Oh assassin protagonists. These are the characters that have all the bad ass action skills of heroes, and none of the pesky hangups about killing people. They’re fun, unfriendly, and can be found hanging out in the local assassin guilds.
We bring you the Canary collection of top fantasy assassin protagonists.
Lale from The Assassins of Tamurin by S. D. Tower
Trained from birth to be an assassin and bound by magic to make sure she doesn’t forget it, Lale is sent off on her first mission to seduce the local Sun Lord and wreck havoc in his kingdom. Taking romantic angst to a whole new level, Lale discovers that her long lost identical twin was the Sun Lord’s first wife, and goes on to kill a lot of people.
Smith from The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker
An artist in the world of assassins, Smith gets by with a lack of formal training and a singular talent for leaving dead bodies in his wake. When Smith goes on the road to Salesh as a caravan leader to avoid a blood feud, he finds demons, more bodies, and insurance claims instead. And this is before a magical item grafts itself to his hand.
Havelock Vetinari from the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Before he was everyone’s favorite Discworld tyrant, Vetinari started his long and illustrious career in the Assassin’s Guild, where he minored in Blending in with the Walls. Though he takes over the smoggy city of Ankh-Morpork at a relatively young age and his enemies have a way of disappearing, Vetinari just misses the Top Five list. He has yet to be a protagonists in his very own book.
Top Five Fantasy Assassins:
5. Hugh The Hand from Dragon Wing by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
A character that will eventually be ousted from the series by the godlike figures of his companions, Hugh makes his mark in Dragon Wing by getting killed several times. And yet, he still doggedly tries to fulfill his assignment and slit the throat of a snobby little kid named Bane.
4. FitzChivalry Farseer from the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb
Like almost every coming-of-age assassin, Fitz’s life is filled with adolescent longing and a heavy helping of emotional and physical abuse stretching off into six books. Fitz serves loyally, using his assassin skills and a form of highly forbidden magic–and gets shoved off the bridge (or into a dungeon) each and every time for his troubles. The moral of the story? Nothing good ever comes of having a name like FitzChivalry.
3. Artemis Entreri, from A Lot Of Books by RA Salvatore
Appearing first in the Icewind Dale trilogy, this ultimate killing machine goes on to get his own series. Though human, he has faced pretty much every immortal and semi-immortal enemy thrown at him with the ease of a lvl 99 D&D character. And unlike the rest of the assassins on the list, Entreti actively (and often successfully) avoids any kind of emotional commitments–and for good reason. The one time he does fall for a girl, she tries to kill him when he suggests they move in together.
2. Samalander from Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward
Sam is, by some criteria, a very well-adjusted guy. True, he never knew his father and his soul is being slowly consumed by shadow magic, but he really loves his job. When his career advancement is halted by the cosmic triumph of Good over Evil, he goes on a quest to do something about it.
1. Vlad Taltos from the Vlad the Assassin series by Steven Brust
Raised in a world of Dragaera where humans are the downtrodden minority, Vlad is not content to be a third-class citizen. He sets himself up as an assassin, instead. Take one wise-mouth familiar, one unobtrusive secretary, a soul-eating weapon, and Vlad’s peculiar skill for problem-solving, and he’s set to take on the world–and kill a few Dragareans while he’s at it.
I am glad Hugh the Hand is there 😀 I remember he was one seriously beat up bloke and I enjoyed the amazing premise of those worlds.
I guess assassins from video games don’t count? ;D Because you covered the ones I know from fantasy fiction already!
I was going to bring up Durzo Blint, from the series by Brent Weeks, then I remembered I had been less than impressed to find an assassin lacking that critical thing called common sense ;D I have to sheepishly admit I haven’t even finished Book 1.
Writing up this list, I was a little started to realize I couldn’t really think of any major female assassin protagonists in fiction. More often than not, even if they have leanings (or training) in that direction (ex. Poison Study), they end up veering off that straight and deadly path. There are quite a few female assassins in paranormal romance fiction, but they tend to fall apart (or be overshadowed) when the guy appears on stage.
Can you think of any in fantasy?
Vree and Bannon in Tanya Huff’s Quarter series? 🙂 I remember those being decently written fantasy books.
Graceling, his fair assassin, and the glass throne
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Vlad is one of my favorite characters so I fully agree with you. 🙂 I loved both Fitz and Entreri when I read the books but for some reason I never warmed up to Hugh. I really should read more Discworld books because I don’t remember Ventinari.
I think Night Watch is the book in which (the young) Vetinari plays the largest role–this is before he becomes the Patrician. He’s a lot of fun. 🙂
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Durzo Blint is hands down my absolute favorite assassin, of all time, literally. Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. Actually, just take all of the wetboys from that book (they aren’t assassins, because sometimes assassins miss), and they’re my favorite collectively. Magic Ninjas of Death.
This, 1000 times this. I haven’t ready any of the books on this list do I don’t know of they are better than Durzo and Kylar but I doubt it.
What about Waylander the Slayer From the David Gemmel Drenai Saga?
truuuuuue dat. waylander was the king assassin. as was Nightfall. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/129020.The_Legend_of_Nightfall
I must say, I do love Durzo Blint from the Night Angel Trilogy.
Durzo Blint from the Night Angel Trilogy I think should be hands down number 1 on this list. 700 years or so of wetting his hands with blood? Pretty legit. I suggest reading through at least the first 2 books of the Night Angel Trilogy if anyone here hasn’t (bits and pieces of secret knowledge are given cumulatively in all 3 books). I personally could not put them down and had to read all 3 in a day and a half. Not gonna lie, I’m not a big fan of artemis. I feel like calling Artemis an assassin is kind of like calling Drizztz an assassin (if I remember the whole series correctly), which is definitely questionable.