If, like me, you’re a lover of cloak-and-dagger escapades, shadowy encounters, and protagonists not to be trifled with, then you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we shall embark on a perilous journey through the shadowy realms of assassin fantasy subgenres.
We’ll wade through the treacherous waters of grimdark, delve into the twisted machinations of political intrigue, and perhaps even encounter a few rogue witticisms along the way.
Sharpen your blades, check your poison vials, and don your darkest cloak, for we’re about to dive into the murkiest depths of literary subterfuge.
Grimdark Fantasy: For When You Like Your Assassins Grim…and Dark
Ah, grimdark. The subgenre for those who relish in tales of morally ambiguous characters, brutal violence, and a general air of doom and gloom.
In these shadowy lands, assassins are the very embodiment of survival and cunning, scraping a living in worlds where everything is out to kill them, including their own employers.
Recommended Read: The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
In this gritty, visceral series, our assassin protagonist is a tortured soul who has made a career out of spilling blood.
Abercrombie doesn’t shy away from the brutal reality of life as an assassin, and you’ll find yourself questioning your own morals as you root for the anti-hero.
Political Intrigue: Where Assassins Tread Lightly and Deception Reigns
If you prefer your assassins to be more cerebral and less overtly violent, there’s a subgenre just for you.
In the realm of political intrigue, assassins are master manipulators, blending seamlessly into the highest echelons of society.
Here, a sharp tongue and a quick wit are as deadly as any blade.
Recommended Read: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This novel introduces us to Locke Lamora, a master thief and consummate liar who finds himself embroiled in a deadly game of politics.
With a cast of colourful characters and an intricate plot, this book will have you on the edge of your seat, wondering how our wily protagonist will talk his way out of the next deadly predicament.
The Assassin’s Guild: Where Death Is a Business, and Business Is Good
For those who like their assassins with a side of structure and camaraderie, the assassin’s guild subgenre delivers in spades.
In these tales, assassins are members of powerful organisations that control the world from the shadows.
Loyalty, secrecy, and a strict code of ethics are the hallmarks of these deadly professionals.
Recommended Read: The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
In this thrilling series, we follow the journey of a young street rat who becomes an apprentice to the most feared assassin in the realm.
As he learns the deadly trade, he uncovers the dark secrets of his guild and faces the terrible cost of power.
Light Assassin Fantasy: When Humour Meets the Dark Trade
For those of you who enjoy a good laugh with your tales of dark deeds, light assassin fantasy is just the ticket.
This subgenre dances between comedy and deadly serious action, lightening the somber mood of a grim task with wit and charm.
Recommended Read: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
A cornerstone of the Discworld series, Hogfather takes us on a ride with Death’s daughter Susan, as she is forced to take on her father’s duties for the evening.
Although Susan isn’t a professional assassin, the cloak-and-dagger shenanigans are in full force, making it a delightfully lighthearted romp in the typically dark genre of assassins.
High Fantasy Assassin: When Assassins Venture Into Epic Worlds
For those craving grand tales woven in a realm of magic and mythical creatures, high fantasy assassin tales will satiate your appetite.
These narratives often take place in intricate worlds filled with rich lore and history, where assassins are more than mere killers – they’re essential cogs in the grand wheel of destiny.
Recommended Read: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy begins with Assassin’s Apprentice, where we follow the journey of Fitz, a royal bastard trained to become a royal assassin.
The narrative is a perfect blend of character development, political machinations, and magical realism, serving as a fantastic example of high fantasy assassin stories.
Reluctant Assassin: Duty and Morality in a World of Shadows
The reluctant assassin subgenre introduces us to characters who are caught in the deadly profession against their will or better judgement. Often fraught with internal conflict and questions of morality, these narratives strike a delicate balance between doing what’s necessary and striving for what’s right.
Recommended Read: Age of Assassins by RJ Barker
RJ Barker’s Age of Assassins is a fascinating tale of a young, disabled boy, Girton Club-Foot, who is trained as an assassin by his master and caretaker.
The character’s reluctance to embrace his bloody trade, coupled with the murder mystery that needs solving, makes for a thrilling read.
Revenge: When Assassins Seek Justice (Or at Least, Their Version of It)
For those who find satisfaction in tales of vengeance, where wrongs of the past become the motivation for the protagonist’s deadly actions, the revenge subgenre of assassin fantasy is for you.
These stories often involve intricate plots, deep-seated hatred, and a burning desire for justice that drives the assassin forward against all odds.
Recommended Read: The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff
In this darkly brilliant trilogy, we’re introduced to Mia Corvere, a girl orphaned by the treachery of powerful men, who then dedicates her life to becoming an instrument of retribution.
The narrative revolves around Mia’s journey through the Red Church, a school for assassins where she hones her skills to take revenge on those who destroyed her family.
Kristoff weaves a thrilling and unflinching tale of vengeance in the Nevernight Chronicle, making it a compelling read in the revenge assassin subgenre.
The Romantic Assassin: Because Even Cold-Blooded Killers Need Love
And finally, for those who like their assassins with a touch of romance, there is a subgenre where hearts are stolen as deftly as lives. In these tales, the line between love and death is blurred, and the dance of seduction can be as deadly as it is passionate.
Recommended Read: Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
In a world where families of assassins are bound by oaths to their gods, our protagonist Lea must navigate a treacherous path between love and duty. When she falls for the son of her family’s greatest enemy, she must choose between her heart and her blade.
Whether you crave the blood-soaked grit of grimdark or the delicate dance of political intrigue, there is a tale of shadows and subterfuge waiting just for you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must slip back into the shadows from whence I came and pour me a nice cup of tea.
If you enjoy assassin fantasy tales, you can read Birth of Assassins for free when you claim your Ravenglass Universe starter library.
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