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The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini [Kindle Edition]

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.00 (33%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards. In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy's chains to rescue him, but he escapes.

Venice is at the height of its power. Duke Marco commands the seas, taxes his colonies, and, like every duke before him, fears assassins better than his own. In a side chapel, Marco's thirteen-year old cousin prays for deliverance from her forced marriage. It is her bad fortune to be there when Moorish pirates break in to steal a chalice, but it is the Moors' good fortune - they kidnap her and demand ransom from the Duke.

As day dawns, Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, prepares to kill the man who let in the pirates. Having cut the traitor's throat, he turns back, having heard a noise, and finds a stranger crouched over the dying man, drinking blood from the wound. The speed with which the boy dodges a dagger and scales a pillar stuns Atilo. And the assassin knows he has to find the boy. Not to kill him though - because he's finally found what he thought he would never find.

Someone fit to be his apprentice.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Aside from Grimwood’s penchant for borrowing motifs from other genres, the author’s previous novels, including his acclaimed End of the World Blues (2007), mostly bear the imprint of sf. Yet here Grimwood confidently steps into fantasy territory in this first volume of an ambitious trilogy featuring an alternate renaissance Venice populated by corrupt monarchs, a secret army of assassins, and a bewitching side cast of werewolves and vampires. This version of early-fifteenth-century Venice is ruled by the descendants of Marco Polo, specifically Alonzo, the uncle of the bona fide but incapacitated Duke, who rules with Machiavellian intrigue in the face of his Byzantine and Ottoman enemies. After Alonzo’s scheme to marry off the Duke’s cousin Giulietta leads to her kidnapping, Alonzo sends his lead assassin, Atilo, on her trail. When Atilo fortuitously crosses paths with a young vampire, Tycho, he quickly recruits the boy as a very difficult but useful apprentice. Grimwood’s well-seasoned skill with storytelling and dialogue makes this opening installment of the series both delightfully colorful and compellingly readable. --Carl Hays

Review

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 1978 KB
  • Print Length: 454 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B005ZYB27Q
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (January 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0047Y0ESS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #296,095 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wild, improbably adventure in Renaissance Venice February 11, 2011
Format:Paperback
The Fallen Blade is set in an alternate version of early 15th century Venice, ruled by the Milioni family, who are descendants of Marco Polo. Jon Courtenay Grimwood offers a vividly realized fantasy setting with this not quite historically accurate but still surprisingly realistic version of "la Serenissima," the Serene Republic of Venice. You'll get many authentic looks at what life in this amazing city-state must have been like, from the perspectives of both the rich and the poor. As a matter of fact, readers who are unaware of the changes Grimwood has made to the actual history of Venice might mistake this for a historical novel with fantasy elements, rather than a combination of alternate history and dark fantasy. Regardless, the setting of The Fallen Blade is one of its real strengths.

It's unfortunate that Grimwood took this intriguing starting point and overloaded it with what seems like enough material for at least another novel or two. Within the first few chapters, you'll encounter a vampire, werewolves, assassins, competing gangs, a witch, a magician, a contested regency, a romantic rivalry, and that's not nearly all. There's so much going on in the first 100 or so pages of this novel that it frankly becomes too cluttered and hectic to be really enjoyable.

Unwrapping a few of the key elements: the titular Duke of the city is Marco IV, but since he is, as the saying goes, several sandwiches short of a picnic, his uncle Alonzo (brother of Marco III, the last Duke) is the official Regent, with his mother Alexa (the last Duke's widow) pulling at least as many strings both in the city's Council of Ten and behind the scenes. Lady Giulietta is the Duke's cousin and about to be shipped off to Cyprus for a politically expedient marriage she is entirely unhappy with.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No one to root for here February 20, 2011
Format:Paperback
This book left a sour taste in my mouth for a couple of reasons. I can't possibly explain why without talking a bit about the plot, so there are spoilers below.

To start with, the episode at the very beginning of the book in which Atilo goes chasing after Giulietta makes no sense. Atilo dawdles around and doesn't step in to take her home until almost dark, thereby embroiling his assassins in a completely unnecessary fight with the local population of German werewolves. Half of his men are killed. His explanation for this breathtakingly incompetent bit of leadership is that he was 'hoping [Giulietta] would turn back.' So all these followers of his die just so he can indulge the futile whim of a bratty teenager for an extra hour? No. Just no.

