I’ve been fascinated by assassins ever since learning about their medieval origins during the Crusades. These interesting fellows were led by the mysterious “Old Man in the Mountain” and wreaked mayhem because of how they infiltrated places of trust. Assassins are the secretive warriors of death, trained with uncanny fighting skills and the various weaknesses of the human body and mind. Throughout my novels, these characters are woven into the storylines with new names such as Sleepwalkers, the Kishion, and most currently, Poisoners. Assassins can get into places that are all but impossible. They are deadly with weapons, with just their hands, or with a little crushed powder. They infiltrate enemy lairs and use disguises to trick the senses.
But what I really find fascinating are novels that use them to help out the good guys. They can be the main hero or sometimes just a supporting role. They are often conflicted because of the beauty they see in life and how often they participate in the release of death. They are a spice to the stew that is savory and interesting to me. These are some of my favorites.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Of course Fitzchivalry Farseer tops my list in Hobb’s masterful series about a young boy raised at court by the enigmatic Chade to help deal with the enemies of the Farseer throne. Fitz’s loyalty is tested as are his survival skills in knuckle-biting scenes throughout the novel. The young man pays a high emotional toll to fulfill his role, and I think the entire series is a must-read for would-be assassins.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
This is set in an alternate vision of medieval Europe, Brittany to be precise, where the girls of the fictional convent of St Mortain serve the God of Death by becoming assassins. In this world, their targets are assigned to them by a “mark,” a spot on their body where the assassin must kill them and only they can see. In this book, Ismae partners will a noble to use her training to save the realm from unscrupulous forces that deserve the killing hand she can administer.
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
I was gripped by Ryan’s new world as seen through the eyes of Vaelin Al Sorna who was dedicated to the Sixth Order as a young boy. Those of the Sixth Order are part knight Templar, part assassin and 100% unrelenting. The dropout rate of the Sixth Order during the training is staggering. Add to Vaelin’s wit, courage, and self-discipline a mysterious blood magic…let’s just say you want this guy fighting on your side. His loyalty to the throne and its up and coming princess despite treachery has made him a favorite of mine.
The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks
This book is one of my all-time favorite novels by Brooks and the reason is because of Pe Ell. This assassin works for the bad guys and the good guys simultaneously and it’s never clear exactly which he prefers. Truly, he’s on his own side and his interests align with the good guys—most of the time. Pe Ell relishes a challenge. He takes risks. To say he’s mercurial doesn’t begin to do it justice. He has a magical blade called the Stiehl and he’s never afraid to use it. He was one of the most original characters that Brooks invented in his Shannara world.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Wait…what? A children’s book with an assassin? Of course! Charlotte A. Cavatica is a spider, a ruthless killer of bugs and barnyard pests. Not only does she kill them, she drinks their blood. Her wily instincts and clever web-spinning make her the savior of the doomed pig Wilbur. This was a childhood favorite of mine and Charlotte was part of the inspiration behind the titular character of my latest novel, The Queen’s Poisoner.
Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to become a full-time author. He is, most importantly, a husband and father, a devout member of his church, and is occasionally spotted roaming hills with oak trees and granite boulders in California or in any number of the state’s majestic redwood groves. His latest book is The Queen’s Poisoner, the first of the Kingfountain Series.