The Assassins of Tamurin
S. D. Tower
Eos, 2004 (2002)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
n orphaned child arrives by boat in the impoverished village of Riversong, accompanied by dying older people. Lale is fostered with an unwilling (and unpleasant) family who abuse her on a regular basis. After she loses three precious needles shared by the villagers, they turn on her viciously. Lale flees and eventually encounters the Despotana of Tamurin, a motherly woman who takes her in to her school of adopted daughters. These orphans name the Despotana
and owe her gratitude and absolute loyalty.
ale lives in the realm of Durdane, which used to be a Commonwealth ruled by a Clan Assembly, until it was destroyed by civil wars, resulting in the formation of an Empire. This in turn ended with the invasion of Exiles and the partition of the country, with local rule by many Despots, and a degeneration into extreme poverty for the many with wealth and power in the hands of only a few. The Despotana of Tamurin has a strong thirst for vengeance against the current ruler of Bethiya, the Sun Lord, whom she blames for the murder of her family and especially for the death of her small son.
ale receives an excellent education in the Despotana's school and grows up desiring to be, first, a printer, and then an actress. She even takes the Universal Examination (which, like many aspects of the novel is reminiscent of old China). Lale's best friend is Dilara. They are sent together to Three Springs for additional training that is quite surprising. There they are bound to secrecy by the Despotana's sorceress Nilang, under threat of a horrible death, which Lale sees first hand when a fellow student disobeys. She is eventually sent out into the world to join the Elder Company as an actress.
his is all part of a deeply laid plan of Mother Midnight's. Her intent is to exploit Lale's resemblance to the Sun Lord's dead wife, and to place her in a position to spy on his closest secrets. Lale soon finds herself in the worst kind of trap, in which old loyalties and beliefs come into conflict with a growing love and trust - and, if she speaks out, she will die terribly. Will she betray her adopted mother and sisters, including Dilara, or follow Mother Midnight's orders and betray her lover and his dream?
he Assassins of Tamurin
is an exciting, romantic fantasy about a clash of empires, foul sorcery, betrayals on all sides, and love. I look forward very much to the author's next novel.
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