Tough Travels: Assassins

It’s Tough Travelling time again! This is a feature hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction (originally created by Fantasy Review Barn). Every month, with the help of Diana Wynne Jones’s classic Tough Guide to Fantasyland, it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme 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).

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

I love highly skilled assassins running around in my fantasy, but I especially love it if they’re women. Sure, that might have something to do with the fact I’m a woman, but I think it’s also simply because I enjoy seeing other characters underestimate a female assassin… which they almost always do, right up until they’ve got her knife at their throat. So my three examples today will be books with female assassins:


Book Cover: GracelingThe main character in Graceling is an assassin, but a reluctant one. As the niece of a ruthless king and a ‘Graceling’ graced with the skill of killing, Katsa is forced to use her deadly talent to threaten, torture and kill. However, it soon becomes clear that she’s more than the king’s thug, and there’s more to her ‘grace’ than she realises. This is one of my favourite series – it’s an epic fantasy with a strong romance, a formidable and disturbing villain (think Kilgrave in Jessica Jones) and a clever main character I could respect and root for.

Throne of Glass

Book Cover: Throne of GlassMy favourite thing about Throne of Glass was its assassin protagonist, Celaena Sardothien. I loved how irreverent, unapologetic and deadly she was. Many fantasy assassins can seem illogically soft-hearted and hesitant to kill given their profession, so I appreciated that there were moments when she was truly ruthless, didn’t flinch from blood and gore, and even relished murdering people she hated (though I’ll admit, she does have a soft heart when it comes to murdering anyone she does not think is deserving of it).

Six of Crows

Book Cover: Six of CrowsInej Ghafa, aka ‘The Wraith’, mostly performs the role of spy and is not overtly labelled an assassin, but she does creep around with great stealth and carry knives, and has quietly killed people when ordered to, so I think she counts. Stolen from her homeland and enslaved as a child, she has a complex past and unique personality. She is by no means invincible, but her childhood training as an acrobat helps her to achieve incredible feats. Along with the five other main characters, she made Six of Crows a joy to read, and it’s now one of my all-time favourite books!


For links to more Tough Travelling posts, or to join in yourself and see next month’s theme, check out the host page on Fantasy Faction.

< Last Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Beginnings’

Next Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Non-Human Heroes’ >

31 thoughts on “Tough Travels: Assassins

  1. Cool – we both went with female assassins and I am kicking myself about Inej – I also loved that book (so not really sure why I haven’t picked up the second yet! – have you read No.2 – was it as good?) I also included Graceling – I really enjoyed that book, and Fire too.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cool we both picked female assassins and Graceling! I love that book, and I loved Fire too. Fire is actually my favourite in the trilogy, but Graceling was a more appropriate pick assassin-wise 🙂 And yes I’ve read the sequel to Six of Crows – it was awesome, and just about as good as the first (though it’s hard to say as they both have different strengths). Anyway, I can highly recommend it.

      Will go check out your list now, am curious to see what your other picks were!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE this list! Really like how you and Lynn both went with female assassins – wish I’d thought of that (though I did manage to get a few on mine!).

    Note to self: Must. Read. Six. Of. Crows.

    P.S. Love the new map! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And you did have some on your list too (which was full of intriguing books I should read – I still haven’t read Malazan would you believe!), including Pyrre, who is great and who I completely forgot about until you and Lynn mentioned her.

      Six of Crows is awesome, I hope you like it when you get to it! And glad you like the updated map – it’s one of my sketches so no risk of stepping on any movie producers’ toes now 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I like the map header too! The original header was thrown together in a hurry with Microsoft publisher and a whole lot of cussing. I like all the better headers people have come up with over time.

    Nice to see a more YA slant to the list. I always loved that about this meme, seeing people with different sub-genre slanted lists post. Sci-fi on one blog, YA on another, UF across the interwebz….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’ve always thought this was a great meme and a clever idea so thanks for creating it!! It is definitely interesting to see people’s different sub-genre preferences – I love YA fantasy so I guess that came through in my list 🙂 (though I read other sub-genres too). It’s also nice to see how many different books people suggest just from the one theme – very good for discovering new books to read.


  4. I have read both Graceling and Six of Crows and I can’t believe I forgot to include them! It’s been a while since I read Graceling though, and I think in Six of Crows I just got too used to thinking of them all as thieves. But Inej was my absolute favorite 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Inej is great! Her and Kaz were my favourites. I did wonder whether I could count her as an assassin, given she is primarily a thief, but decided I could bend the rules for her 🙂
      Glad to hear you’re also a Graceling fan, it’s such a great book!


  5. Ah yes *fist pumps for this topic*!! I definitely agree with you. I really love assassins- and yes, I love female assassins cos I’m a woman (therefore biased) but mostly I’m with you on the fact that it’s cool that people underestimate them- it’s why I also like children spies! I just love people not expecting things from people and then *bam* they’re knocked out (/have a knife to their throat, like you said). And Graceling was very cool. Plus I’m with you about Celaena- I loved how unapologetic she was about everything. I actually really liked how flawed and arrogant she was- especially since (in my opinion) she could deliver the goods! Awesome post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yes I’m definitely biased with my female assassin preference too – but the underestimation factor is an added bonus 🙂 That’s so true about children spies, or super-skilled children of any kind actually. I think that’s part of why Hit-Girl is so entertaining in Kick-Ass. No one expects a little girl to take down a host of bad guys!

      Yes I also loved how flawed and arrogant Celaena was… I was actually a tiny bit sad when her character changed because I liked her as the arrogant assassin. That said, she never quite loses that arrogant streak, and the change was necessary to the story so I can live with it 🙂 (plus I guess Manon kind of takes up that mantle).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe I know right!! That’s what really makes me excited about it (also as a child I really wanted to be a spy 😉 )
        Yeah me too- I get that- I did like the change though, cos it was really interesting and added depth to her character and like you said she never loses that arrogant streak and it was necessary 🙂 (and oh gosh yes- Manon is seriously one of my favourite characters)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha I can empathise, I wanted to be a spy too! (My friends and I founded a ‘spy club’ but all we did was make up a not-so-secret code and climb trees).

          Yes it really did add depth to Celaena’s character, if she’d stayed the same it would have gotten old very quickly. And so glad you like Manon too!! She’s my absolute favourite character. For a while there I wanted to skip everyone else’s chapters and just read hers 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • hahaha that’s so cool!! I think the most I ever did to achieve this ambition was keep a diary like Harriet the Spy and tell everyone I know (not very spy-like 😉 )
          Yes absolutely!! hahaha I get that- though I also happen to like Dorian just as much- I know a lot of people don’t like him, but his story went so dark and I just love him so much. Again, I know a lot of people don’t care for it, but I ship him and Manon so much! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        • Haha, I think a spy diary is equally cool! And you’re right, Dorian’s story really did go in an interesting, dark direction, and I love his & Manon’s relationship. I don’t love him quite as much as her, but I still really like him (and I certainly prefer him to Chaol!!)

          Liked by 1 person

  6. What a cool post series! This is my first time stopping at your blog, and I love this concept. Plus, I hadn’t heard of that particular Diane Wynne Jones book yet. I must read it.

    Yes– I agree with you about these assassins! In fact, those are the only female assassins which come to mind from literature for me right now… How embarrassing! I must read more fantasy ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, it is a great series, and fun to take part in! I also haven’t read her book yet (but it’s on my to-read list) and I also had some trouble thinking of male assassins, so don’t worry, I obviously haven’t read quite enough fantasy yet either… though to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever feel I’ve read enough fantasy! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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