As a long time reader of fantasy fiction I am often looking for someone to do something a little bit different, to stir the pot a little. With this fantasy/whodunnit RJ Barker has done just that.
Throw in a protagonist with a disability (but not a disability that is dwelt on overly long) and a well realised locale and you have something a bit special.
Our hero is Girton Clubfoot, a trainee assassin who, with his master Merela Karn we first meet sneaking into Castle Maniyadoc through the sewage gate. Inevitably they are caught but it turns out they are there for a reason - somebody has murder in mind and our assassins are to find out who.
The story is very character driven and, thankfully, Barker does a great job here. I cared about Girton and an event later on in the story, which could have gone either way for his future development was handled really well. Sometimes young characters can be a tad annoying, all full of angst and hormones but not so much here.
The story is interspersed with flashbacks that fill in Girton and Karn's backstory, which again works well as we see that Karn is not what might often be expected.
So, did I enjoy this? I don't think there's any real doubt about that is there?
A cross between Robin Hobb's Farseer novels and tv's Merlin this is a fine start to a series I eagerly await more of. A very strong debut in a year of strong debuts - 5/5*