Here are 7 jolly nice reviews of Assassins by me and Andy West, found floating in the river Amazon.
5.0 out of 5 stars Da Vinci Code with an Eastern Twist, 26 Nov 2012
By Rod Rees
To me, the worth of any book can be gauged by the answer to the question `did it make me think?’.
And applying this simple benchmark, Assassins: Book 1 scored very highly indeed. The research underpinning the story is meticulous – for instance, I had a lot of fun reading the book’s etymology of the word `assassins’ and the description of the cunning manner in which Hasan connived his disappearance was terrific – but never gratuitous … there are (thankfully) no scenes where the authors parade their hard work and erudition simply to say, `look how clever we are’. Everything is there for a purpose.
In short, Assassins is like The Da Vinci Code with more substance and a damned sight more originality. It moves along at pace and the interweaving of the scenes from the dim and distant past of Ishmaili history and those of the present day is done with aplomb.
So well worth its 5-star grading … well, actually 4.5 stars. I am holding half a star pending until I’ve read the next instalments, hoping to be convinced that Abigail isn’t as totally naïve/twerpish as she’s drawn (as in, I’ve known this mysterious Middle Eastern item for just ten minutes so I’ll go off alone with him to Iran and Syria WITHOUT GOOGLING HIM FIRST!) and that poor Terry wasn’t just a sacrificial lamb of a character.
But minor niggles aside, a cracking read and highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than The Da Vinci Code, 4 Dec 2012
By Tim C. Taylor (Bromham, England)
Like The Da Vinci Code but ten times better. I guess that’s an efficient summary of how I felt about Assassins.
When I started reading this book, comparisons immediately sprang to mind with Da Vinci Code (the only Dan Brown book I’ve read) and Kate Mosse with her Labyrinth / Carcassonne series. Superficially, there’s a similar blend of medieval drama entwining a contemporary thriller that is itself bursting with secret sects and centuries-old strategies that are still playing out. As you move through the book, differences become apparent. The scope is broader than either Brown or Mosse, the historical settings and attitudes more authentic than Brown, the pace faster than Mosse. (In case it helps, I enjoyed the Mosse books but was frustrated with the Da Vinci Code, though I read to the end)
One of the things I liked most about Assassins was that the narrative passed through a wealth of fascinating details about hidden cults and past worlds. Now, I enjoy that and am forgiving of authors who are too in love with their own research and so sacrifice storytelling to show off their knowledge. Not everyone is as forgiving — so maybe I’m not the best judge for that aspect — but it felt to me that the authors got the balance of storytelling and historical colour spot on. I was feeling lazy when I read this, so I just enjoyed the rich colour of the surroundings and let the story take me wherever it wanted without focusing sharply on the details. The writing style was very easy to follow without feeling dumbed down. I can imagine re-reading this book, which brings up an intriguing opportunity… I bought the Kindle version, which means I can select words and phrases that catch my interest and tell my Kindle to jump directly from the book out to Wikipedia before going back to my page in the book. I’ll read the next book in the series first, though.
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 27 Nov 2012
By Kris Black
Fast paced, rich in texture and detail this is a conspiracy theory tale of religious fundamentalism going off the deep end. Always vivid and colourful and often beautiful to read. For me the best parts were in Africa following Hakim and his fellow characters as they pursue a truly terrifying project.
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetry, Religion, and Terrorism – a Rattling Good Read!, 26 Nov 2012
By Stephen James Redwood “Steve Redwood” (Spain)
I had heard that Ian Watson, one of the co-authors, was a well-regarded but `difficult’ writer, so I picked up this book (as it were) a bit hesitantly, but my fears were groundless. Yes, there are some unusual ideas in it, or rather some unusual historical research, but this is one of the big pluses, and the book turned out to be a real page-turner.
It’s no spoiler to say that it’s about bio-terrorism, as we learn this almost from page one, and we even learn, in general terms, who is responsible, and why. At first, I thought this was a mistake, sacrificing the `whodunit’ element. But I soon changed my mind, partly because the story of who first `dunit’ or tried to `do’ it, is so fascinating, especially the scenes set in twelfth-century Ethiopia, and partly because the build-up of the present-day story is so wonderfully done, as the tentacles from the past emerge and twist ever more menacingly. Moreover, the person whose job it is to avert disaster (if it is averted!) in a way is as villainous as the villains.
