to the idea that anyone in his camp could possibly be a spy. He trusts his people implicitly which makes it very difficult for Girton to do his job properly. Another major issue he’s dealing with is Merila’s health. She was cut with a poisoned blade, and despite her best efforts to cut the poison out of herself she remains extremely ill. Ador has sent a healer along with them to try and help Merila, but Girton doesn’t trust him either, suspecting him to have some sort of plan to undermine Rufra’s rule.

To make things more complicated, a priest is killed in Rufra’s camp and it’s starting to divide his followers. The priest was either loved and followed or absolutely hated, depending on who you talk to in the camp. It makes the list of suspects long and it’s tedious to try and weed through who had the right motive and the right timing to get that job done.

Man did I get pissed off at Girton in this book – more than once, actually. There are times he acts more like a child in this book than he did in the first one. I sort of let it slide off when he was younger, but now that he’s in his early 20’s it’s about time he stop acting like an angsty teenager. He’s sometimes aware of his behavior and how the consequences of it could come back to haunt him, and yet he does it anyway. There were a few decisions in this which almost made me throw the kindle at the wall. “No, wtf are you doing?!”. However, I still managed to stay in his court and hope the best for him. Each time he did something stupid I was hoping he’d come up with a way to fix it.

I really loved Rufra in this one, it’s nice to see a leader who actually cares for his people, and even those that aren’t technically ‘his people’ – he cares deeply about casualties of war, particularly children. He’s a very easy character to like in this, and I found myself taking his side a few times when he and Rufra were at odds. However, he’s SO benevolent and SO trusting that you can see where he’s going to stumble and fall into a trap. Nywolf believes there’s a spy, and despite not trusting Ador, even Girton believes there’s probably a spy, and yet Rufra keeps putting up serious resistance.

I found that there were a lot of purposefully repeated phrases, kind of like Abercrombie and “you’ve got to be realistic about these things”. I found them to be used lightly and effectively and brought out the right emotions in me. I’ll also say that the narrator for these books does an excellent job delivering the emotion with the right timing and emphasis, I really enjoyed the audiobooks.

I’ve read this entire trilogy in under a week so it’s safe to say this is one of the better series that I’ve read in a long time. I typically stop at book 1 unless it’s something that grabs me and doesn’t let go – and when that happens I tend to binge them all in one go.


murder mystery


Plot: 13.75/15
Characters: 13.5/15
World Building: 13/15
Writing: 13.5/15
Pacing: 14/15
Originality: 12.5/15
Personal Enjoyment: 9/10

Final Score: 89.25/100 – 5 stars, highly recommended.
Profile Image for J.P. Ashman.
Author 9 books410 followers
March 16, 2018
Fabulous sequel to a fabulous debut, both of which are right up my cobbled street.

I really enjoyed R.J's first book. The War of the Roses feel, coupled with definite magical (albeit subtle) fantasy elements was a win for me from the off. The castles. The people. The mounts and the exciting combat. The court life and the intrigue and mystery worked so very well together....

The second book continues this, but on a grander, wider scale.

It's some years later and our favorite apprentice assassin has grown some, despite remaining immature in many ways (intentionally done by the author, that much was clear to me). You find yourself wanting to throttle our little protag at times, despite rooting for him. He's making mistakes and he's getting frustrated. He's rash and he's over excited; patience is a virtue he's lacking and it's not all that clear to him for the majority of the book. This cleverly ties in well to the problems and puzzles he faces. It is, once again, murder mystery at its best...

...with an effin' battle to boot!

I'm a fan, that's clear to see. Bring on more, R'J. Bring on more!

Get it. Read it. Enjoy it and talk about it!


Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,936 followers
February 28, 2018
*I was sent this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Another super solid book in this series and I am really happy that the series has continued strong. I love the character of Girton Club-foot, he makes mistakes, but he does them because of passion and emotion, and I really like that in him. Girton is our main character from the first book, and it's been a few years since the end of book one when we pick the storyline back up. He's been travelling with his master, Merela, and they've done quite a few things in the name of escaping their past and keeping their present hush hush. They've journeyed with some rather terrible people and they've tried to allow time for the Kingdom to establish itself, but right when we join the story we see them getting attacked and Girton's master is in grave danger, and only returning to their past will potentially save her...

Once we get into the story we see Girton as he has to forge a way on his own, conduct an investigation, reunite with old enemies and friends, and find out who the traitor may be. The story starts a little slow, to re-immerse you in the world, but soon you will be drawn back in and wondering just where this story will lead you.

We do learn a bit more about the magic of this world, but not as much as I wanted to know. There's so much more to learn and I hope that the next book may cast a little more light that way. I did enjoy seeing other characters who interact with magic through hunting sorcerers down, finding magical plants and being consumed by magic. Magic isn't a desirable trait in this world..

This book and series is written in quite a charming forth-right way. The characters and plot are blunt, but honest. Seeing the way the story unfolds on the page is part of the allure of the series, and I really enjoyed the final third of the book where all the action starts to unfold and we see all the plot points coming together.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. There are battles that kept me interested throughout, characters I like a lot, and plot twists and turns that keep you guessing. There's also the Mounts which continue to be epic. Another solid 4.5*s from me :)
Profile Image for Eva.
185 reviews102 followers
July 26, 2021
Wow, this had an ending just like the famous Sanderlanche you usually only get with Brandon Sanderson - really masterfully done. This epic finale full of several plot twists and revelations was amazing. Blood of Assassins also has very deep characterization that touched my heart, lyrical, dynamic prose, and a multi-layered mystery plot. It made me think and feel deeply, which is why it's landing on my shelf of all-time favorites - just like the first book.

