Fantasy Review: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore

The cover blurb calls The Perfect Assassin a "breakout high fantasy" and leads you to expect "nonstop excitement," but what we get instead is a detective story in a fantasy setting. I kept waiting for K.A. Doore to get beyond the mystery and into the action, but eventually had to accept that the mystery was meant to be the main attraction . . . except it's not really a fair mystery. There are no suspects to tease us, no red herrings to confound us, and no alibis to be deconstructed. The appeal of a murder mystery is in playing detective, in trying to solve the puzzle, but here we're just waiting for the ultimate reveal.

As for the jaani, I was intrigued by the concept, especially with the opening chapter building so much fear and dread around encountering them in the sands, but I felt that potential was squandered within the city. Rather than being terrifying, I found them to be frustrating, and I just kept asking questions like 'how' and 'why' without good answers.

As for the fantasy elements, I really struggled with the world building. There's not enough of it in some areas (geography and mythology in particular), and it doesn't make sense in others (the role and nature of the assassins more than anything). Assassins who train, yet who cannot be hired to assassinate, seems like a cheat. There are so many great questions of ethics and morality raised in the character of Amastan, but they are denied any sort of scope or significance beyond him. The whole thing just felt tentative, as if the story lost its nerve somewhere between conception and execution.

Lastly, and this was the killing blow for me, the story was just too slowly paced to hold my interest. Had I been engaged, working to solve the mystery alongside Amastan, it might have been a different story, but instead it felt like the reader was being held at arm's length, and I just kept wandering off to other books, until I finally failed to find my way back.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: March 19th 2019 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.