Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Erotic
LGBTQ+ Category: Gay
Reviewer: Gordon, Paranormal Romance Guild
About The Book
Marin Deschamps has led an interesting life for the past one thousand years. Born a shifter, and also a healer with magical abilities, he still would have died in battle if vampire Baptiste hadn’t turned him. Although his Sire didn’t approve, he became an assassin, working for nobles who needed his services. As the centuries passed, he plied his trade or fought in various wars until, in the late eighteen hundreds, he settled in Denver, where he used his impressive skills to protect those who needed them. Never once in all that time has he allowed anyone into his life — until now.
Tyler Campbell is an artist and a nascent author who is writing a book on the early history of Denver. While sketching the tunnels below the city to illustrate his book, he meets Marin, who is there for reasons of his own. Tyler is instantly drawn to the handsome, amber-eyed man. A man he has no reason to believe is anything other than another human, although humans are aware that supernaturals live among them.
Marin is appalled when his panther reveals that Tyler is his fated mate. Things get worse, in his opinion, when he needs Tyler’s help to stop a vicious gang of humans bent on destroying all supernaturals.
Will they be able to stop the gang, and if so, will Marin’s vampire half allow his growing interest in Tyler to become more? If he does, he will have to reveal what he is, which could destroy any hope that they might have a future together.
An Assassin and an Artist tells the story of Marin, a supernatural character (“supe”), falling in love with Tyler, a human. A part of the enjoyment of reading fantasy is the discovery of the elements that make up the imaginary world; the introductory part of this novella benefits from this, as Marin’s supernatural abilities are revealed.
As the story progresses, however, the list of Marin’s abilities mounts until it becomes deleterious to any sense of challenge he might face. Through his parents, he is half-shifter and half healer, and he was turned into a vampire years before. Yet oddly, the first ability he demonstrates is teleportation—which doesn’t seem to fit any of these natures. À laDracula, he can mist through cracks, but where the teleportation comes from is never explained. Nor is his ability to flyand become invisible.
Beyond all of these, it is Marin’s mental abilities that are most disturbing. He can assault, confuse and implant false memories—and simply torture people, with his mind. Result: The totality of his abilities makes any idea of rooting for him unnecessary and superfluous; he seems something akin to a superman—while his enemies are mere humans. So, the struggle thus seems very one-sided and therefore cannot become truly captivating.
Kendrick writes well enough; he comes up with some turns of phrase or inclusion of detail that is quite charming. It is what he does with the story that is problematic. Beyond undermining the tension by over-endowing the hero, there is what might be called the moral question—for Marin is the assassin of the story’s title.
Marin says he “discovered that he had a knack for assassination and soon hired out to noblemen who needed his skills” in his youth, back in medieval France. Sometime later, he became a soldier for the King of France and, becoming mortally wounded, is saved by a vampire turning him, and incidentally giving him the gift of extreme longevity. Travelling to the New World, he continues his killing pastime in the American Civil War, and afterwards heads west, to Denver, where he lived ever since, working as an assassin with a security agency front.
All of this seems rather dodgy in terms of morals, but the reader hopes (and expects) that Marin will eventually see the light and change his ways. This is encouraged by his saying to the vampire that originally turned him, “I’m tired of death, of seeing good men die while evil ones live on, of being a part of it, never certain I’ve chosen the right side.”
Aside from qualms about his chosen profession, Marin faces an enemy in the form of a local group of humans called the Millennium Brigade, who are dedicated to eradicating “supes”—which comprise shifters and vampires—after the latter “came out,” announcing their existence, living among the humans (a fairly broadside of a sociological metaphor). But again, given that this enemy is human—and seemingly not even bright ones, either—the menace never becomes effective.
Marin faces his two challenges while pursuing a possible relationship with Tyler, with the result that Tyler is drawn into the struggle as well. What Marin, and to some degree his allies from the supe community, get up to, however, ranges from disturbing to slightly disgusting. Moreover, Kendrick has a habit of just throwing these things out casually, even when they seem to cry out for some kind of emotional/psychological evaluation on the part of the character.
For example, one of Marin’s clients, Hald, pays him to rub out one of his competitors. (That Marin evidently needs money suggests that for him murder is okay but theft is not.) Both Hald and the target are involved in pretty much the worst type of crime, and so—Marin kills them both. He begins by mind-controlling Hald into first having strange sex with this other man, and then strangling him with his tie. Afterwards, Marin says:
“You wanted him dead. You got your wish.”
“Not like that,” Hald blubbered…
In that moment, the bewildered horror expressed by Hald causes the reader’s sympathy to switch from Marin to Hald. For, while vile, Hald is still human, and in that moment quite powerless; whereas Marin is neither.
These two issues keep the reader from becoming fully invested in the story, or the main characters—which have the potential to be quite compelling. Another point is that the implied juxtaposition of the values/life-style of an assassin versus an artist, present in the title and potentially quite interesting, is never really explored. And finally, the plot arc itself is curiously muddled, so that the good quality of the writing in the end fails to bring off a convincing, moving, or even morally satisfying piece of story-telling.
About Gordon: Having received formal training in the world of science, Gordon has always found relief from the strictures of present-day reality in reading fiction, mostly fantasy, horror and sci-fi, fiction that explores regions of what is sometimes called the Kingdom of If. Here the rules can be virtually anything, allowing for greater possibilities of wonder and strange discovery. Gordon also writes, among other things, stories of M/M romance within these genres. This provides the opportunity for exploring how characters, some of them possibly not fully human, might act and react in truly strange circumstances. He writes romance because, of all the mind-blowingly possibilities inherent in the creation of imaginative worlds, the most mysterious and magical are the operations of the human heart itself, including its curious ability to grow when broken.
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