Minor quibble: the dynamic, lyrical literary style in some early magical dream/trance sequences was a tad too much for me sometimes and I had a bit of trouble following what was going on there. That was probably due to me listening to an audiobook instead of eye-reading it, though! I'm sure it will all make sense on a reread.

What I've seen other people criticize but it was a plus for me: the main character makes some very poor, misguided choices in this one, but they were all entirely believable and explained really well. He's just emerged from a few years of incredible trauma, and for his whole life, his master has been like a mother and guiding light for him, as well as his confidant and the only person who truly knew him. Her injury at the start and the threat of losing her is more than he can deal with emotionally, which affects his actions. His traumatic experiences with landsmen have also had a big impact on his ability to judge people impartially, which leads him to some misguided false conclusions. He ends up damaging his relationships quite badly, but it was so wonderful to see how he grows and learns and repairs the damage.

I can't wait to see how RJ is going to break my heart next time (he always does it just right!) and I'm very excited for the trilogy's conclusion. Highly recommended if you feel like reading a genre mix of mystery, dark epic fantasy, and a story about friendship and loyalty, and how hard but rewarding those can be. I also really love the master-apprentice (or adoptive mother and son) relationship in this series. It's so moving, unique, and interesting.
Profile Image for Kristen.
578 reviews110 followers
January 11, 2018
Full review is here, on my blog!

This volume takes place five years after the end of Age of Assassins. Girton Club-Foot and his master Marela Karn are returning to Maniyadoc after several years of absence, and on the way, they get into a scrap with some bounty hunters out for the price on their heads and Girton’s master gets poisoned. Badly. Luckily, they’re close enough to Maniyadoc that one of the three kings who are at constant war in the area picks him up and offers him help. Weirdly, it’s the last person he expects to help him. But, it turns out that they showed up with some impeccable timing, as his best friend Rufra, one of the three kings, is in grave danger, and it’s up to Girton to puzzle out who the traitor in his war camp is. On top of everything else, Girton is struggling to control the magic inside of him, and with his master out of commission, he can’t rely on her help. Shenanigans ensue!

This was one of those books that was really difficult to put down once I picked it up. It’s not overly long, as fantasy books go, which I often find refreshing, and it’s quite gripping. The plot grabs on and takes you on an adventure pretty much immediately. Girton and Rufra and their friendship was the highlight of Age of Assassins for me, and so their reunion made me smile. Nonetheless, Girton (and Rufra, for that matter) has changed. He’s older, and has spent the last five years as, more or less, a mercenary (battling rather in the open rather than in the shadows). He’s seen some shit now, and it does show from time to time in Girton’s mood… he has an increasingly short temper these days. With his master out of commission for the most part, he’s also on his own, and it shows, because he’s definitely more inclined to rush into things without thinking about them from every angle. He doesn’t have Marela there to smack him upside the head when he’s being lead by his emotions. He’s given up his stabsword (best weapon name ever) for a warhammer, and at first, the reason why left me curious, because an assassin with a warhammer seems odd. You do find out the reasoning behind it though. You find a lot out throughout the story that is only hinted at in the beginning.

There are mysteries and murder, battles and murder, and mounts (and murder). Oh, the mounts though. I was afraid right at the beginning that we wouldn’t get to see Xus (Marela’s goddamned awesome mount) again, but then he was there in all his clawed, tusked, and antlered glory. Biting, goring, and skewering his way into the hearts of many. Never change, you magnificent beast! <3<3<3

There is, like in Age of Assassins, a mystery in this volume as well, and it was well plotted. I, who will try and guess at things with varying levels of success, was unable to guess at it, and so the ending, with all its revelations was quite riveting. The pacing was great, and I was never bored with the plot. There were parts that legitimately made my eyes go wide, and a part or two where I had some feels reverberating, and maybe a tear or two well up. There was quite a few ‘Oh, Girton….’ moments- whether they be in a good or bad way, I will leave for you to find out. There is also (and I say this having read an early ebook, so I can only imagine how neat it will look in print.) some excellent use of text formatting in one of the ‘in between the events happening’ chapters (like Age of Assassins had) where Girton is dreaming of or remembering the past. A feeling like falling. Down, and down, and down. 10/10 use of space.

All told, I thought the book was fantastically done, and certainly a good addition to this series!

I really liked it. Loved it, even. Like I loved Age of Assassins. It was really, really close either way. So far, this is my favorite read of this year! ;D I can’t wait to find out how this story ends. I bet it’s going to be bonkers! 5 stabby stabs out of 5!

