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:
The 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
My 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
Inej 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.