Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon (Assassins #1)

Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon is the first volume of the Assassin series, collecting the first two novellas "Deadman's Hand" and "Pieces of Hate". If the name Tim Lebbon sounds familiar, it's probably because you always see his name on the covers of tie-in novels or novelisations of your favourite movies. You will be pleased to know that his original fiction holds up just fine, and that Pieces of Hate is an entertaining read from the start to finish.

The story follows Gabriel and Temple, two immortal men destined to battle each other throughout eternity. In the story Deadman's Hand we get to see these two men battle it out in the American Frontier / Wild West through the eyes of a third party, whilst Pieces of Hate takes the battle to the Caribbean in the 1700's with the events told from Gabriel's perspective. On the surface the battle between Gabriel and Temple seems like a traditional battle between good and evil, but as we learn more about the story, we get to see how damaged Gabriel has become and what he will do to seek vengeance on the man named Temple.

Pieces of Hate is a very stylish book, one that was a pleasure to read. Lebbon has a way with words that just appeals to me, he does a great job at establishing mood, presence, emotions, and all those intangible things we love about stories. Lebbon takes the reader on a walk through history and it feels authentic rather than artificial. It allows for pure escapism and fantasy, it allows me to lose myself for a couple of hours, and it left me wanting more which can only be a good thing.

The problem I had with Pieces of Hate is that when you take away the style, you aren't left with a great deal. You have two opponents who seemingly can never die, and are destined to fight each other again and again depending on how many novellas it takes for Lebbon to get to present day, and that takes a lot of the mystery and suspense out of the stories. I do like Gabriel's descent through the shades of grey towards evil, fuelled by an unquenchable thirst for vengeance, but Lebbon doesn't really explore it any further than the surface level, doesn't give us a chance to dwell on how Gabriel is slowly breaking down. It feels like a missed opportunity, one of many missed opportunities for some interesting character and plot exploration.

Pieces of Hate is a book that places style over substance, something I am fine with given how good the style is. Reading these two stories was an entirely pleasurable experience that allowed me to escape from my stressful life for a handful of moments. While it was missing those elements that leave you satisfied at the end, what Lebbon provided was more than enough to make me want to read more Gabriel and Temple stories in the future.

7/10 A book that places style over substance.

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