Quite a bit of the rest of the plot hinges on the fact that two important characters fall in love with Giulietta, for no reason apparently. I suppose it's possible to concede that Tycho, because of his peculiar nature, might instantly imprint on the first bloodied-up female he runs across. Maybe. But Prince Leopold falls in love with her why? Because he observes her locked in an attic, in squalor and boredom, for a few weeks? How does this win him over? I have no idea. If Mr. Grimwood knows, he isn't telling us.

The characters--all of them--evoke only disgust or pity, sometimes both at once. There is literally no one to root for here. I understand that Mr. Grimwood was trying to depict a ruthless, amoral milieu, but he forgot to include someone the reader could care about at the story's center. Even Tycho, who is clearly meant to be the hero here, is such an indestructible enigma that it's impossible to work up any interest in his fate.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing trail of blood January 17, 2011
Format:Paperback
I confess that The Fallen Blade is one of those books that left me rather conflicted. Atilo Il Mauros is head of the Assassini, the private enforcers of Venice's ruling family during the 15th century. While attempting to rescue the Duke's kidnapped cousin, he comes across Tycho, a young man with preternatural strength and inhuman powers. Where Tycho goes, bloodshed and death follow. But to the head of the deadly Assassini, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Grimwood excels at taking Venice and making it his own, seamlessly weaving the historical city with the supernatural aspects of his tale. His depiction of magic and the supernatural blends effortlessly into the greater political and social intrigues of the book, and comes across as a natural part of the setting.

Character development, however, is uneven. The two most interesting characters are Atilo and Tycho, and you will want to continue reading if for no other reason than to see what happens to them. But many of the other characters are either one dimensional or outright grating on the nerves. Giulietta has a nuisance of a personality, and one that leads the reader to hoping for her demise just so she will stop sullying the scene with her annoying demeanor. Alonzo is a Medici knock-off who apparently never realized that The Prince was a political satire and not an actual handbook.

But where I become conflicted is in the presentation of the plot. Grimwood does a superb job of crafting some of the most intense and exciting scenes I've read in recent fantasy works. But what he often lacks is subtlety. The political machinations at play throughout the book have all the subtlety of an angry bull.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
It' has intregue and adventure and cliff hangers and that oh so dreaded got to buy the next book to see what happens next. Grrrrr but great! Must buy.
Published 7 months ago by April D Morehouse
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Adventure w/ Supernatural Elements
The parenthetical title is a bit misleading since the main character's full identity is never revealed. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Treeshow
4.0 out of 5 stars Vampires meet the Borgias
The story takes place in 14-15 century Venice. It's a bit like vampire meets Borgia's. There is a lot of action, many characters, and a mystery that is, as yet, unsolved. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Joseph A. Terrano
5.0 out of 5 stars A clever take on Othello
Blend some werewolves and vampires into the intrigue of XV-th century Venice, and you get a fast-paced, intricate, enjoyable story. Read more
Published 17 months ago by H. Slusanschi
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish
the story wasn't engaging I couldn't get into it
the plot was weak
the story line was disjoined
and all in all the story was horrible
Published 19 months ago by Brian
5.0 out of 5 stars Being a vampire who doesn't know what vampires are must suck
Jon Courtenay Grimwood writes some of the best alternate worlds ever. All of the world building, and everything that is different because of the changes is all inferred. Read more
Published on June 27, 2012 by Travis Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful!
This is the first book I've read in a long time where I can't foresee the possible future of the main characters. Read more
Published on March 2, 2012 by AmberNickel
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed
Overall I enjoyed it.

What I liked:

The settings are drawn beautifully, even in flashback which I don't normal like but these are especially well done. Read more
Published on September 6, 2011 by MW
4.0 out of 5 stars Surely HBO Is Busy Negotiating Rights
Fifteenth century Venice crawls with assassins, dukes, princesses, pirates, slaves, thieves, mages, krieghunds (German werewolves to you and me), pet witches, a vampire, violence... Read more
Published on June 27, 2011 by You Go, Geek Girl!
4.0 out of 5 stars Players--or Pawns-- in a Deadly Game with Unknown Rules
An alt. history Venice is the splendid backdrop for this first book in a trilogy, full of political maneuvers and marriages, secret societies of assassins and werewolves working... Read more
Published on May 10, 2011 by April
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