Literature / Kings and Assassins

Kings and Assassins, Book 2 of The Antyre Chronicles by Lane Robins, picks up some time after 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.
  • Ass in Ambassador: Ivor, more and more throughout the book.
  • Bastard Bastard: Janus, at least in the beginning.
  • 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.
  • Character Development: By the end of Maledicte, Janus had emerged as a sociopath willing to lie, cheat and steal— not to mention murder babies— to further his social climb. In Kings and Assassins, he's still willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill, but he develops a sense of noblesse oblige: it's for the greater good now.
  • Crapsack World: It's a lot like early industrial Europe, only with black magic.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Nobles swig booze in a funeral procession.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Antyre=England, Itarus=Russia.
  • Honey Trap: Savne, for Janus. Janus is unimpressed.
  • Hot Consort: Psyke.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: How Janus feels about releasing most of the inmates of a plague-ridden prison in a bid to lower unemployment and frighten away the Itarusine invaders.
  • 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, although at times Janus comes close.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Delight, aka Dionyses De Guerre, although his father sees him differently.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Psyke learns that Janus once assassinated his infant half-brother in the cradle and pinned the murder on Maledicte.