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R.J. Barker

R.J. Barker is a softly-spoken Yorkshireman with flowing locks. He lives in the frozen north with his wife and son, and divides his time between writing and looking after his son.

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Age of Assassins: Intriguing world-building and an attempted-murder mystery

Age of Assassins by R.J. Barker

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that you’re a fan of Robin Hobb’s REALMS OF THE ELDERLINGS — in particular, the FARSEER SAGA and FITZ AND THE FOOL books — as many readers are. Naturally, with Assassin’s Fate bringing the grand tale of Fitzchivalry Farseer to a close, you might feel a bit cast adrift, wondering where you might get your fix for “young assassin’s bildungsroman” paired with a deadly mentor and spycraft-disguised-as-theatre in an epic fantasy setting. And if that’s your thing, then R.J. Barker’s Age of Assassins (2017) is sure to scratch that itch.

Girton Club-Foot is, as his name implies,... Read More

Blood of Assassins: Steadily marching forward, one foot in front of the other

Blood of Assassins by R.J. Barker

It’s been five years since Girton Club-Foot was last in the kingdom of Maniyadoc, when he and his Master, Merela Karn, were tasked with untangling a royal web of plots, lies, and murder in R.J. Barker’s debut novel Age of Assassins. Now, terrifying Nonmen prowl the yellowed lands spreading chaos and anarchy, Girton’s friend Rufra is king of Maniyadoc, and both Aydor and Tomas have set themselves against Rufra in an effort to claim the kingdom for their own. Someone in Rufra’s inner circle is a spy and an assassination plot is in the works, but having been away for so long, Girton is at a complete disadvantage: he has no idea who to trust, Rufra himself has grown distant and hard during his kingship, Rufra’s forces are... Read More

King of Assassins: A clash of blades, magic, and dead gods

King of Assassins by R.J. Barker

Note: THE WOUNDED KINGDOM is intended to be read in sequence, and as such, some spoilers for Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins will be inevitable as I discuss King of Assassins (2018).

Girton Club-Foot’s star has risen dramatically since we first met him — no longer a gawky and insecure fledgling assassin, he’s matured over the past two decades to become the Heartblade of King Rufra, entrusted with not only the king’s life but those of king’s children and his queen, Voniss. Girton’s Master, Merela Karn, still lives and is surprisingly agile despite her near-fatal poisoning and the crippling wounds she incurred during Blood of Assa... Read More

The Bone Ships: Slow start, spectacular end

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

Joron Twiner, an ineffective drunkard with low self-esteem, is the shipwife (captain, basically) of Tide Child, a bone ship made of the bones of a supposedly extinct species of sea dragons. When we meet Joron, he’s in port, sleeping off the booze, when a fierce woman named Lucky Meas attacks and easily subjugates him. As the new shipwife of Tide Child, with Joron as her second-in-command, she plans to whip the pathetic crew into shape and to redeem the reputations of both Tide Child and herself.

When Tide Child is given orders to chase down the rumored sighting of a sea dragon and secretly work with enemies to escort it to safety, Joron wonders who his new commander is really loyal to. After acquiring a new crew of mostly prisoners and outlaws, Joron and the Tide Child set off on a (slightly) Moby-Dick-like adventure which will involve dangers that come f... Read More