Today I welcome guest author Anna Kashina. She's promoting her new novel The Guild of Assassins. Obviously assassins are major characters in her saga that began in The First Sword and Blades of the Old Empire that I have reviewed previously on Her Ladyship's Quest.
In her guest post she explains why assassins are such a popular theme in fiction.
Assassins in Fiction
by Anna Kashina
Thanks for hosting my post. I can never get tired of talking about assassins--or rather their romanticized version that drives some of my favorite fantasy books.
I know that my fascination with assassins is shared by many authors and readers. At a first glance it seems odd, to romanticize people whose profession is to kill others. I believe, however, that this tendency goes back to one of the most primal human qualities: to worship the strong, to follow someone who stands out because of his/her warrior qualities. After all, no one finds it surprising that we romanticize great military leaders, like Alexander the Great or Napoleon. These people are, in essence, killers, and they made their names by supervising mass killings on a grand scale, yet many find them romantic and attractive.
Earlier fantasy books often continued these trends. A standard hero was usually a warrior, either a born leader or one who achieves leadership through being the best at weaponry--which, almost always, include killing as many enemies as possible. This theme fascinated generations of readers, and still succeeds if exceptionally well done. However, over time, with emergence of thousands of new fantasy novels that explore this theme in increasing numbers of variations, it is also beginning to lose its spice.
Assassins represent a new twist on this traditional theme, one that does add the spice--and the depth--to the warrior type. To be an assassin you have to be the best with weapons, no question. You also need to be a loner, mysterious and feared by most people. Just these two things already stimulate imagination. But there is more. An assassin who lives to tell the tale must be good enough to defeat any opponent he/she is hired to kill, as well as to outsmart anyone who might want to come after them. On top of that, there is the notoriety of walking at the edge of the law, or rather, not caring about the law when it comes to killing. The possibilities that come with these qualities, the depths that open just by thinking along these lines, can be vast.
In my “Majat Code” series, which started this year with “Blades of the Old Empire” and now continues with “The Guild of Assassins”, I could not resist exploring this theme to the full. The Majat warriors featured in these books are top-ranked assassins. In the Majat Guilds, they go by ranks, identified by gems, and the best of the best have the Diamond rank. Two Diamond-ranked warriors, Kara and Mai, stand at the heart of the series. Their skills, their pursuits, and the often unexpected ways they act when driven to the extremes, form the core of what has made these books so fun to write.
“Blades of the Old Empire” centers around Kara and a difficult moral dilemma she faces, when her assignment from the Majat Guild conflicts with her sense of honor and righteousness. This triggers a whole chain of events that are partially resolved in book I and are followed through in book II in the series. When I wrote the Blades, I took care to stay out of Kara’s head, to maintain the enigma around her, and the romantic shroud an assassin in her rank is bound to have. In “The Guild of Assassins” I had to drop this shroud and give her a point of view, only to erect another shroud around Mai, her counterpart, a man who had been specially trained to be able to kill her.
These books have been very special for me, and I can’t wait to return to the “Majat Code” world in book 3, which I am now working on.
“Blades of the Old Empire” publisher’s description:
Kara is a mercenary - a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but must accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.
When they arrive they discover that the prince's sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services - to capture and hand over the prince (who she has grown very fond of).
A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable?
“The Guild of Assassins” publisher’s description:
Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!
But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.
But is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?
Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. Anna's interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors.
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