The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
|The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood|
|Reviewer: Loralei Haylock|
|Summary: Grimwood's Venice is a living, breathing (and smelling) place that leaps out of the page and surrounds you as you read. Whether or not it's improved by the references to Othello, I'm still undecided.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: February 2011|
I'm always in two minds about books that echo other works of literature. I'm all for reworking myths and legends – they're so ancient and have been so often retold, even before arriving at the accepted 'true' versions, they're fair game – but works of literature written in recent enough history to have been actually written and still widely read in their original form? It can go one way or the other.
On the one hand, I do enjoy spotting the similar characters and making the connections. But on the other is a big part of me that's thinking 'Well, I know how this is going to end.' The Fallen Blade is basically Othello. With vampires. I'm the sort of person who thinks pretty much anything can be made better with vampires, and though I was dubious at the start (it's a bit presumptuous to assume the Bard can be improved, after all) The Fallen Blade didn't suffer for its homage to Othello.
Whether or not it improved it, I'm still undecided.
The story follows Atilo, the Venetian Duke's head assassin, and his apprentice Tycho – a boy with an angel face and a taste for blood. The current Duke rules in theory only, and Atilo's loyalty is torn between the Duke's mother and her brother in law. Both want the other dead.
Taking on Tycho causes more problems. Atilo's servant, and fellow assassin, Iacaopo, isn't happy about being passed over for the job, and seeks to sabotage Tycho's training, using Atilo's fiancé, Desdaio, if necessary.
There's trouble brewing abroad, with a huge army massing on Cyprus, and troubles closer to home too. Venice is a city of secrets – some much darker than others.
It took me a while to get into this. The narrative dumps you right on the streets of its alternative Venice without the guidebook, swaps rapidly between characters and moves at relentless pace. But while you're wondering who's who and what's what, you're totally sucked into the story and the world.
Grimwood's Venice is a living, breathing (and smelling) place that leaps out of the page and surrounds you as you read. You haunt its dirty streets with the street children, struggle to cross bridges over the filthy canals with Tycho and lavish in the luxury of the palaces. It's impossible not to be enamoured with every part of it.
A gripping read that kept me turning pages. And though I'm still not sure about the Othello thing, it wouldn't stop me picking up the sequel.
My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.
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