Assassin fantasy is quite an interesting sub-genre of fantasy. This sub-genre is another one that can get quite dark, but this generally occurs more in the world or setting than anything, and the grey morality an assassin brings to the stage can be quite helpful. The genre itself is relatively easy to understand because the name says it all, but let’s go through some of the finer points.
Defining Assassin Fantasy
Like I said earlier, this one’s pretty straightforward. Assassin fantasy is about an assassin and is set in a fantasy world. The complicated parts of the story fall more in the characterization and the plotline than they do in what the genre is. Unlike weird and grimdark fantasy, this one is pretty easily defined, and no one debates the definition. The assassin archetype has been around in fiction for quite some time, though assassin fantasy itself has only become popular in the recent years. With that definition down, let’s look at writing the sub-genre.
Writing Assassin Fantasy
First of all, assassin fantasy varies widely in its focus. Some assassin fantasy focuses heavily on character development. These stories don’t focus on and really don’t care much about the politics and morality of what’s going on. It’s just about how the character grows and develops through the course of the story. If that happens to include some sort of moral ultimatum or debate, so be it. If not, no one’s losing any sleep. The other side of this, of course, is assassin fantasy that’s all about the politics and morality of the story and its characters. Authors writing this sort of assassin fantasy may go into great detail about the political system or what constitutes right and wrong and why.
Again, this is another area where the sub-genre doesn’t have one consistent rule. Some books may have a high level of magic while others may have none at all or very little. In some assassin fantasy, the assassin may wield the magic, while in others, he or she could be the one hunting those who use it. It all depends on the angle the author wishes to approach the sub-genre from.
This one leaves no question whatsoever. Assassin fantasy is extremely character-driven. You must have this element. Without it, your story will fall short of readers’ expectations for the sub-genre. This means that knowing your character inside and out isn’t negotiable. It’s a must. That may mean that this sub-genre is more difficult for some writers who tend toward less characterization and more thematic or world-focused writing. But, whatever the case may be, this is one element where assassin fantasy won’t waver.
This one is another area where the lines are well-drawn. The level of complexity in the stories of this sub-genre are very high. These are the types of stories where anyone could stab you in the back, and no one is as they seem. Twists and turns with revelations that make the plot even more complicated are common within the genre. If you as a writer aren’t fond of writing stories with lots of surprises and unexpected situations that make things more complex, this probably isn’t the genre for you.
Of course, chances are high that you already know whether or not this sub-genre is for you. Because it’s so well-defined, people are usually on one side of the fence or the other about it. It has a lot of violence and many grey areas, so most people have an opinion. If it isn’t something you like reading, it probably won’t be something you like writing. That’s fine, but you should acknowledge that and move on.
This genre can offer some very unique opportunities to explore the greyer and darker areas of life. However, it can also be a bit of a disturbing read or project for some readers and writers because the content is dark and usually violent. If you’re not comfortable with those things, this isn’t the genre for you. As usual, I’ve included a list of books in the genre for those looking to do some extra reading. Due to the nature of the sub-genre, I wouldn’t personally recommend these for anyone younger than 16 or 17.
Additional Resources and Books
Eve Forward’s Villains by Necessity
Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy
Brent Week’s Night Angel Trilogy (I have read the first one in the series and found that I did enjoy it immensely. It had some minor issues in the writing and grammar, but I liked the plot. Other readers’ reviews of it were mixed, but at some point, I hope to put my own review up on the review section of the blog to give another perspective on it.)
Kage Baker’s The Anvil of the World
Cornelia Funke’s Thief Lord (This one is actually intended for children and was a good read.)