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The Fallen Blade (Act One of the Assassini) [Mass Market Paperback]

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2014 Act One of the Assassini (Book 1)

Venice, 1407. The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own.

On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her - an act that will ultimately trigger war.

Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he's finally found what he thought was impossible - someone fit to be his apprentice.

Award-winning author Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a master storyteller. Here, he blends history, politics and dark fantasy in a compelling vision of an alternative Venice.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (1 Oct 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316074381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316074384
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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More About the Author

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and christened in the upturned bell of a ship. He grew up in the Far East, Britain and Scandinavia. Apart from novels he writes for magazines and newspapers. He has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice and the BSFA Award for Best Novel seven times, winning twice. He lives in Winchester with his wife, novelist and editor-in-chief of RED magazine, Sam Baker.

Product Description


Sharp as a stiletto, dark and dazzling as a masquerade. Grimwood's Venice is totally compelling (Mike Carey)

Full of mysteries that remain unsolved . . . Grimwood creates a fascinating world and involving characters . . . most importantly, he makes us want to read the next two volumes of the trilogy (INDEPENDENT)

Vividly gothic . . . complex but compelling (IMPACT) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A tale of ambition, revenge and the rise of a vampire assassin from this critically acclaimed British author. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intensely political drama (also, vampires) 25 Feb 2011
The Fallen Blade is the first book in Jon Courtenay Grimwood's new series, The Assassini. In it, he creates an alternate 15th century Venice, one plagued not just by the era's political upheavals, but also vampires, werewolves and witches. It is an exciting time to be alive (or undead).

For a relatively compact book, The Fallen Blade contains a sprawling cast of characters and no shortage of action. The ostensible lead is a mysterious young man called Tycho - who has, quite literally, appeared from nowhere (or ancient Scandinavia, same difference). Tycho is a gorgeous physical specimen with the face of an angel. However, that's where the resemblance ends. He's a vampire (Mr. Grimwood gains kudos not only for avoiding the word but also avoiding it in a natural way) and one with no self-control.

Anne recently drew parallels between vampirism and puberty and, in The Fallen Blade, Mr. Grimwood continues to link the two. Tycho is a raging pit of hormones - hungry, horny and hot - and he's straddling not two, but a half-dozen worlds. His distant Viking past is a series of upsetting memories, his life on the Venetian streets is confusing and lawless and his cultivation into high society is a series of unpleasant, non-sensical rules. Tycho is a perpetual conflict between his festering, murderous instincts and the brittle veneer of civilisation that has been lacquered onto him by his more patient friends.

Arguably the least patient of said friends is Atilo, the city-state's chief assassin. In a previous life (figuratively - unlike Tycho, Atilo is still very much human), Atilo was a warlord for the city's enemies.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious Dark Fantasy 29 Mar 2011
There's enough going on in the first hundred pages of The Fallen Blade that I honestly had trouble keeping track; enough character, atmosphere and narrative in that short space to fit out a swathe of less ambitious fantasy sagas from top to tail. Overwhelming is what it is, initially, and for its density - for its complete and utter abundance from the word "go" - The Fallen Blade will very likely haemorrhage readers of a certain type. For myself, only rarely will I think to put a book down without sticking with it till the bitter end... and I nearly did this. Nearly... but not quite.

Imagine my astonishment, then, that having resolved to give Jon Courtenay Grimwood's dark fantasy debut a little longer to find its feet, and taken the opportunity to realign a few of my own key expectations, I found in The Fallen Blade the first act of a trilogy with such tremendous promise that at this point, its difficult beginning be damned, I wouldn't hesitate to proclaim it the finest new series of the year to date.

Perhaps the problem I found myself facing, starting in on book one of The Assassini, was a lack of familiarity with the author: an award-winner, at that. And here I hadn't read End of the World Blues, or The Arabesk Trilogy -- more fool me, from where I stand now.

But I don't think that was it.