This review is brought to you by RJ Barker, Orbit, NetGalley, and coffee. Thank you to all of you for this read!
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
316 reviews464 followers
March 31, 2019
‘The cold night air is golden. Dying men bleed life into the land. They make a well that is sweeter and deeper than my needs require. I see every danger. I count the glittering spear point. I count the shining sword blades. I count the rusty axeheads. I see the faces twisted in hate, blackened teeth, roaring mouths.’
It seems that 2019 is my year for awesome fantasy books, because I have read so many great ones. Blood of Assassins by RJ Barker, is no exception because this one was right up my street, and I adored it from beginning to end.
Blood of Assassins is the sequel in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, and felt like a total natural progression in terms of plot and characters. Things have changed in Maniyadoc, several years have passed and war has devastated much. Three sides continue to fight for the throne. When Girton Club-Foot returns he is made aware of a plot to kill his friend Rufra, and uncovering the truth becomes his sole responsibility.
Immediately I got the sense that this book is a whole lot darker than it’s predecessor. There is this overwhelming bitter, angry and often melancholic tone right from the onset. As we slowly discover what Girton had been experiencing over the years, we see that the dark deeds of being an assassin/warrior have taken a heavy toll on him. Although Girton now comes across as insolent, and pretty frustrating at times, I could understand his reasons, and I had a lot of sympathy for his character.
“‘Don’t be a slave to old hatreds, Girton. People change, remember that. Forgiveness is it’s own reward.’”
Besides he was not the only one to have altered in character. Aydor, Girton’s old enemy, and Rufra; both now older too, have matured but still remain flawed. Barker really nailed it here, he showed that no character is perfect in this world, they all make mistakes, they all can be wrong, and it is circumstances that have forced them to have dark sides and shady morality. No act is without its consequences.
The pace is very well balanced in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the one on one combat action and riveting battle scenes. Bows, swords, spears and battle magic; they were all included to create very intense moments. Each scene had me captivated; Barker writes so vividly and uses such beautiful lyrical prose that I found it intoxicating. Some parts were just written so poetic, with flowing surreal imagery. Gah, it was perfect.
‘I vomit black birds of hate and death. They twist through the air around me echoing the patterns of the scars on my body.’
It was also great to see the murder mystery plot injected once again into the narrative. The twists and turns for this just kept on coming and it all became so unpredictable. Let’s just say it made for a very dramatic ending!
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,605 followers
March 13, 2018
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/03/13/...

In general, I find that most second books of a trilogy rarely live up to the first one, and so I foolishly thought this would be the case here as well. Well, I’ve never been happier that I was wrong. R.J. Barker has topped his first book with a spectacular sequel containing even more intrigue, more action, and more heart.

Several years have passed since the end of Age of Assassins, and in that time, many changes have come to the Tired Lands. Among the biggest of these is the ousting of Aydor, former heir to the throne, and now Rufra rules as king. War, however, still rages across the land, with three ambitious men all vying for the same crown. In the intervening years, our protagonist, the assassin-in-training Girton Clubfoot, as well as his master Merela have been traveling with a band of mercenaries, trying to keep a low profile amidst the conflict in order to escape the bounty hunters on their trail. But despite their best efforts, disaster finds them in the end, and with Merela incapacitated by a deadly poison, Girton has no choice but to return to Castle Maniyadoc at the behest of an old foe.

Still, coming back to Maniyadoc has its upsides. Girton is reunited with his friend Rufra, who has not forgotten our protagonist’s role in helping him become king. The problem now is keeping things that way, as rumors abound that Rufra has a spy among his inner circle. Girton has been tasked to root the traitor out, but this time he is on his own without his master’s guidance and advice. Furthermore, with Merela out of commission, there is no one to help him with his greatest secret—the fact he has the ability to wield magic, a crime that carries a penalty of torture and death in the Tired Lands. As the power in him grows stronger each day with no outlet for release, Girton fears that his control will fail him before he can save his friend.

Blood of Assassins has a similar premise to Age of Assassins, but this time the stakes involved are so much higher. To find the spy, Girton must also think like a spy—except he’s not very good at it. As an assassin, he’s more well-versed in the business of killing rather than the business of subterfuge and espionage. In the first book, he was also able to move around Castle Maniyadoc relatively unnoticed as just another squire, but now that he is lauded as King Rufra’s champion, staying under the radar has become impossible, making his job that much harder. Ultimately though, Girton’s greatest challenge will be to overcome his own demons. Without Merela’s counsel, there’s no one to steer him in the right direction or tell him when he’s letting his own emotions cloud his judgment, and he becomes his own worst enemy. Like an impulsive teenager, Girton often comes out swinging without thinking things through, and that lack of subtlety burns him more than once throughout the course of this tale.

What we’re seeing here is an older but not quite so wiser version of our protagonist who is trying to find his own way. Despite his blunders and occasional selfishness though, one just can’t help but feel for him. The last few years have not been kind to Girton, and he has suffered many losses which have challenged his worldview, even going as far as to make him change his fighting style. He has also become a lot more guarded towards Merela, because of the events in the last book that strained their relationship. Along with that comes a realization that his master is not invulnerable, and the possibility that he may lose her—to death or to abandonment—is a fear that drives him to take some reckless actions. All things considered, the level of character development and exploration we see here is quite astounding, and my feelings of endearment for our protagonist have only grown. In addition, Girton and Merela’s relationship continues to be one of the best master-apprentice dynamics I have ever encountered.

The best part of this book, though, is a possible spoiler so I can’t go into too much detail; suffice to say, I admire R.J. Barker so much right now for making me do a one-eighty on a particular character that I despised in the first book. It allowed things to build up to an epic finale, which had me holding back tears from all the different emotions roiling inside me.

