“The magic system, the characters, the plot…all of it combined to form a narrative that was a truly immersive read where the stakes were high and the possibility of failure was ever present.”
What is The Order: Shadow of the Assassin about?
For centuries the magic wielders of Laveria have striven to surpass the power of the gods. All have failed, until now.
Marcus serves the Order, a secret brotherhood tasked by the gods to weed out worshipers of the occult. But after the gods are annihilated in a cataclysmic event known as the Sundering, Marcus discovers his brotherhood is infiltrated by the very Shadow worshipers he was supposed to destroy. Now Marcus is the one being hunted, and his only chance at survival is to break into the king’s palace and steal the Orb of Azure, an ancient tool created by the gods to reshape the world.
Calycia bears the blood of the Old Gods, making her the first woman in a hundred generations capable of sorcery. Unfortunately, Calycia’s magic manifests itself in deadly outbursts that places everyone around her at risk. She has spent her entire life trying to suppress her powers, but when the Order instigates a violent uprising, Calycia realizes sorcery might be the only thing that will keep her alive.
With the world falling into chaos, Marcus and Calycia each find themselves thrust upon a desperate race to secure the Orb of Azure. Godhood awaits the first mortal to seize the artifact. Will such divine powers lead Marcus and Calycia to immortality or an early grave?
Haywood describes people, places and things in such a way that makes you feel like you’re there and immersed without being info-dumpy. The main character has a delightful moral dilemma to contend with and I find that made him that much more realistic than if he’d been a mindless soldier cog character.
I think plot-wise Haywood managed to pull off a lot of the twists without me being any the wiser, I’m usually playing detective trying to figure things out rather than letting the narrative flow. This also speaks to how the prose flowed for me as well. The writing style really clicked and I found I was churning through pags much faster than I would typically. I’m definitely more of an audiobook listener while I’m doing chores and commuting at this point so for me to dedicate time to sitting down and reading through a book in a matter of days is a rare occurrence.
Something to be mindful of, I’d classify this one as grimdark epic fantasy. There are some brutalities that the author does not shy away from for sure. I think it is really epic in scale, there are a fair amount of moving parts to keep track of that at first I didn’t fully have a handle on but then they come together.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, it’s a standalone prequel to the main trilogy (which I only found out at the end of the book). I really loved where we left off our main POV characters at the end and I’m interested to see if there is a large time jump between the end of this one and the start of the main series or if we do get to see some of these characters reoccurring. I am very much intrigued enough to continue onto the other books.
First let me reiterate what Tyra mentions about this being a prequel. I haven’t read any of Haywood’s other novels in this world and don’t know exactly how this one ties into what came before, but rest assured this was a great introduction to what I can only imagine is a vivid and interesting world and storyline. Anyone wanting to start off in publication order will take a different path, but I’d wager this would be a good place to kick off your journey if The Order is your first foray into this world as well.
I’m usually long winded with my reviews so today I’m going to try to rebel against my usual nature and be more succinct. The Order: Shadow of the Assassin was gritty, borderline grimdark, immensely readable, and I loved it. I go into these first round reads not really knowing what to expect and hoping to find a few books from authors I don’t know that grab my attention and The Order did just that.
So…what did I like? Here’s some highlights…
- World Building
- Edge of Grimdark
First the writing. A book might have a great premise, in-depth world building, and interesting characters but if I hate the writing none of that matters. Haywood’s writing is energetic and vivid. At no time was I ever bored with the prose. It wasn’t always action mind you, but even when things slowed down I felt compelled to read on, to read the next chapter, to stay up just a while longer, to see where things would go next. It isn’t “page turner” material per se, but I was definitely hooked.
As for world building I should clarify what I mean. There isn’t grand immersive epic scale world building going on in this book. In fact it’s kinda the opposite. The Order is pretty much set in one city. There are bits and pieces of the wider world portrayed, but most of the time they are alluded to. What I enjoyed was the micro world building going on. The affect it has is to make the story feel more tense and the events more ominous given the confined atmosphere. Not claustrophobic, but more intense.
Now I know this next part will turn off some readers and that’s fine. We all like what we like and hate what we hate. I happen to like dark and edgy tales. Full on grimdark isn’t necessarily my thing but books that walk the line? Yeah I kinda dig those. I didn’t feel like The Order was true grimdark but it has dark overtones and Haywood doesn’t shy away from inserting a few wtf moments. It gave the book a bit more punch without having gore for gore’s sake or misery for misery’s sake, and fit the story well.
Which brings me to the final point. The story. I mean at the most basic level a book that doesn’t have a story that hooks you probably isn’t enjoyable am I right? I really enjoyed this one. The magic system, the characters, the plot…all of it combined to form a narrative that was a truly immersive read where the stakes were high and the possibility of failure was ever present. I really wasn’t sure how it would end. And the end itself, well it left the door open for some really interesting opportunities.
This may be the first time I’ve ever read a prequel where I felt it didn’t hinge on the ties it has to the previous books for its possibility for success. I definitely want to read the other books Haywood has created in this world and I hope there’s more to come in this storyline.