Fantasy, Vampires, Zombies
Format $14.95 (200 pages, CLAYPIPE PRESS)
The Kingdom of Sieunes is rife with taverns, dirty streets, and clay pipe smoking citizens all toiling to feed their families and keep themselves in something little better than rags. With a foiled revolution just ten years prior still burning in the hearts of many, the royals enlist the aid of assassins to keep things in order.
The townsfolk entertain themselves by dreaming of better times to come and regaling in stories of the undead said to walk the graveyards at night... and of Cameo the killer with corpse-like eyes... Scarred and jaded Cameo is one of the most effective assassins in the employ of the Association, moving from one mission to the next as long as the alcohol keeps flowing.
Her acceptance of the murder-for-hire lifestyle is thrown into doubt when she meets a local highwayman with a penchant for fine clothes and women, and then she begins to think about breaking with the company but no one ever breaks with the Association under good terms.
Author Site: dawnmccullough-white.com
Strong Bones, Weak Flesh (3 stars)
Cameo is a legend, an assassin mother's tell their children will slay them if they don't behave. But when a botched job leaves her a wanted fugitive alongside a pair of eccentric highwaymen her status as a merciless murderer for money is tested. Falling in with the poetic Bellamy and foppish Black Opal their exploits lead them on a less-than-merry adventure through forrest and tavern. Charged with bringing a young acolyte to his temple in exchange for silence regarding her not-so-human state she'll wind up at the bitter mercy of her master and challenged with keeping her new found friends alive.
At it's core Cameo the Assassin is a solid adventure tale set in a fantasy world where vampires and their ghoulish minions are monsters whispered about in darkened corners. Alas, this fantasy world is lacking in any fresh world building. Rather generic, the reader is dropped right into the world with no knowledge given as to what the world is like and very few details are ever given. A few towns are named and there's mention of a king but nothing is truly established to guide the reader into a deeper understanding of the realm.
The cast of characters fares much better but is still lacking. Cameo, being the title character, is enigmatic which works quite well. Black Opal is an amusing dandy that is likely to be a reader favorite with his constant fussing over his appearance. But aside from them the other characters fall quite flat, feeling like cardboard cutout stand-ins to fill space. Overall they each had potential to be interesting but they've been polished down to less than caricatures.
The plot of the tale was never very clear. It was as if the characters came first and the purpose was to find mini adventures to string them along until they reached some sort of romantic interest but without any romantic fiction elements. Honestly, it reads like a series of dull tavern visits and nights in the woods tending wounds to the point of being almost boring.
Overall though I did enjoy it. Cameo the Assassin is light fantasy, very much lacking in the vivid descriptive details most Epic Fantasy stands on while still having exceptionally well written action sequences. It's quite good for a self-published debut novel and my main reason for the middle-ground star rating is my displeasure with the lacking climax of the story. I'd recommend this one for fantasy lovers who need a filler story or something light to pass a plane ride.
Brandon J. Starnes on Amazon.com
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Notes: Review Copy received from Author.