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S.D. Tower
book cover

2003, Jan, Eos,hardcover
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Buy from Amazon.com (mass market paperback)

Who recommends: Preeti, Danielle
Who discommends: JW, Suzanne

THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN, by S.D. Tower, is a fantasy novel set in a world much inspired--if I remember a class I took years ago correctly--by historical China. It's the story of one girl's rise from a life of poverty, and her transition to a life of self-determination. It was an interesting and readable book, although it didn't engage me as powerfully as I'd expected.

Lale is an unloved orphan of unknown parentage who is driven out of her backwater village when she is eleven. She encounters a Despotana, a ruler of one of the fractured pieces of the once vast Durdane Empire, who takes Lale in and gives her a name and family and sense of belonging. Lale is placed in the Despotana's boarding school for girl orphans and is happy, all the while unaware that she is being honed as a secret weapon of revenge against the Despotana's enemies.

Half the book is Lale growing up. The rest is Lale being sent out in the world as the Despotana's agent, embarking on a career, being asked to seduce a charismatic leader with aspirations of reunifying and ruling the Empire, and dealing with the ramifications of falling for him.

Although this sounds like it should be really exciting story, it never quite reached the highs and lows I'd expected. The worldbuilding was my favorite part, but, surprisingly, the heroine was probably my least favorite element. She wasn't quite charismatic or empathetic enough to have me rooting for her. Still, I'd definitely try S.D. Tower (apparently a pseudonym for a writing team who've previously written espionage novels under another name) again. And, for you series-haters, this seems like a stand-alone novel.--Preeti (29 Dec 02)

I should've loved this one. I did love the storyline, but the execution was somehow flat. An unwanted orphan is "adopted" and sent to school with other girls of similar background. Upon adulthood, she is sent by her benefactress to spy upon, and ultimately assist in the assassination of, a cruel usurper. Only problem is, she begins to like the guy. And then to love him. As I said, it sounded like a great story, and it could have been. But somehow it wasn't. The characters never became alive for me; the emotions never became real. I'd say this one was a disappointment; not horrible, but not particularly wonderful either.--JW (10 Apr 03)

S.D. Tower's THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN just didn't do it for me. I am usually left cold by fantasy set in alternative Asian cultures, perhaps because they seem too formal and mannered to me. This was no exception. I did like the fable-like opening scenes of Lale's exceptional childhood, and was expecting great things. Unfortunately, I didn't feel much connection with the character of the adult Lale. Also, there were no secondary characters fleshed out and made real; they all seemed cardboard. I was, however, interested enough to read it all the way through, and I can see how an opposite opinion could be extended on this one.--Suzanne (26 Jan 04)

Just finished THE ASSASSINS OF TAMURIN. I picked it up from the paperback rack at the library and it turned out to be just what I wanted--a "light" adventure, fast-paced and entertaining. I rarely read books in one sitting any more (too many interruptions in my life) but this one took only two days to finish.

The heroine, Lale, is an orphan trained to be a spy and assassin with a fanatical loyalty to the woman who raised her. There is some romance, as she falls in love with someone she shouldn't and begins to question her "mother"'s orders.

I didn't find the romance completely convincing (it felt as if Lale fell in love because the plot demanded it, not because she truly couldn't resist), but Lale is a great character and the growth of her independence as she starts to think for herself was well done. It's also great to see a different setting than the usual vaguely medieval and/or European milieu--this fantasy empire has a history analogous to the Romans, but a culture more akin to the Chinese.

Definitely recommended.--Danielle (2 Mar 05)

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