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Literature / Assassin Fantastic

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Assassin Fantastic is a collection of fifteen short stories, all featuring assassins, each with their own motivations and methods. Most of the stories include a Twist Ending of some sort, though a few are more straightforward. In order, the fifteen tales are:

  • "Death Rites" by Tanya Huff - Brother-sister team Bannon and Vree (from Huff's Quarters series) are dispatched to take care of a traitorous commander who has holed up in one of their own fortresses - a traitor who has already dealt with the first three assassins sent after her with ease.
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  • "Green Stones" by Stephen Leigh - The old barkeeper Maire had his number the moment he set foot in her bar. He was looking for the legendary Green Stone... but for what purpose?
  • "Coin of the Realm" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Princess Rosalind is to be married against her will to Prince Lief of Crystofil, whose lands her sexist father covets. Never mind that the assassins are currently in the middle of a bloody sort of Succession Crisis: whoever can kill the most high-profile target in a way that benefits the King the most will become his new right hand. And Rosalind is well aware that the wedding will make a very tempting target, indeed...
  • "The Svedali Foundlings" by Fiona Patton - Coll thought he was the Last of His Kind: the last survivor of the Svedali Foundling Home. But There Is Another, and when their paths cross, it may well mean the end of the simple sort of life Coll's managed to make for himself since the incident.
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  • "History and Ecomonics" by Anna Oster - A young nobleman comes looking for revenge, only to recieve a few lessons in history and economics.
  • "Never Say... Uh... Die?" by Josepha Sherman - Alexei Danilovich runs a efficent "Removal Service", taking out the targets heroes can't hack — but how do you kill someone who calls himself "the Deathless"?
  • "Dying By Inches" by Teresa Edgerton - Miss Odilia Rowan navigates a Decadent Court, seeking vengeance for how her family was wronged... but has she found the right target?
  • "Darkness Comes Together" by Mickey Zucker Reichert - An ordinary assassin finds himself working with the legendary Nightfall, inflitrating the same mansion and seeking the same target...
  • "Raven's Cut" by Lynn Flewelling - A former assassin recounts the tale of the best assassin he's ever known: Raven.
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  • "Myhr's Adventure in Hell" by P.N. Elrod - A couple of dimension hopping travelers are recruiter to ensure a recently deceased monster stays dead by assassinating him in hell.
  • "He" by Leyte Jefferson - A modern werewolf assassin reports back to his master.
  • "War of the Roses" by Rosemary Edghill - The Flower Guild of the White City of Megiddo is legendary, though few know for certain if it even exists. Redlorn, however, learns that it must exist, for how else could he cross paths with one of its members? But for what purpose has he been singled out?
  • "On My Honor" by Bernie Arntzen - The trusted assassin for Queen Catherine of Oran is assigned to deal with King Avery of Roarke — the very country he secretly serves as a Double Agent. This could be a problem...
  • "A Touch of Poison" by Jane Lindskold - Adalia, the Widow Baker, is dragged into an assassination plot as their instrument of murder — poison her beloved master, or her infant son dies. Surely an ordinary, helpless girl like her can't stand against them, right...?
  • "Echoes" by Michelle West - The bard Kallandras reflects on part of his Dark and Troubled Past, on one of the finest friends he made in an unexpected place... and on the Training from Hell they endured together, and a Secret Test of Character that went terribly awry.