I think the trouble was, I came to The Fallen Blade expecting a certain standard of fantasy -- which is to say, politely put, standard fantasy. We all know the like, no doubt. And what with the uninspiring blurb and cover art adorning Orbit's edition of The Fallen Blade, it's surely fair to say I had my reasons. Namely a city teetering on the brink of collapse, with a war in the offing, a history of horrors and a proliferation of political strife.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grown-up vampires for grown-up readers. 28 Jun 2012
Recently I've been embarrassed to tell people I like books about vampires, because the whole sparkly teenage angst thing has ruined them for me. What I like, I want to yell at them, is GOOD BOOKS about vampires (see also "The Vampire Tapestry" by Suzy McKee Charnas. "Nosferatu" by Paul Monette). Vampires are monsters, and what makes them interesting is when they realise their difference and are intrigued by it.
Tycho is never referred to as a vampire. The word is never even used. He is undoubtedly a blood-drinking monster, but living in Renaissance Venice he is surrounded by humans who behave far worse than he does. At the start he is not much more than a thirsty animal, and his climb from slave to lord speaks as much of his desire to learn and improve as it does of his usefulness to those around him. He learns to lie, and control his appetites, and to love. And that's all you get of spoilers. I have just inhaled the first and second books and will be twiddling my thumbs until part three comes out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly delicious 11 Jun 2012
Vampires and werewolves in a 15th century Venice with magic! What's not to like?

Venice is ruled by Duke Marco, Prince of Serenissima, but he's a simpleton and so his uncle, Prince Alonzo the Regent, vies for power with his sister, Marco's mother, Duchess Alexa. Atilo, spy, assassin and head of the Assissini is past his prime, but he's driven to find his own successor in the wake of a battle with krieghunds, the shapechanging warriors of Leopold, the German emperor's bastard son, in which he loses most of his trained assassins.

Into this brutally Machiavellian setting comes a strangely beautiful pale boy, discovered shackled with silver and walled up in the hold of a Mamluk pirate ship. He's strong, fast and agile, can absorb peoples' thoughts and knowledge, has a strange hunger, burns in the daylight and fears to give in to the full moon.

His only memories are of a northern village where he was an orphan and a slave, and then of falling through fire... but it seems that was a hundred years ago. While in hiding the boy discovers and forms an attachment to Giulietta, Duke Marco's cousin and a marriage pawn. When Giulietta is abducted, supposedly by Mamluks Venice begins to slide towards war.

Atilo discovers the pale faced boy at the scene of a kill and the boy's speed and agility make him realise that if only he can find him, tame him and train him, he might have found the successor he's been looking for. He names the boy Tycho.

The twists and turns in this story take Tycho from being Atilo's prisoner to his apprentice until he finds Giulietta once again and falls foul of Venetain justice.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific opening act!
I have to admit that I'm biased where JCG is concerned BUT even so, this is an amazing book.

Vampires, werewolves, mages and witches abound, set against the backdrop of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dennis Campbell
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Politics
Interesting but I found it difficult to follow, and of course full of weird mysticism and monsters. I did not like it very much!
Published 6 months ago by Bob Innes
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jon Courteney Grimwood Book
I bought this book for a friend for Christmas because he loves this writer.
My friend said he will love it
Published 7 months ago by Trisha
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it
Interesting take on the vampire mythology, well written, good plot, set in historical venice, draws on the politics of the time, but loosely and with artistic license.
Published 18 months ago by Steve
1.0 out of 5 stars Not great
Boring. The author tried too hard. Stick to the day job.
Try other writers, they do it better. Seriously overwritten.
Published 20 months ago by Mr. T. P. Bedingfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Original fantasy
Generally don't like derivative fantasy whether it is vampire, were beasts or Tolkien. I liked this because it was original in setting and Very grey in the sense of black and white... Read more
Published 20 months ago by David Reeves
4.0 out of 5 stars Great plot, needs better characterisation....
Stephanie Meyer and Deborah Harkness need a lesson in what a vampire really is and that lesson is "The Fallen Blade". Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ms. M. Patel
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Like other reviewers I sometimes also found it difficult to understand who is saying what but overall the book is very good
Published on 13 Jun 2012 by Mr. A. Abdulazizov
1.0 out of 5 stars Like trying to run through treacle
I love Venice and when visiting the city I like to have an appropriate book. I went on the website 'Fictionalcities' and found this which I bought on Amazon. Read more
Published on 16 Oct 2011 by A. Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite up to the mark?
Not quite the standard that I'm used to from JCG and poorly edited in places (although that may just be the Kindle edition that I read). Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2011 by OneLiveBadger
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