Bottom line, Blood of Assassins is the kind of book you want to shout about from the rooftops at the top of your lungs and demand everyone you know to pick it up and read it. I’m beyond excited and a little nervous to read the final book in the trilogy, but if things continue trending in this direction, I have no doubt it will be a stellar conclusion.

Audiobook Comments: The awesomeness of this book was such that I could not bring myself to stop reading even when life got in the way. Fortunately, I was also able to listen to the audiobook while on the go, and I’m happy to say that this format provided just as much entertainment as the print edition. Joe Jameson is a seasoned narrator who has read for many other titles I’ve enjoyed in the past, and he’s once again delivered a wonderful performance in Blood and Assassins, providing the perfect voice for Girton.
Profile Image for John McDermott.
373 reviews47 followers
July 6, 2019
A brilliant sequel to a brilliant first book. A mystery novel inside a grimdark epic ! Just wonderful. Stunning world building,first rate characterizations ,all delivered by writing of the highest quality. Girton Club-Foot will in turn in madden and infuriate you and then break your heart ; a wonderful lead character. I can't praise this trilogies highly enough. An absolute must read !
Profile Image for Sabrina.
476 reviews245 followers
Want to read
February 9, 2018
I’m read for this book since the moment I finished the first one.
✨ Is closer by the minute!!! Just a couple more days and finally I’ll have this book🙌.
Profile Image for Antigone.
500 reviews741 followers
March 6, 2023
In my anger at my master I had cast aside my training, forsaken the precise iterations of the assassin's bladework for the brute power of the warhammer. I had stopped practicing the dances and tumbles I once loved, telling my master that the scars she cut into me made it too painful, though it was a lie and one we were both aware of. I did it to punish her. I did it so I could claim some sort of independence, even if it was one where I gave up what I loved the most. I did it because I was a fool, and not the sort that wore a motley.

Girton Club-Foot continues down the dark road of his life in the second volume of R.J. Barker's Wounded Kingdom trilogy. These are the years childhood departs and the hard lessons of the world are most painfully taught. War continues to rage across these lands; three kings vying for supremacy as violent factions rise to take advantage of every vacuum of power. Girton's battle-weary resentment fires to combine with the magic inside him, a force he can barely contain but must if he wishes to avoid the Landsmen and the gibbet they mount for every sorcerer they find.

Barker's skill in character self-awareness makes for a moving journey through the evolution of emotional reaction (and the poor choices it fosters) to objective reasoning (so often born in loss and grief). His young assassin is a heart-wrenching vehicle remarkably well-suited to explore the innocent errors we make and the opportunities they cost us. Add to this the battles, the politics, and the many twists deftly teased to fine reveals, and you have a heck of a story going on here.

Clever. Captivating. Recommended.
Profile Image for Virginja ↢ 99% imp.
180 reviews106 followers
October 31, 2020
4.25 🌟

This second book was a great step forward! It was less naive and put the readers in front of a masterfully crafted mystery. All those “mistakes” that made the first volume less enjoyable were not present in here, however I felt that in this installment the plot struggled to go in the direction it should. The level of introspection we got in Blood of Assassins was unparalleled, but many of the informations and details necessary to solve the mystery were overshadowed by the amounts of the book devoted to reflections (not that I’m particularly disappointed because... damn).
Girton is probably one of the most complex and relatable characters I have ever encountered in a fantasy book. Using a first person narrative is surely one of the focal points of this trilogy, and since Girton is reliable narrator (you can learn as much from the text itself) and an incredibly soft cinnamon roll, every tragedy and hard decision is ever the painful. I wish the author had included more scenes with Girton and Rufra: their relationship is one of the most interesting in this trilogy, but in Blood of Assassins it wasn’t given the spotlight it deserved.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews617 followers
February 22, 2018
As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

Blood of Assassins is the sequel to Age of Assassins. Age of Assassins was on my Top Ten Books of 2017 list, it is that good and was one of the fantasy debuts of last year (which let’s face it, 2017 was filled with some amazing debut books from fantasy authors).

If you are yet to read Age of Assassins then you need to rectify that, trust me, you won’t be disappointed! Firstly, because, as I just mentioned, it’s one of my Top Ten Books of 2017. Secondly, it’s a stupendous read. And thirdly, because Blood of Assassins is the sequel and the second book in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, it makes sense to read the first book first now doesn’t it?!? It’s only logical people and you can’t argue with logic!

Now, saying all that my expectations were obviously, rather high for Blood of Assassins and luckily, Barker manages to deliver and then some on all accounts. With blood of Assassins, he takes what he first started in Age of Assassins, builds and improves on it and has created what for me, is a stunning continuation of his story (well, it’s Girton’s story really and R. J. just writes it) and a sublime second instalment in his trilogy.

The Girton that we encounter in Blood of Assassins is far more world-weary than the younger Girton from Age of Assassins. Five years have passed since the events at the end of Age of Assassins and he has spent most of that time alongside his master, predominantly as a hired mercenary travelling around the Tired Lands. Quite a departure from his role as an assassin. Assassin’s are very cloak and dagger with their primary goal to remain unseen, hidden in shadow and to be stealthy whereas a mercenary is on display for the whole world to see as part of a group. As if to emphasise this point, Girton, at the start of the book has even forsaken his blades for a war hammer! Now, a war hammer is definitely not a weapon for stealth killing!

