Literature / Kings and Assassins

Kings and Assassins, Book 2 of The Antyre Chronicles by Lane Robins, picks up some time after [[Literature/Maledicte]] leaves off. Having been deserted by Miranda/Maledicte for a series of betrayals detailed in the previous novel, scheming Antyrrian nobleman Janus, Earl of Last and bastard nephew of King Aris, continues to search for his lost lover amid escalating disasters, including the king's murder by someone matching Mal's description; his proper wife Psyke's creeping attachment to the god of death; popular riots by "antimachinists" protesting the country's industrialization; and Itarusine Prince Ivor's endless plans to benefit himself at everyone else's expense. From a near-opposite perspective, Psyke suffers contamination by Haith, the god of death, while also dealing with a husband she considers a murderer, a vengeance-obsessed friend, and the same riots and threat of invasion. Despite their mutually low opinion of each other, the spouses of necessity form an uneasy alliance to save their country from the murderous and the undead.

Kings and Assassins contains examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: All except Psyke and possibly the De Guerre sons are at least morally suspect, but warmongering, misogynistic psychopath Ivor even makes Janus look good.
  • Arranged Marriage: Janus and Psyke's marriage was arranged by their families.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Early on, it's bad enough that Janus and Psyke each suspect the other of trying to murder them.
  • Ass in Ambassador: Ivor, more and more throughout the book.
  • Bastard Bastard: Janus is a bastard, and has to be more manipulative and dangerous to compensate for it.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted when Psyke manifests the signs of possession, including growing scales on her skin.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Psyke is tiny, sweet-natured, and principled, but that won't keep her from killing you if you threaten Auron.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Psyke pulls this off when she forces the god possessing her to raise an undead army against the Itarusine navy.
  • Cain and Abel: Janus killed his half-brother in the first book; Ivar sacrifices Dmitri here. Unfortunately for Ivar, he didn't make sure the job was finished, which is a factor in his defeat.
  • Casual Kink: Psyke scratches Janus bloody during a sexual encounter. His only problem with it is the possibility that she might have put poison on her nails. It's portrayed as a positive step in their relationship, showing that she's prepared to let him see beyond her prim-and-proper fašade.
  • Divine Date: Both Janus's former love interest, Maledicte, and Psyke merge with gods.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: As the avatar of Haith, Psyke feels an urge to be in contact with earth and stone.
  • Changing of the Guard: None of the POV characters was one in Maledicte.
  • Crapsack World: It's a lot like early-industrial Europe, only with black magic.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Nobles swig booze in a funeral procession.
  • Fake Aristocrat: The Ixions pass Janus off as the result of a secret marriage between Celia Rosamunde and the Earl of Last. In reality, he's a bastard with no claim to the throne.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Antyre=England, Itarus=Russia.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When faced with an imminent invasion, Janus deliberately facilitates the spread of smallpox to deter the Itarusine navy.
  • Gray and Black Morality: Janus vs. Ivar.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Psyke has golden hair and is perhaps the most innocent major character in the series. Her appearance is frequently compared to Janus's former lover, Maledicte, an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette. Janus is an aversion, as his innocent appearance covers a cunning and ambitious mind.
  • Honey Trap: Savne, for Janus. Janus is unimpressed.
  • Hot Consort: Psyke.
  • I See Dead People: Psyke, after being touched by Haith, the god of death.
  • Jerkass Gods: All of them, to the extent that Janus thinks the world would be better off without any of them.
  • Mad Oracle: Played with; Psyke's conversations with dead people make her an unnerving companion, but she's not imagining them.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ivor, and sometimes Janus.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Janus was very possessive of Maledicte, yet regards his marriage to Psyke pragmatically. He dismisses suspicions that she slept with Aris, not because he doesn't find them plausible, but because he has bigger concerns. While he eventually decides that they were lovers, the conclusion is barely mentioned, and it doesn't prevent him from pursuing a more amicable relationship with her.
  • Nice Girl: Psyke is a kind, polite young woman who puts her life on the line to protect a disabled youth.
  • Rags to Royalty: Janus started life in a slum and rises to become the regent for the Antyrrian throne.
  • Regent for Life: A real possibility for Janus.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Ivar intends Savne, who resembles Maledicte, to serve as one to Janus. Janus gives him the brush-off.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Whatever Janus's faults, he works very hard to keep Antyre out of Itarusine control. Psyke starts off on the sidelines, but takes a more active role in the story as it goes. They stand in contrast to most of the nobles, who spend their time drinking, whoring, gambling, or simply lounging around their homes.
  • Son of a Whore: Janus.
  • Succession Crisis: While the king's son, Auron, is mentally disabled and therefore unable to rule, Janus, the next of kin, has gained notoriety as a probable murderer and possible sorcerer on top of being a bastard. Hardly anyone except Ivor wants to see either of them rule.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: Psyke grows scales on the way to becoming Haith's avatar.
  • The Unfettered: Janus will do anything, even unleash an uncontrollable plague in the Antyrian capital, to maintain his country's independence.
  • Unwanted Spouse: When the book starts, Janus doesn't seem to have strong personal feelings about Psyke; however, she truly despises him.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Delight, aka Dionyses De Guerre. He's an eccentric, but fairly part sympathetic, nobleman who dresses as a washerwoman.
  • Working with the Ex: Downplayed. Delight was Psyke's childhood crush, possibly even an early suitor, and he still has feelings for her, but they work together without causing any dramatic scenes.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Psyke learns that Janus once assassinated his infant half-brother in the cradle and pinned the murder on Maledicte.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Janus once had an affair with Maledicte. At the start of the book, Psyke is in love with Aris; it's never stated whether or not the relationship was consummated.
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