A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

Rating 8.0/10
The best Assassin novella by far

A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon is the third novella in the Assassin series following on from Deadman's Hand and Pieces of Hate (which were published together as a single volume). I really like the way Lebbon writes, and with this volume he shows he can put together an intriguing plot too.

The story is set in Singapore during the second World War and follows Jack Sykes, a British soldier in a Changi POW camp. Before he was captured, Jack stumbled upon an ancient secret deep in the jungle, and as a result both the immortal Gabriel and the demon named Temple are converging on Jack's position desperate to make this ancient secret their own.

Of the three novellas so far, A Whisper of Southern Lights has by far the strongest plot driving the story forward. This is not just an elongated battle sequence between two immortal beings, this is a story that sinks its teeth in and drives you forward with mixture of mystery, intrigue, and horror. I really liked how the rivalry between Gabriel and Temple became a sideshow as the horrors of war took centre stage, but then just as you are getting into the story it’s over, with a "what the...?" moment that takes a little bit away from the overall satisfaction of the story.

Lebbon is a very stylish writer and he does a great job of making the Changi POW camp seem so bleak, miserable and full of despair. He has no problem putting his characters through the meat grinder, or in this case the sewage drain, and have them come out the other side worse off rather than better. His crucibles do not necessarily harden his characters, and we get to see broken people barely getting through each day just struggling with the idea that they have to keep enduring. 

I really enjoyed A Whisper of Southern Lights, I think it's the best Assassin novella by far, I just wish these stories were a little longer. Lebbon introduces some interesting themes in a stylish way, and then the story ends before we get to thoroughly explore them. This is still excellent popcorn fiction that is easily consumed, ideal for those with busy lives with little time to read.

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