Simply put, Girton has changed and on his return to Maniyadoc, he finds that Maniyadoc has changed too. Sometimes it’s for the good and sometimes it’s for the bad but time changes everyone and everything (look at me being philosophical). He’s still the Girton that we all love and who gained a legion of fans in Age of Assassins flawed, occasionally foolish and who, at times, let’s his emotions get the better of him but he’s now older with more burdens to carry and his nature weighing him down.

On his return, Girton finds that three kings are all vying to rule over Maniyadoc. One of the three is his old friend Rufra and it is with him that Girton joins forces. There are whisperings of a spy in Rufra’s camp and Girton is tasked with finding the spy. At the same time, Girton’s master has been poisoned and is grievously ill. Along with his search for the spy and aiding his friend in becoming king Girton must also try to find a cure for the poison that is threatening his master’s life.

One of the things that I really liked about Blood of Assassins is that there’s a gap of a span of years between the events that happened at the end of Age of Assassins and the story that takes place in Blood of Assassins. Most second books in fantasy trilogies/series (which I’ve read) follow on and continue with the story straight after the ending of the previous book but Blood of Assassins forgoes that taking the different approach of leaving a gap of years between the books. While it’s only a small thing it makes for a refreshing change and with the time elapsed we get to see how time and age have altered both the characters and the setting that Barker has created.

Girton isn’t the only character that has changed. The years that have passed and the events that have occurred in Maniyadoc have in some way altered all the characters. Some, only in small ways but some in larger ways. One of the characters changes in personality is very startling but however, is also the beauty of it as it is so unexpected and you will find yourself questioning throughout whether it’s actually real or simply a ploy on the characters part..

I won’t mention any specifics about the story but one part that really stood out for me was a siege that takes place in the village of Gwyre, the build-up and the subsequent aftermath which is located about halfway through the book. It really showcases Barker’s ability to write brutal and visceral battle and fight scenes (the one on one duels that take place are also savage) and evoke emotions in both his characters and readers. It is just an outstanding example of both his work and his overall ability as a writer.

In Blood of Assassins, the world Girton’s story inhabits (the world building is top quality) seems larger than in the first book. We get to learn more about the Tired Lands through Girton and his master’s travels alongside various other mentions. And, where Age of Assassins predominantly took place within the confines of Castle Maniyadoc this time, we also visit the surrounding locations of that area giving a more epic feel and grander scale to the world.

A slight and very minor negative (the only one) for me was the inclusion of a few dream sequence interludes throughout the course of the book. They serve to show the internal conflict that rages within Girton due to his nature. However, they take you out of the moment and the present story and while they are only short I’d have much rather just continued reading what was currently happening.

The relationship between Girton and Merela, his master is outstanding. Often fraught with tension it is a deep and complex bond between them that is always full of emotion and that emotion in Barker’s capable hands emanates from off the pages (not just in the relationship between Girton and Merela but in others too like the relationship between Girton and Rufra and even just in random passages and sentences strewn throughout the book) and it is a highlight (one of many) of the book.

I was also pleased to see that mounts (beasts with antlers) were given a more prominent role this time around after only making a fleeting appearance in the previous book. After reading about them in Age of Assassins I’d been waiting with baited breath to see them in action in the sequel and they certainly didn’t disappoint, mount on mount action is ferocious! In my review for Age of Assassins with regards to them, I wrote ‘ideally someone should have been gored by their antlers just so that I could write someone got mounted in my review‘. Well, now I can! Thanks, R. J. as someone got mounted! Yes, I’m childish!😂

Blood of Assassins is a dark book from the characters to the world to the story being told and it is everything that is good in fantasy. It is compelling, tightly plotted, poetically written, well-paced, with fantastic action sequences, unexpected betrayals, twists galore and brimming with mystery. Finally, it is full of feeling. There’s beauty in the darkness and it’s a book that you won’t want to put down.

We are now (sadly, as it means there is only one book left in Girton’s tale) two-thirds of the way through the trilogy. Unless something catastrophic happens with the third and final book I can see no reason why come the end of King of Assassins that The Wounded Kingdom won’t be talked about and heralded as one of the great modern fantasy trilogies and Barker one of the great modern fantasy writers.

Girton is an exceptional character, Barker an exceptional writer and combined together they make a formidable pairing. Blood of Assassins is compulsive reading at its finest, simply stunning and mesmerising.
Profile Image for FanFiAddict.
548 reviews133 followers
February 22, 2018
I want to thank Orbit for the ARC and Hachette Audio for the ALC in exchange for an honest review, as both provided equal parts enjoyment. I also want to thank the author, RJ Barker, for giving us yet another refreshing and engaging novel in The Wounded Kingdom series.

Be forewarned: This Book is Full of Antlers (sorry David Wong) and will have some spoilers for those who have not read Age of Assassins (and if you are in that group, shame on you).

Some of you may know (if you follow my blog thing) that Age of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom #1) was one of my top 5 reads of 2017.

*Inserts link that no one will click on* [https://fanfiaddict.wordpress.com/201...]

Like I said in that blog post, Orbit publishing killed it with fantasy debuts in 2017, and if Blood of Assassins is any indication of how 2018 is going to flow with sequels, we are in for a heck of a ride.

