Reviewed by E and Marlene
E: I absolutely fell in love with this series and Kashina’s writing with the first installment of the Majat Code that I reviewed with Marlene. We both enjoyed it and subsequently reviewed the second book as well. It was a very happy day in my life when I received an email from Marlene telling me that Assassin Queen was available for review. I think I about broke my fingers typing my reply and then requesting the book. I have to admit I was slightly worried despite my excitement when I started this story because the main protagonists were divided amongst themselves and I knew if they didn’t manage to work together things would be extremely bleak. Thankfully Kashina matured her characters throughout this story so I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience.
Marlene: Well, technically, we reviewed The Blades of the Old Empire separately (E’s review is here and mine is at Reading Reality) and The Guild of Assassins together, but the point is that we both fell in love with these characters and this world. When last we left our heroes at the end of The Guild of Assassins it was obvious that there had to be more story, but that story was not in sight. When Assassin Queen finally popped up on Netgalley, I couldn’t type fast enough either, telling E that it was finally here!
I too was more than slightly worried at the beginning of Assassin Queen. Just when we thought our friends were out of the woods, they were instantly back in the thick of a whole lot of bad stuff. I felt so terrible about more and awfuller things happening to our protagonists that I skipped to the end just to make sure things were going to turn out all right.
E: Assassin Queen started off without really letting up any of the tension from the previous book. In fact when I found out what the Kaddim Brothers were plotting I became even more concerned because they could capitalize on the split between the protagonists and gain additional advantages. Seeing how Mai, Kyth, and Kara planned to counteract the Kaddim relieved some of my tension but it was still a precarious plan with so much depending on them. I think each time I started to relax a new twist was introduced so by the time things came to a head it took me a while to uncurl my fingers from around my e-reader.
Marlene: Assassin Queen starts out at one of those, “things are always darkest just before they turn completely black” moments. It reminded me of Sam and Frodo at the beginning of The Return of the King. Sam fears that he has to carry the burden alone, only to discover that YAY! Frodo is still alive and BOO! he’s a prisoner of the Orcs.
While Mai, Kyth and Kara have a battle plan, they also have to deal with one of the most insidious plots ever on the part of the evil Kaddim Brothers. And it’s the sort of evil turn that exploits all of the aching fissures in the relationship between Mai, Kyth and Kara, as well as the tenuous hold both Mai and Kyth have on their powers and alliances. It was an evil genius plan of the highest order, and instantly succeeded in driving everyone to the breaking point.
E: One of the things I really enjoyed about this series is how the characters struggle, grow, falter, regroup, and still keep pushing forward to what they believe in. They all had to accept a personal weakness and then figure out a way of counteracting it while trusting in each other. Some of their earlier relationships helped the transition while others made it seem almost impossible. The fact that none of the characters were perfect or the “Chosen One” made Assassin Queen and this trilogy extremely enjoyable.
Marlene: E is so right. One of the great things about this series is that there is no chosen one. While it could be claimed that there is a Chosen Three, none of our heroes see themselves as fated, and neither does anyone around them. In fact, the one time one of them gets near that precipice, they reject the idea and everything it stands for. They question themselves and each other all the time.
One of the biggest weaknesses in their little circle was just that, the circle. Kara nearly had a relationship with Kyth, but then turned to Mai. Mai and Kyth are just young enough to get close to a pissing contest over Kara, but never quite fall over the edge. And there is no dreaded romantic triangle, thank dog. Kara was attracted to Kyth, but fell for Mai and never looked back. Not even when that looking back was nearly forced upon her.
E: As much as I enjoyed the action, tension, and worrying about if/how the world was going to remain free from Kaddim domination, I also really enjoyed how the romantic tension was handled. As a reader I wasn’t left feeling that anyone got the short end of the stick or was left out which is something I valued because I liked all of them. While Kashina tied up the major plot threads, a few of her scenes have left me hoping she will write some novellas in this same world or even go back and write more full-length novels focusing on different aspects.
Marlene: All of the big loose ends from the previous stories, as well as the ones that came up in this story, were marvelously resolved. We are left with a definite feeling that this chapter is over, while at the same time know that evil is never completely vanquished – it always lies dormant for a time, then crawls out of the shadows to strike again.
E: Assassin Queen was a great conclusion to a very exciting trilogy. It was well worth the wait between releases and I think this series will be one on my reread list. I found the characters, the world, and how everything unfolded captivating. I will continue to check on Kashina in hopes of whatever her next release will be.
I give Assassin Queen an A.
Marlene: I absolutely agree. Assassin Queen was a terrific conclusion to an epic trilogy. As much as I hated to wait for the final volume, the ending was well worth waiting for. As the author discussed in yesterday’s guest post, it was lovely to read a series where the heroes could come of age without killing all off all the mentor figures. The author provided plenty of emotional heft in the story without orphaning the cast entire. And the political machinations at the end made for the perfect way to wind down the action and the story. I definitely look forward to more and even greater stories from Kashina.
I also give Assassin Queen an A for Awesome.