Saturday, 5 October 2013

Review: Allies and Assassins by Justin Somper

18368160Allies and Assassins (Enemies of the Prince #1) by Justin Somper
Publisher: Atom
Released: September 19th 2013
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

They killed his brother. Now they're coming for him. . .

As the second prince of Archenfield, Jared never expected to rule. But behind the walls of the castle is a dark and dangerous court where murder and intrigue are never far below the surface.

Now his older brother is dead. The kingdom is his. And the target is on his back. Can he find the assassin before the assassin finds him?
(from Goodreads)

I was really excited to read Allies and Assassins, and I was not disappointed! Full of secrets and mysteries and plotting and a cast of characters that all had their own agendas, it was a really engaging read, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Allies and Assassins focussed on quite a few different characters, so I'll just talk about the main ones. Prince Jared was the character at the centre of all the things going on; his brother, Prince Anders, had just been assassinated, and so now Jared had to step up and take the throne. Jared was not, however, prepared to rule at first. He wasn't as confident as his brother, he didn't like brutality and making hard decisions, and he wasn't as well trained or prepared to be the Prince of All Archenfield. To be honest, he was a bit of a sap at the start. Clearly a nice guy, but gullible, and easily misled and manipulated by others.  He did always try to do the right thing, though, and I started to like him a lot more when he became less passive and started to think for himself later on in the book. As he became more comfortable about his own abilities, he started to question others and realised he couldn't just blindly trust what he was told. I think his character developed throughout and I'm excited to see how he fares in book two.

Axel, the Captain of the Guard, was so aggravating. He was unpleasant to say the least and I really did not like him. He was greedy and motivated by power and looked down on everyone else. He was so condescending - especially to women - and was the reason an innocent person died. He basically lived to manipulate people for his own means and wouldn't hesitate to get rid of anyone in his way - and yet unfortunately his role was so important that the Princedom probably couldn't function without him - especially since Jared was still an inexperienced ruler.

Asta was the physician's niece and assistant and I found her to be quite an interesting character. She valued the truth above all else and was really determined to find out who murdered Prince Anders, to the point where she was interfering with the official investigation and doing some snooping and questioning of her own. She was very intelligent and seemed to have a knack for getting answers. I don't know how I would have liked her in real life - she was quite nosy - but as a character, I loved that even after realising how dangerous things could get, she didn't give up. She and Jared seem to have something going on - they had become friends over the course of the book but there was also a hint of a little more, and I think they both definitely liked each other. Jared was a Prince though, and Asta the physician's assistant, so I'm wondering how things will turn out in the next book.

Other characters who made regular appearance included Elin, Jared's mother, who was a very shrewd woman, Silva, the royal consort who seemed to be hiding a secret of her own, and Logan, an unreadable politician and other members of the Twelve, a council of sorts who assisted the Prince.

Plot-wise, I was drawn in quickly by the story and wanted to know who was behind Prince Anders's murder just as much as Jared. Was it a politically motivated assassination? A crime of passion? Something else entirely? More and more mysteries seemed to be piling up and while I did figure out a few things (such as [spoiler]who Prince Anders's secret lover was[spoiler]), I was kept guessing quite a lot. I found myself not trusting anyone either - one minute I'd think they were fine, then bam! A reason to doubt them. I had a few issues with the book - one thing that seemed odd was that Prince Anders didn't have a taster to taste for poisoned food. Wouldn't the Prince of All Archenfield, in this particular kind of setting, have a taster? Another thing was that I felt Jared didn't really react much to his brother's death except to worry about what would happen now he was gone, and while this was touched upon in the book, I would have liked to see a little more emotion from him. And while this isn't really a complaint, Allies and Assassins wasn't exactly the funniest of novels. It lacked humour (but certainly not description) and could get a bit heavy and slow-paced at times.

Overall, I enjoyed Allies and Assassins and will definitely be reading the next book. Recommend for fans of fantasies and mysteries.