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The Fallen Blade
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Orbit, Jan 27 2011, $ 14.99, ISBN: 9780316074391
reviewed by Harriet Klausner

In 1407, di Millioni Family descendants of Marco Pole (see End of the World Blues) rule Venice. The city-state is powerful on the Italian Peninsular but has much stronger enemies across the continent from the expanding Ottoman, Byzantine and German Empires. Political finesse is needed but the Duke of Venice Marco IV is known as "Simpleton" for an obvious reason. His Uncle Prince Alonzo rules as the Regent supported by a guild of assassins and the alchemist Dr. Hightown Crow. Marco’s widowed mother Duchess Alexa abetted by her stregoi witch A'rial keeps the ambitious Regent under some restraint.

Alonzo arranges for Marco's fifteen year old cousin Lady Giulietta to marry King Janus of Cyprus in a strategically astute move to forge an alliance against the Ottomans. However, his plan is actually much more insidious than a simple pact. Giulietta will already be pregnant carrying a di Millioni offspring when she weds Janus; after their marriage she is to kill her spouse and his relatives.

Instead Giulietta vanishes. Alonzo dispatches his top agents to recover her. Inside the ship Quaja, guards find a chained naked teen; they free him only to watch Tycho escape using superhuman speed and strength. Later Master Assassin Atilo il Mauros observes Tycho drinking blood from someone the lad just killed. The aging Atilo knows he has found his replacement at a critical time when his team has been battered by German Prince Leopold’s werewolves.

This is a fascinating action-packed alternate historical fantasy. Even with the paranormal elements, Jon Courtenay Grimwood captures the intrigue that was so prevalent in early fifteenth century Venice especially at the top levels of leadership, which in turn makes the otherworldly segues seem genuine. With a delightful twist tying the strong subplots together, fans will appreciate this tense thriller.

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