These stories contain examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: "Coin of the Realm" revolves around one and the surrounding tensions.
  • Badass Unintentional: Adalia of "A Touch of Poison".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Combined with Mood Whiplash in "Never Say... Uh... Die?": Koshchei the Deathless dies, but at the cost of a very sympathetic character's life.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Implied through rumor in "Death Rites", Squicking out the carter who observes the pair during their introduction.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In "Coin of the Realm", Rosalind combines this with Break Them by Talking and Ironic Echo upon claiming the best target for herself and announcing her place as the new right hand.
  • Deader Than Dead: The point of Myhr's mission.
  • Decadent Court
  • Double Agent: The main character in "On My Honor".
  • Downer Ending:
    • Found in "History and Economics" and combined with Karma Houdini: Jan was sent after his sister's murder by his uncle so that the assassin could take his life as well.
    • Also appears in "On My Honor": the POV character ends up unable to commit to either side, takes a third option and flees both countries after finding himself unable to take out his target while standing at the king's bedside.
  • First-Person Smartass: "Never Say... Uh... Die?" and "Myhr's Adventure in Hell". "On My Honor" has a light touch of this, but is more Sympathetic P.O.V..
  • Foreshadowing: Found in all of the stories, but features most heavily in "Green Stones" and "History and Economics".
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: Myhr and his wizard companion Terrin make tons of pop culture references and Shout Outs; this is Justified by the fact that they're both dimension-hopping wanderers trying to get back to Earth.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality
  • Heir Club for Men: Rosalind's father views his six daughters as mere "coin to be traded", for he feels only a son can inherit his crown.
  • Ironic Echo: A running theme in "Coin of the Realm".
    "Looks like you'll have to do."
  • Licensed Sexist: All over the place in "Coin of the Realm". Including the former right hand, which led directly to his demise.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: A Frame-Up led to Odilia's whole family being imprisoned in "Dying By Inches". The story begins when she's called in and informed that the ruling has been reversed and she and her surviving relatives are being released and recomponsated.
  • Murder, Inc.: A major plot point in "History and Economics", as the Silent Guild operates openly after the Romanez vs. the Silent Guild case.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Adalia uses the fact that the Smug Snakes trying to play her as their pawn assume she's stupid and easily manipulated to her advantage.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In "He", along with Our Vampires Are Different.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Master Greene Reid in "A Touch of Poison". How else do you describe someone who reacts so calmly to being informed of a plot against him by the very same woman who just about poisoned him?
  • Satellite Love Interest: Variation in "Coin of the Realm": all we know about Lief is his decidedly cool reaction to meeting his bride-to-be ("Looks like you'll have to do."), so that we don't have to feel too sorry for him upon his death.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • "Green Stones": Maire eventually tells her guest that the Green Stone was there the whole time, evaluating him, and has found him unworthy of his time.
    • "Darkness Comes Together": Nightfall is secretly observing the man he 'teamed up with' as well as their target. In the end, he muses that the man's kindness has earned him his life.
    • "Echoes": It turns out that the guild tells their apprentices about their low graduation rate as one of these. Tragically, it leads to two of the boys deciding to weed out the competition through mass-murder.
  • Shout-Out: Everything from Alien to Looney Tunes in "Myhr's Adventure in Hell".
  • Smug Snake: The villains in "A Touch of Poison".
  • Succession Crisis: In "Coin of the Realm", the King's right-hand assassin was recently murdered, and he's running a contest. Whoever can kill the most high-profile target in a way that benefits the King the most will get the job.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: "On My Honor" and "Raven's Cut".
  • Take a Third Option: In "On My Honor", it gets Deconstructed: his "third option" leaves him with nothing, dissatisfied and still struggling with his decision, uncertain whether or not his scruples were worth it.
  • Taking You with Me: In "Myhr's Adventure in Hell", it turns out that their target attempted to pull this on his world, setting it up so that his death would trigger a deadly chain reaction that can only end if his soul dies.
  • Twist Ending: As mentioned above, frequently appears. Doesn't reach Mandatory Twist Ending levels since most don't double as Downer Endings.
  • Unwitting Pawn: How the Smug Snakes of "A Touch of Poison" view Adalia. Their mistake.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: In "Myhr's Adventure In Hell", Terrin translates everything Myhr "sees" in Hell to something he can grasp without going insane. Mainly, a Sugar Bowl. With naked lesbian demons.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Marshall Arnon falls victim to this in "Death Rites".
    • Adalia suspects the murderers will pull this on her in "A Touch of Poison".