Tough Travels – Assassins

Tough TravellingEvery month, Fantasy Faction runs a feature where they seek out examples of fantasy tropes. Other bloggers are welcome to join in, finding their own books to match the given topic. This week’s topic is assassins:

Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money).

I struggled somewhat to come up with examples for this. Yes, fantasy is full of assassins, but most of them don’t really get names or dialogue – they turn up, murder, and then either escape or are executed. Still though, I found a few assassins with a bit more character development. The following list is in no particular order.

1. Inigo Skimmer – Terry Pratchett, Fifth Elephant

Mister Skimmer is a clerk, responsible for the minutiae of trade negotiations. He records figures and observes protocol. Those are his acknowledged duties. He has other skills though, skills that are useful on diplomatic missions through bandit territory to a country squabbled over by vampires, werewolves, and dwarves. Skimmer is a fussy, peculiar man with an astonishing assortment of concealed weaponry.

2. Kincaid – Jim Butcher, various Dresden Files books

The Dresden Files are urban fantasy, so don’t quite apply here, but I thought I’d bend the rules. Kincaid is a mercenary, a bodyguard, and an assassin. He’s extremely highly-trained and well-equipped, able to hold his own against monstrous and magical opponents. To the untrained eye, he looks entirely human. People who can see past the facade are even more scared of him than everyone else is.

3. Fitz – Robin Hobb, the Farseer trilogy

Fitz is an assassin and a protagonist, which is a difficult trick to pull off. His life is further complicated by being a royal bastard and an inconsistent magic user. He spends his trilogy being mistreated and manipulated by almost everyone he meets – Fitz is a terrifyingly proficient warrior whom you mostly end up feeling sorry for.

4. Kylar Stern – Brent Weeks, the Night Angel trilogy

I don’t actually like Kylar very much, but he is an assassin. He spends some of his time desperately wanting to be an assassin, and the rest bemoaning the fact that he’s an assassin. I understand that it is a career with rather a lot of moral hazard involved, but I wish he’d make his mind up. To my shame, I’ve never actually read the final book in the series; I’m assured that Kylar gets far less tedious later on.

That’s my list for this month – it’s quite a short one. The post on Fantasy Faction is here.

I’m pleased to see Tough Travels making a comeback. I used to take part, inconsistently, when Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn ran it. It was a great feature, introducing me to all sorts of fascinating blogs and books. I’m going to try and be more consistently involved this time.

9 thoughts on “Tough Travels – Assassins

  1. Brilliant to see you taking part! I was also pretty inconsistent back in the day, but I hope that dialing it back to once per month will encourage more people to join in every time. Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kincaid is a great addition (and if adding Urban Fantasy is cheating then I shall probably consistently cheat my way through the meme).
    I’ve never read the Brent Weeks books – I notice you’ve not finished the series – is that purely because you didn’t have time or would you say you went off it somewhat – just trying to figure out whether to give that one a go.
    Lynn :D


    1. I didn’t really care for the Brent Weeks books. The first one jerks awkwardly between gritty low fantasy and shining high fantasy. As a result, everything feels a little underdeveloped, and it’s hard to engage with the story. I don’t think I’ll read the rest of the series.

      With that said, they seem to be really popular with lots of people. Possibly the later books improve, or I’m just too fussy.


  3. My favorite part of Fifth Elephant was when Vimes threw an apple at Skinner’s head to test him. And I didn’t like Kylar much either (or the book for that matter). Good list all together I say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole “revealing character through Vimes throwing things at people” is one of the cleverest parts of “Fifth Elephant” – it’s a little unimportant detail that keeps on returning until it’s instrumental at the climax. It really shows how carefully Pratchett structured his work.


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