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The Assassin of Laurentium

The Assassin of Laurentium - Clodia Metelli 3.5

This shows a ton of promise, featuring a solid fantasy set-up, good characterizations, and several fun plot twists. Metelli has a great sense for exotic luxury, and the story features an intriguing juxtaposition between its courtesan hero's taste for lazy decadence and the inner strength and discipline it must have taken to turn himself into such an accomplished assassin. Artor's sincere embrace of his new life avoids the usual decadent=evil, simple=virtuous dichotomies, and "beautiful slave boy" cliches. Gaheris makes a sexy, smoldering foil, though his character is not as well developed as it might be.

I had two main issues. The first is that the "lofty" fantasy diction--"tresses" or "locks" instead of hair, "unguents" etc.--risks sounding unduly stilted, especially in dialogue, where it never sounds natural or spontaneous. I'll admit to a prejudice here, since I dislike old-timey diction unless it's really well done, which it rarely is. Better in my opinion to just go with more contemporary speech patterns like a lot of fantasy authors are opting for now. At the very least, I think it could be dialed down without losing the rich, sensuous details of Metelli's world. My second issue is that a lot of the chapter breaks are bizarrely abrupt and awkward. They seem designed to signal a change in perspective, though there really isn't much of a distinction in the voicing (inflection) of Artor's and Gaheris' narratives, which gives an overall flat effect since their perspectives and even languages are dramatically different. There are also odd moments of head-hopping, which are isolated enough that I assume they were intended to be edited out.

The "lofty" idiom is a stylistic choice, one I happen to disagree with, or would prefer to see muted. The second is really just an editing issue, understandable given the constraints of the event, and simple enough to clear up. I mention them mostly since the story we have here is clearly meant to be continued, which I hope it is. As other reviewers have noted, this world seems like it could sustain a far longer, even epic scale, treatment. I'm hoping that's what Metelli is planning. It would certainly be great news for all M/M fantasy fans.