Age of Assassins was my dessert course of 2017 and instantly made me a fanboy of Barker's. Girton Club-foot is one of the most compelling young antagonists you will find in fantasy today and his relationship with his master, Merela Karn, truly takes an emotional toll on not only the characters themselves, but the reader. But enough about AOA. We are here to talk about Blood of Assassins, the highly anticipated sequel.

So, here we are. Over the last five (5) years, after the decisive events of Age of Assassins, Girton and his master have been traveling the Tired Lands in search of work; mostly quick jobs and objectives here and there that require their specific sets of skills and dole out pretty decent coin. During their most recent conflict on the road, Merela is poisoned and Girton must rush her back to Maniyadoc (where the events of Book 1 took place) in order to find not only help, but hope.

Maniyadoc is now ruled by King Ruffra, an old friend and sparring partner of Girton's, and lucky for Girton, has the aid he seeks. Problem is, two (2) other men from Girton's training days in Maniyadoc believe they have rights to the throne and war is being threatened. Girton is now tasked with saving his master, helping his friend, and keeping a secret he has had these five (5) long years safely hidden deep inside himself. But when talk of a traitor suddenly makes its away around the city, Girton may be in for more than he can handle.

To Save A King, Kill A King

It is always difficult, when finding yourself faced with a highly anticipated sequel, to NOT go into it with a ton of hype. As a reader, you don't want to be let down or be left with a bad taste in your mouth should the book not turn out as you had hoped. Good news for you folks: Blood of Assassins, while maybe not as spellbinding as Age of Assassins, fits the bill and does not disappoint.

Girton has grown up over the past few years, moving away from killing as an art form to more of a necessity to stay alive. He has put aside his blades and replaced them with a Warhammer for goodness sakes. Nothing says killjoy more than a freaking Warhammer. Though still foolish at times and oft makes mistakes, he is still the most loyal and trustworthy person a friend, or master, could ask for. The biggest change from AoA to BoA is the instillation of magic to Girton's repertoire. Though he does not yet know how to wield his power, it is definitely a force to be reckoned with and we are shown through several glimpses during the course of the novel. This magic also creates a power struggle within Girton as he tries to do what is right and just, while a strange voice in the back of his mind and in his dreams forces Girton to bend to its will.

All in all, mounts are some of the coolest beasts ever imagined in a fantasy story and I want one, mostly because of the antlers.
Wait... I mean, Blood of Assassins is a very worthy follow-up to its predecessor and should be one of the next books you read (only if you have read AoA, though you can kind of read it as a stand-alone I guess). And again, if you have not read AoA, I suggest you fix that immediately. I still kick myself to this day for waiting so long to read it, so maybe that'll light a fire under you.
Profile Image for David S Meanderings).
325 reviews86 followers
October 2, 2019
This is the story of a war. Of a man haunted and ashamed by the things he’s done. A story of a king desperately trying to survive and claim his throne. A story of love, of loyalty to family and friends. And, as always in this series, a story of mystery and assassins.

At this point I have read the entire Wounded Kingdom Trilogy and I can say that this book was my favorite. It had a perfect blend of great pacing, character development, intrigue, world building, and amazing action sequences.

We start off this book with a 5 year time jump from where the previous book, Age of Assassins, ended. This was a bit of a shock for me at first as I had not expected it. However, R. J. Barker does an amazing job of weaving in the important details of those 5 years throughout the present day story and because of that we get believable character development. Excellently done.

I really enjoyed getting to learn more about the magic system in this one. Getting to explore it more and learn it as Girton learns it was really cool. The stakes were raised in this one as Girton struggles to learn to control his sorcery amid the strife, intrigue, and mystery that surrounds Rufra’s war camp.

Girton’s perspective was so compelling in Blood of Assassins! There were times when I wanted to scream at him to stop making stupid choices and there were other times I just wanted to give him a hug. Girton may have matured into a man, but at times he is still emotionally a boy and it shows quite frequently throughout this book. That, along with the fact that he is trying to find a mysterious assassin and spy while trying to not get killed himself, made for an intense and gripping perspective that kept me turning pages late into the night. Girton’s relationship with his master Merela Karn was one of my favorite parts of the book. More akin to a mother and son, their bond is deep and the love they have for each other was an amazing thing to see, especially in a story that took a darker turn than its predecessor. Two other characters that I found very interesting and had a surprising amount of depth were Rufra and Aydor. The character development that R. J. Barker is able to do outside of Girton with only that one perspective continues to amaze me.

The battle sequences were as always, beautifully described. I love assassins in large part because when they fight it is like a dance and R. J. Barker is adept at describing this dance of assassins. Beyond the descriptions, there was a palpable tension and realness to this bleak world of The Tired Lands. This made the possibility that the characters you know and love may not survive all the more credible and the tension even greater throughout the entire story.

With epic battle sequences, an intriguing mystery, and heartwarming moments, Blood of Assassins has it all. If you haven’t already you need to check this series out.
Profile Image for Mili.
386 reviews33 followers
November 23, 2018
Great sequel! Follows up on the plot nicely and kinda with the same recipe, looking for a traitor. So a lot of mystery and lack of trust of your fellow people and surroundings. The heaviness of this combined with Girton his struggles make it a gloomy/dark atmosphere. Girton is after all just a person and he gets confronted with hard choices, and his strong emotional feelings towards people make him struggle to make the right ones. This gets him into some difficult situations with big consequences and he has a hard time dealing with this on his own. And I loved this, cause you get to know him but also see how he grows as a person. Next to the emotional rollercoasters there is plenty of stabby stabby and fighting scenes. Although this series does have battles, it is more focussed on one on one fights which so far this series reallllllyyy excells at! The magic system is great and sinister.

