Friends ask me to tell them something good to read. Sometimes I do it whether they ask or not. They’re still my friends, so they must not mind.
Two books I just recommended were The Fallen Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, and Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. At first, they seemed not much alike. Blade is historic, set in an alternate Venice of 1407, at the height of the power of La Serenissima, as the floating city-state is frequently referred to. At first, it seems difficult to discern who the main character might be, whether it is the head of the Assassini, the Guild of Assassins, or Lady Giulietta, the cousin of the current Duke, or perhaps the slave who is given the name Tycho when he is rescued from the hold of a ship without his memory or his identity.
But Tycho is a vampire, even if he doesn’t remember his people, his powers or his original purpose. And Venice is not the Venice we know. It contains not just the Assassini (historically, Venice undoubtedly did have plenty assassins, whether they had a formal guild or not) but also witches, and especially, werewolves.
The Fallen Blade is the labelled Act One of the Assassini Trilogy. This is a dark and dangerous alternate world, grim and brutal. For a book that is first in a trilogy, it ended on a surprisingly down beat.
Of Saints and Shadows shouldn’t have had too many points of comparison with Blade. Really. But it did. Saints is, after all, urban fantasy, more or less. It starts out as a private detective type-mystery, except that the PI in question is a vampire. Peter Octavian is not his real name, either, but at least Octavian remembers who he is, and who he was. But he is still searching for his identity, too, in a sense. His search is that he is aware that what he has been told are limits to his powers, are not, in fact, necessarily limits. He is forced to find the evil behind those limits.
Saints is the first book in a series. The series was originally started in the mid-1990’s, but has been re-printed in its entirety this year and a new title has just come out. The dark and gritty feel of Saints matched right up to Blade. Again, for the first book in a series, it ended on a fairly grim note. Also, although it started in New York, most of the real action, including the big finish, took place during Carnival at, you guessed it, Venice.
Next time I send him a recommendation, it needs to be a little cheerier, or he’s going to worry.