Apart from the exciting zoom-along plot (which also includes a love-story between a frustrated young lady academic and a lover who is either a Syrian James Bond or a super-villain: we are constantly reminded that the Nizari sect, the Assassins of the title, had a policy of taqiyyah, dissimulation, in order to survive) , we have several bonuses, such as the intriguing but little-known history of certain Islamic sects, (one tends to think of Islam as simply Sunni, Shia, or Sufi), and some fascinating exotic settings so tellingly portrayed I suspect one or both of the writers must have actually been in those places.
In short, a superbly constructed fast-paced thriller (and generous portions of sex and tortures for the jaded – you want to know how to roast intestines while the donor is still alive?), but with a satisfying amount of serious medical and historical research behind it, a story in itself thrilling.
But… beware of facing Mecca when you pray, even if you’re Moslem!
4.0 out of 5 stars Intrigue, conspiracy and a poetical mystery!, 25 Nov 2012
By Donna L. Scott (Wolverhampton, UK)
Assassins is very much a book in the political zeitgeist, where the threats seems to come from the Middle East and the paranoia about them from across the Atlantic.
Modern day terrorists unearth a deadly secret from the past in an opening that is full of fast-paced action and deadly intrigue, whereas across the pond, Canadian historian Abigail Leclair is researching a poem that seems to have piqued the interest of US homeland security operatives ICE. Juxtaposed with this tale is the story of a medieval doctor, Hakim, who embarks on an adventure to discover the source of a deadly plague, following mystical advice and knowing that there must be sacrifices for this knowledge – just not of his own life.
The characters are as curious as cats, belligerently and blindly following clues and coincidences out of a sense of foolhardiness or duty. It is easy to sympathise with Hakim, who is expected to go to do great things by those who have invested patronage and endorsements, but who is also easily persuaded to against his better judgement to go down routes he suspects are ill-starred, because such choices are inevitable and he must save face. On the other hand, Abigail sets herself under suspicion because she can’t help her curiosity, even though she has already realised that she needs the skills and knowledge of others to even get near the meanings of the scraps of discovered medieval poetry turning up that seem to be coded with terrorist communications.
This is a conspiracy story with a twist, action thriller and literary whodunit rolled into one, as clever and well-written as A.S. Byatt, but much livelier!
5.0 out of 5 stars Thunders Along Like A Pile Driver, November 29, 2012
By A Reader
The Waters of Destiny is one of those thrillers in which is combined modern Bond-style pyrotechnics and Medieval esoterica. Think Dan Brown with brains, or Kate Mosse without the longueurs. It does for Islam what Sam Bourne does for Judaism. The heroine is an academic, an expert in the poetesses of Medieval Provence – nothing’s much more arcane than that, you would think. But her poetess got her inspiration from Moslem Spain, and thereby hangs a tale. One day she gets a visit from a secret service agent, for it turns out that the fragments of ancient verse hold a key to a dreadful crime committed in the past – and what could be an apocalyptic future. I won’t say any more for risk of spoiling things. Suffice it to say that this book thunders along like a piledriver. If it were in print, no airport lounge bookstall should consider itself properly clothed without heaps of these. But dead tree is so last-century. Download it to your Kindle and let the hours fly past.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intriguing and Exciting Novel!, November 26, 2012
By GP “Shed builder” (Florida)
Assassins is an exciting beginning to The Waters of Destiny. The story certainly pulls you in as it moves between today with the engaging Dr. Abigail Leclaire, a Harvard professor, and back to the 12th century when it follows Hakim, an Islamic doctor in Egypt, Ethiopia and Persia. The story builds with care and deftly reveals itself. I was particularly interested in the history regarding the origination of various Muslim sects. Since it was detailed in a novel, rather than a historical textbook, it was very intriguing. The story’s interplay between early Christian groups like the Templars with the early Muslim Nizaris reminded me of how Dan Brown has used religious history and groups to emphasize their impact on today in his novels, but this is done so much better.
The characters are complex and engaging and are interesting to get to know. Your interest in them, plus the scope of the potential results to all of us as the story line builds, insures that you will keep turning the pages. Well done!