Ugh and the writing, I just loooove the prose and metaphors making it come to life.

The only thing that kinda left me hanging was the meager ending. I missed the punch!

Just make sure to add this to your TBR and read it soon :)
Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews118 followers
December 18, 2018
Girton is such a perfect character. Honestly, if you like flawed yet likeable and just a bit lost and torn but also strong and determined, Girton is your man.

It’s five years later and things have changed. Girton lost a lot of his youthful naïveté and gained a lot of anger and fear.

Loyalty is a prominent theme in this book, and I’m a big fan of RJ Barker’s writing.

I recommend this series to all fantasy fans who don’t mind a coming of age story in the first book. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The world building, characters and plot are remarkably well done.

Can’t wait to read the third book.
Profile Image for Paul.
563 reviews151 followers
March 23, 2018
Great continuation to the series. Girton is a great main character, a walking ball of contradictions and internal struggles that makes him both interesting and likeable.
Overall I think I enjoyed the first book marginally more but there is little in it, with no mid series slump.
The story is great with good plot twists and great action with a three way struggle between kings to win out , and really good character development from book 1.
Now I want to create a decent map of the world. to try to see where the kingdom sits.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews217 followers
April 30, 2018
I loved the first book, I loved the second book. It was very different, a bit darker and bit more grown up, but it still had everything I loved from Age though and added a great deal to the world and the lives of all the characters.
Profile Image for Mike Everest Evans.
88 reviews186 followers
March 30, 2018
The Good: A return to one of the most relatable POVs in fantasy, development that breathes life into characters-plot-and-world alike, more twists and turns than a maze of mirrors, with a heart at its centre that beats with the life of a full fleshed-out fantasy favourite for years to come.

The Bad: Struggling to put my finger on a ‘bad’ with this one, and the only thing I can come up with is that a few of the ‘reveals’ were ones I expected, however they also served as a double bluff of sorts in some instances, and even when I did see them coming they were so well written that I found myself swept up in the moment.

The Ugly Truth: Blood of Assassins picks up where its predecessor left off, whilst taking its own path in life. Not so much a coming of age as before, more a finding your place in the world kind of story, it explores the darker side of life, and how it takes dark deeds and decisions to survive – to live – in a dark world.

Review: We return to the Long Tides and Castle Maniyadoc at the same time as Girton-Clubfoot and Merela Khan, who have been absent a number of years since the events of ‘Age of Assassins’. In that time, much has changed; Maniyadoc has been ravaged by war as its three rival kings – Girton’s nemesis Aydor, his best friend Rufra, and Tomas – vie for power, creating something of a power vacuum between the old ways and the new, in which the sorcerer-hunting Landsmen and priesthoods of the dead gods use to further their own means.

Girton has grown too, older though not necessarily wiser, and so too have his sorcerous powers. He’s been changed by his time away; last we saw Girton he was hopeful for what the future might bring, a candle in the dark of shadowy conspiracy and the murk of betrayal – now, he is an ember, a husk of his former self, scorched down to a hard and bitter remains, and what little fire is left cannot light the way in a world darker than before, it can only burn what it touches.

And that not only sets the scene, but also the tone for the novel.

Blood of Assassins is a triumph in so many ways, but none more so than for its ‘development’. What do I mean by development, I hear you ask? EVERY development. Character development, plot development, world development, Blood of Assassins has it all. Don’t get me wrong, all the ingredients of the first book are still here – a medieval whodunnit in which danger and death lurks in every shadow, told through the eyes of a relatable first-person point of view – but they’re sharper, whilst at the same time blunted, straight to the point, like the blow from the flat of a blade to the face. Or, more fittingly, a warhammer, which tellingly Girton has traded his assassins’ stabswords for.

Girton was – and arguably, though in a different way, still is – one of the most relatable characters in fantasy. In book one, he was a character you could sympathise with, a crippled teen who had never had a friend in the world, apart from an assassin-come-mother-figure, who didn’t understand the changes happening to his body (sorcerous or otherwise). In this story, Girton isn’t someone you sympathise with or for, nor would he want you to, and it’s little wonder that he’s grown into the angry, untrusting, obsessive, and wholly ‘troubled’ young man that he is.

Which brings me to character development. There’s a lot of familiar faces in Blood of Assassins – Rufra, Tomas, Aydor, Neander, Nywulf, not to forget Girton and Merela Khan – as well as some new names – Crast and Neliu, Mastal, the Nonmen, Arnst and Danfoth, Areth, and more. Every single one of these has a development cycle in the story, some expected and some not, but each of them grows and changes in a realistic way. Why? Because they’re real.

Whilst a lot of reviews like to use the ‘the characters aren’t characters, they’re people, they’re real’ line, Barker has transcended this by not just making his characters real, but by injecting ‘real’ into his characters. Each character has a ‘personal side’ to them that we don’t always get to see in other books, almost like an NPC (non-player character in gaming), especially in fantasy where secondary characters are just ‘soldiers, sellers or sword-bait’. From Aydor’s personal demons, to the all-too real demons that haunt Girton, from the loss that Areth feels, to the at times loss of feeling by Rufra in pursuit of his goal. Without going into too much detail and risk spoiling it for you, it’s fair to say that favourite characters from the start of the story – and from ‘Age of Assassins’ – are likely to change by the end of the book.

