Are your favorite protagonists prone to sneaking, stabbing, and killing folk for coin? Are you keen on cloaks, shadows, and artful murder-for-hire? If you answered yes to any of the above and you’re looking for your next great read, look no further! The list below contains seven great novels about a few of the fantasy genre’s most badarse assassins.
7. A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish
The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins…they fear only one man. Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves’ guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets. Aaron is Thren’s son, trained to be heir to his father’s criminal empire. He’s cold, ruthless — everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest’s daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond poisons, daggers, and the iron rule of his father. Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.
Read A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance, Book 1).
6. The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
Vlad Taltos is a mobster and assassin in the magical metropolis of Adrilankha. A member of the Great House of Jhereg (named for the tiny dragon-like creatures native to Dragaera), Taltos is given the largest contract of his career but the job is even more complicated than he expects.
Read The Book of Jhereg (Vlad Taltos, Collection 1)
5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
Read Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
4. Age of Assassins by RJ Barker
Girton Club-foot has no family, a crippled leg, and is apprenticed to the best assassin in the land. He’s learning the art of taking lives, but his latest mission tasks him with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder. In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies, Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.
Read Age of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom, Book 1)
3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Read Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, Book 1)
2. The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art—and he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir. For Azoth, survival is precarious, something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums and learned to judge people quickly—and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint. But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics—and cultivate a flair for death.
Read The Way of Shadows (Night Angel Trilogy, Book 1)
1. Heroes Die by Matthew Stover
Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does. At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that he kills men on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet – and bound to keep his rage in check. But now Michaelson has crossed the line. His estranged wife, Pallas Rill, has mysteriously disappeared in the slums of Ankhana. To save her, he must confront the greatest challenge of his life: a lethal game of cat and mouse with the most treacherous rulers of two worlds.
Read Heroes Die (Acts of Caine, Book 1)
While this list contains a few of the author’s favorites, the fantasy genre is blessed with a Dark Brotherhood’s worth of killers worth reading about. Notice one or more of your favorite cutthroats is missing? Check out Grimdark Magazine’s page on Facebook and Twitter and leave a comment on this article!