Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins
I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. Janus Ixion as the protagonist? I hated Janus in Maledicte. I started reading Kings and Assassins with that loathing firmly in place, and in the early pages of the book, he didn’t do much to make me like him any better. I didn’t like the other characters either. I didn’t care about Janus, I didn’t care that he missed Maledicte, I didn’t care about his wife or about their endless quarrels, and I couldn’t have cared less who ended up regent for Prince Adiran after King Aris’s assassination. What kept me going was Lane Robins’ prose, which I enjoyed as much as ever.
Imagine my surprise when, halfway through the book, I found myself thinking that Antyre was in deep trouble if Janus lost his bid for the regency.
Oh, he didn’t become a nice guy or anything, have no fear. But I did realize that neither Maledicte nor Gilly saw him clearly. Maledicte idealized him too much until the very end; Gilly vilified him too much. He’s complicated. He’s violent, ambitious, ruthless, but also intelligent and keenly interested in the welfare of Antyre, even when his concern is based on selfish motives. He’s also the only noble in the kingdom who has any idea what life is like for Antyre’s poor. He’s a bit like a George R.R. Martin character in some ways. Every time I started hating him, he’d do something admirable, often for all the wrong reasons. Every time I started liking him, he’d do something so horribly unethical that I wondered what I’d been thinking.
Kings and Assassins follows Janus as he tries to scheme his way through the Antyrrian court and prevent the country from being taken over by neighboring Itarus in the aftermath of Aris’s death. It’s not easy; he is opposed at every turn by snobbish Antyrrian nobles, a grasping Itarusine prince, angry working-class mobs, and his own wife, Psyke, who is convinced Janus had Aris killed. Not to even mention the gods: Black-Winged Ani is still on the scene, and now Haith, the god of death, has awakened as well.
I didn’t read this quite as compulsively as I read Maledicte, but I enjoyed reading it once I got past the initial “I hate all the characters” stage. Recommended if you like political fantasies and don’t mind gore and characters with skewed moral compasses!
The Antyre Chronicles — (2007-2009) Publisher: From a dazzling new voice in fantasy comes a mesmerizing tale of treachery, passion, intrigue, betrayal, and an act of pure vengeance that threatens to bring down a kingdom. Seething with decadent appetites unchecked by law or gods, the court of Antyre is ruled by the last of a dissolute aristocracy. But now to the kingdom comes a handsome, enigmatic nobleman, Maledicte, whose perfect manners, enchanting charisma, and brilliant swordplay entice the most jaded tastes… and conceal a hunger beyond reckoning. For Maledicte is actually a woman named Miranda — a beautiful thief raised in the city’s vicious slums. And she will do anything — even promise her soul to Black-Winged Ani, the most merciless of Antyre’s exiled gods — to reclaim Janus, the lover whose passion still haunts her dreams. As her machinations strike at the heart of Antyre’s powerful noble houses, Miranda must battle not only her own growing bloodlust, but also her lover’s newly kindled and ruthless ambitions. As Ani’s force grows insatiable and out of control, Miranda has no choice but to wield a weapon that may set her free… or forever doom her and everything she holds dear.
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