Juliet E. McKenna – The Assassin’s Edge

With The Assassin’s Edge (2002) Juliet E. McKenna concludes her five book fantasy series The Tales Of Einarinn. In each book told a story within one greater plot. Each story was relatively standalone so that they could be evaluated on their own merits. The downside of a sequence of standalone stories is the question on how to end it. Normally this is done by moving up the stage a level gradually or using a great stage from the start. To the contrary McKenna chose to keep the stories relatively low-level: a small group, pretty much a handful of characters, formed the focal point and events never turned to any larger scale as they succeeded in thwarting their adversaries in time.

As a consequence, having reached the last book, the scale of the plot is still low-level and one cannot expect to suddenly change it to a greater level. McKenna also doesn’t choose to differentiate from the course she has taken.

This means that that The Assassin’s Edge aims to tell another standalone story with the difference that the adversaries are to finally defeated. It has to, else the series does not really end, so I am not spoiling anything. This has been a relatively straightforward series so this has to be expected.

The story itself is a major change from the fast paced and action packed fourth novel, but it also does not follow the typical structure of the first three novels. While the novels in those latter cases were divided into two stories The Assassin’s Edge splits into two instead which are then switched between until they come together at the end. This prevented the stories to have the feeling they had a slow pace. On the other hand they were not moving forward faster than in the first three novels. The main improvement was that the two stories were of more equal quality than before.

I cannot say I was truly satisfied about either of the two storylines. Both held some flaws and there were some things I did not understand well. McKenna put in a few twists regarding what one would have expected. Unfortunately I did not really understand them. For me McKenna did not deliver as well as I hoped for. The series did not go out with a bang or a thud, but with a sizzle.

McKenna did a decent job on her characters. She took sufficient time for some of the characters. Others did not get much attention. Of course most of them she had given focus to in the previous novels as many of the old characters gathered again for the final. These characters did not carry enough baggage or room for development to delve deeper.

My opinion on the series as a whole is mixed. It is quite decent, slightly better than average and it avoids many of the typical fantasy tropes while using many common elements. The worldbuilding is quite decent although it doesn’t go that deep. However, McKenna took in each book time to explore a different part extensively which also provided for the needed variation as the plot structure of the novels was often similar. The fourth book in the series, The Warrior’s Bond, I consider to be the best by far, as I enjoyed it most. It did have a quite different plotstructure and pace so it is really an odd one out compared to the other books. So a nice series which will provide some light entertainment to spend some time on.

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