And on the note of the end of the book, plot development comes thick and fast. Any good whodunnit needs to string the reader along, down the yellow brick road, lacing the way with breadcrumbs. But it’s only later, when you look back over the story, that you realise you’ve missed something, despite it all being laid out at your feet. There’s a number of reveals throughout the story, each bigger and bolder than the last, and whilst I saw a few of them coming, they were terrifically written – the last fifty pages or so in particular left me reeling, not so much in shock, but certainly in awe of just how good they were.

So last, and certainly not least, world building. The Wounded Kingdom went from ‘it’s just a flesh wound’ in Age of, to ‘walking wounded’ at the start of Blood of, and by the end it feels as if it’s walking to its own execution by the hangman’s noose. Like with everything else in the book, the world is darker, more dangerous, and its depths go further than we as the reader could have ever guessed. And what more could you expect from a world in which the gods are dead, sorcery scours and sours the land leaving barren blemishes on the very earth itself, and heresy, treason, and assassination are around every corner. Barker previously joked that he writes ‘glumdark’ not grimdark, but I disagree. In my opinion he writes whatever it is that he writes, there is no name for it, but no-one else can do it like he can.

On that note, I want to touch very briefly upon the writing style. Barker is a master of poetic purpose in his prose – simple, straightforward, strums-on-your-heartstrings…stuff, that resonates with the reader. And given that sentence, I’m sure he could put it better than I. One specific sentence, amongst oh so many, stood out for me:

‘Why?’ I asked. Stupid, time wasting words.

It’s often said: say more, less – and this is a perfect example of that. Other standout bits for me include the dream sequences, which, if you haven’t had the chance to see/hear Barker do a reading, roll right off the tongue. They’re not just prose – they’re performance. Barker brings out the ‘art’ in the art of storytelling.

Strictly speaking, you don’t have to read book one before ‘Blood of Assassins’, however you’d be foolish not to – there’s so much joy to be had in following the story of the characters and the world they inhabit. And there isn’t really an excuse not to – unlike many other fantasy epics (and I won’t name names) Barker’s Wounded Kingdom trilogy will be released in just over a year, start to finish. You won’t have to way a year (or more!) between each book. Age of Assassins came out in summer 2017, Blood of Assassins is out now, and the series will culminate in King of Assassins in summer 2018. There are so many upsides to being able to read a full series as it’s released within such a short time period, and the only downside I can think of is that I’ll be at a loss when I have to wait for my next fix of Barker’s writing.

With ‘Blood of Assassins’ RJ Barker proved that the only thing difficult about ‘the difficult second book’ was putting it down – and I for one can’t wait for the third…and the fourth, fifth, sixth…
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312 reviews53 followers
February 1, 2018
Read this review and more at Book Geeks Uncompromised!

4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A big thank you to them and to RJ Barker who was kind enough to come on our podcast for an interview!

This review contains minor spoilers for Age of Assassins.

Blood of Assassins picks up five years after the events in Age of Assassins. Girton and his master, Merela, have been travelling as mercenaries for those five years while Maniyadoc has been at war with three men vying for kingship over the land.

I liked Age of Assassins. I loved Blood of Assassins.

First of all, I found myself far more invested in the characters. The main character, Girton Club-Foot, stole the show for me.

Where I enjoyed Girton's character in the first book, I felt like he was much more deeply explored as a character in this one. He is angry and struggling to keep his magic from taking over him while also dealing with the emotional turmoil of the possibility of his master's death. He got really angsty and was quick to make assumptions but I enjoyed getting frustrated with him. Girton showed himself to be very intelligent in the first book so there was a part of me that wanted to trust his intuition and accusations but another part that saw that he was being a bit stupid so I this kind of kept me on my toes as to whether or not to trust his decisions.

Girton was the only character that really went through any major changes in this book but some others did clearly develop in the interim between the first and second book. Rufra has had to figure out what his role as king means in terms of how he must present himself to his subjects and has had his share of heartbreak over the course of the war. While he is still the same person from the first book, he has grown.

Aydor as well is almost a completely different person. This is probably one of the few things that I did not completely love about the book though. He changed so much that he is pretty much a totally different character and, as a reader, we saw none of it. It all happened in between the books so all we see is the final product. I know it would have taken up quite a page count to really make the change "on screen" but I would have liked to see his transition.

That said though, meeting Aydor again and seeing his altered personality happened very early in the book while I was still reacquainting myself with the world so it wasn't too disconcerting.

The story itself is that of warring kings and it lives up to that. This book does very much have the same mystery aspect as the first did. They mystery is a classic fantasy mystery of "who is the traitor amongst us?" and I just had a really good time attempting to guess at who it was.

As far as battles go, I really enjoyed the "final" battle of this book and I am one that occasionally tends to skim over battle sequences. I devoured every word.

There is intrigue, death, epic battles; all the things that fantasy fans love. Blood of Assassins raises the bar from its predecessor in delving deeper into the minds of its characters and raising the stakes for failure and success. I absolutely loved this and cannot wait for the final book.
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