King of Assassins is the final book in RJ Barker’s incredible Wounded Kingdom trilogy.
“Incredible” Beth? Really?
Yes really – there were so many moments throughout this trilogy where I was left incredulous. Such as the ending of this book. I try my hardest to write my reviews without spoilers, but this may contain some, sorry.
Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc – years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vythr eyes the High King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and betrayal. There, the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings. Friends will become enemies, enemies will become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever – casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.
These books span the life of Girton Club-Foot; from the youth we first meet in Age of Assassins, to the surly teenager with a lot to learn in Blood of Assassins, finally to the man we find in King of Assassins. Each time, I felt like I was learning to get to know Girton again, as he grew and evolved; but I felt this was an easier experience in BoA than this time round in KoA. I really took my time over this last book compared to the first two, and I think that was down to a number of things.
Firstly, my workload has increased recently – which is great, but does leave me less time for reading.
Secondly, I have to be honest – I struggled with feeling as connected to this one as I did with the first two. This sense that I didn’t know Girton anymore, or Rufra… It was like the Pevensie children, returning to Narnia finding time had moved on and everyone and everything had changed. I loved this feeling in BoH, but I struggled with it this time and I don’t know why.
And thirdly, I just didn’t want it do end. I didn’t want to leave Girton. And Merela. I didn’t want to read the end of their story. I didn’t want to read the emotional high I knew would inevitably be coming. And finally I didn’t want to try and make sense of my feelings to put into a review!
It’s always hard writing a review for a third book in a trilogy… what can I tell you that I haven’t already?
- RJ is a very talented storyteller who expertly manipulates your emotions and expectations.
- Characters you fall in and out of love with, with complex developments and redemption arcs.
- Unique and diverse world-building that is wonderfully immersive.
- So very many feels.
I think, and this is where my review may get slightly spoilery but I’m working on the assumption that people who read reviews of final-books-in-the-series are people who have already read them, that what was most important to me in this book was whether or not Girton finally found some peace. The intrigue, as ever, kept me on my toes, kept me guessing. The plot for King of Assassins was just as exciting and complicated as we’ve come to expect, with a return to that claustrophobic feeling we had in Age of Assassins. But for me, these are first and foremost character-driven books and we see this followed through perfectly in this conclusion. Life is tough in the Tired Lands and no exceptions are made, but I believe Girton finally accepted himself with open arms, despite the costs of doing so. And there’s something so very satisfying about this, about following someone’s struggles for so long but being able to see where they lead. That it doesn’t always end with a happy ride into the sunset; but there can be closure, there can be peace past your loss.
And friendship. As unexpected as it may be. And wow was it unexpected. I spent the first book hating Aydor, the second distrusting him, and the third… well honestly? Still distrusting him.
I have ended up rambling quite spectacularly, haven’t I.
This is a trilogy that will play on my mind for some time to come; and like I said in my first review, it will be a series I’ll come back to. I already look forward to discovering how different my perception will be on a second read-through, and what I’ll pick up on knowing what I now know… These are certainly books to last.
I’ll leave you with this from RJ’s Afterword:
Be kind, try not to hurt anyone and do whatever you need to do to be happy.