Sorry for the delay between postings. I have been swamped from moving. Onto the review!
The Perfect Assassin by K. A. Doore is a delightful adult fantasy novel about a family of assassins being hunted down. A brand-new assassin, Amastan, is tasked to solve the mystery of who is hunting his cousins down.
I loved this book. I read a lot of violent novels (not that this one is that violent), but it’s been a long time since I was on the edge of my seat during a fight scene, worried about the characters. What really makes this book shine for me is that I fell in love with the characters. I always have a soft spot for scholar characters like Amastan, which helped, but his motivation to protect his family and his loved ones was deeply personal in a way that was well communicated to the reader. The stakes aren’t world-ending–and for most of it, it’s not even his life at stake–but they’re still deeply important to Amastan personally, and that’s what makes it matter to the reader. This was a deeply personal book for Amastan and I love that.
I’m not much of a mystery reader, so I can’t speak too much to that. It wasn’t the first person I guessed, but it was the second. And interestingly, I was really sad that it was who it was. I liked that character almost as much as Amastan. I truly don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight between the MC and the villain where I wanted to villain to come out safely while the MC still won. It was odd, but I loved that mental incongruity.
Amastan’s romance was adorable, though I will tell you now, it doesn’t last to the end. So if you’re looking for happy queer romance, this isn’t it. Amastan is ace and there’s a guy he starts a relationship with, but it doesn’t work out. His reactions to flirting and dating felt very true to my ace experience. The upcoming sequel, The Impossible Contract, will be F/F, so I’m hoping we’ll get a happier ending there.
To be clear, this is not a depressing end. It’s not a super happy one, even though the mystery is solved and his family is rescued. And it’s not happy because Amastan is not happy, because we are so deep in his head. But it is a satisfying resolution to the story.
The setting of Ghadid was richly described without drowning us in description. It is a platform city in the middle of a desert, right at the end of the dry season. The sensory details are on point. If you’re looking for non-Western fantasy, this is an excellent choice.
Queerness is totally normalized in the setting. So far as I can tell, there’s no homophobia to be found. Amastan’s brief boyfriend didn’t raise any comments. Two female side characters are dating (and that appears to be a separate F/F relationship from the one in the sequel). Women having wives and men having husbands are both treated as totally normal. I didn’t see any example of gender queerness, but there’s still two books to go, so we might see it later.
Recommended for: Fans of non-Western fantasy, people interested in queer leads, fans of M/M relationships, people looking for ace leads, people who want assassins questioning the morality of killing, people who like books that go deep into a character’s POV