The Assassin's Edge by Juliet E McKenna (A tale of Einarinn: Book 5)

A thundering climax to Juliet E McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series, The Assassin’s Edge, the fifth and final novel, goes all out as Livak and her friends make a final mission to the Ice Islands to put a stop to the aetheric mage Ilkehan.

Things have been quiet on the island colony of Kellarin since Livak came back from the mountains with aetheric law in common songs, and Ryshad and Temar returned to the island after negotiating the politics of the other Houses. Work is continuing to improve and expand the colony, but supplies of a range of mainland goods are running low, and the first ship is eagerly awaited.

When it becomes clear that the ship is late, scrying reveals that it has been captured by pirates based on islands between Kellarin and the mainland. A mage from Hadrumal and a scholar interested in aetheric magic have been captured with the ship, and it gradually becomes clear that the pirate has aetheric magic users from the ice islands working for him, making a rescue mission even more complicated.

With mistrust of magic in Einarinn still commonplace, Hadrumal cannot be seen to interfere directly, and imperial troops cannot be used just to defeat a handful of pirates, thereby showing particular favour to the colony, so Livak and Ryshad, backed by a group of mercenaries and a couple of mages acting of their own accord set forth in a two pronged attack to release the prisoners, but also kill Ilkehan.

It’s a great ending to this series, I never thought it worked as well when previous books focused just on Ryshad or just on Livak, and this has got a lot more action in and magic, two things that I love in fantasy novels. It’s been a long journey over these five novels, but McKenna’s writing flows off of the page and sweeps you up in the narrative, making this, I think, one of the best fantasy series I’ve read. Livak in particular is a great character - she’s sarcastic, loyal, able to take care of herself, and pretty unconventional with her gambler habits and dodgy friends. This is a series which looks at a whole range of different cultures and how they interact with one another, and how a relatively normal girl who was making a living on the outskirts of society managed to land in extraordinary circumstances. If you’re looking for a great fantasy series to get into, give this a go.

9/10 A thundering climax to Juliet E McKenna�s Tales of Einarinn series.

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