The Stiehl Assassin is the third book in the Fall of Shannara series by Terry Brooks.
If you haven’t read Book 1, The Black Elfstone, I’d recommend you check out my review of that first.
From the very beginning, I have been vocal about my love for these covers. But the further I get into the series, the more I’m realizing just how terrible of a job the covers (and the titles) actually convey the story.
Each cover features Ajin, the Skaar Princess, yet the title of this book is The Stiehl Assassin, which, if you’ve read The Skaar Invasion, you know the assassin is actually Clizia Porse, the old druid.
So the title and the cover are in a bit of disagreement. Additionally, the titles of the books are rather a poor choice to convey the topic of the story. In Book 1, The Black Elfstone, I noted that the word Black Elfstone isn’t even used until the 90% mark of the story.
In The Stiehl Assassin, it’s a bit of a spoiler to say (but I will anyway) that there are surprisingly few assassinations. In fact, there is only one, and it’s not even really all that important. The book has more to do with the conflict between the Skaar and the Federation rather than any assassinations.
If the assassination had been crucial, I might forgo this analysis, but I was disappointed at how misleading both the title and the cover are for this book.
Review of The Stiehl Assassin
Despite what I’ve said above, I feel that the Stiehl Assassin was actually the best book in the series thus far. I finished the whole book in just under two days, which is a huge testament to how addictive I found it.
If you follow my updates on Goodreads, you’ll already know that this could be attributed to one of two things. Either A) the book is just that good or B) it’s because this is my third book in the series in just over a week and I’m fully committed to the story.
As much as I’d like to say it’s the first reason, I really believe it to be the second. If I were picking up this story on it’s own after a year of down time, I think that I might not have found it as engaging.
I still found Shea’s POV to be a bit of a drag, even after my beloved heroes joined up with him. The only reason I even cared about that story thread was that Dar and Ajin got tangled in with it, but remove those two characters and I could care less about that whole plot thread.
That being said, I love Ajin so so much and can’t get enough of her. I might have skimmed over Shea’s POV, but I devoured Ajin’s word by juicy word.
There are only two new characters in the Stiehl Assassin and a third that, though she had appeared in previous books, has only just now been given a name and takes on greater importance.
The two new characters are dwarves, and though I don’t remember the name of the one, the other is called Lakodan. Kind of odd names for dwarves, and they don’t talk like I expect dwarves to talk, but that’s all right, they’re Terry’s dwarves. They don’t need to be Tolkeinesque.
The dwarves are interesting characters and are brought in because they possess a technology that is little more than a cropduster basically, but it can be used to help make the invisible Skaar visible. How, why, and all those details I’ll leave to you to read.
I’m a bit conflicted because the dwarves are basically hired by the Federation to fight the Skaar, and in some respects I feel like I should side with them because they’re dwarves, and because the Skaar are invaders. But I really hate the Federation, so I’m disappointed that those I would consider goodly folk are aligning with this organization I wish to see crippled.
But if the Federation is crippled then the Four Lands will fall, and oh man my emotions are just so conflicted throughout this whole book.
There is no one character who I fully support, except perhaps Drisker, Tarsha, and Dar.
Clizia is a hag and needs to be killed. Cor, Ajin’s father, is deceptive and sneaky and I can’t stand him. Kol’Dre, as cool as he is, wants to marry Ajin, but I want Ajin with Dar. Even Ajin, as noble as she seems, is part of the invading Skaar army. I feel like I should support Ketter Vause and the Federation by nature of their opposition, but I hate them. Shea is annoying. Rocan is an idiot. Tindall is crazy.
Who am I supposed to be rooting for here?!?
I just don’t know.
The third new character is Belladrin Rish. She’s the assistant of Ketter Vause (the Prime Minister of the Federation) and it seems like he’s grooming her to take over for him.
She seems like an innocuous character, but keep an eye on her because oh man is she important.
The story moves along quickly enough, again considering that I’ve read the last two books in the last few days as well. There’s plenty of twists and turns and things going on to hold your interest.
I feel we didn’t make a whole lot of progress in the story though. The army’s are still encamped along the river, and they only took a single shot at each other the whole book. I would have expected things to move along more.
At the beginning, it also seemed like we’d get to see more the plot between Ajin, her father, and her step-mother develop, and halfway through, it still seemed promising, but by the 80% mark you realize it’s not going to make it into this book and that was a little saddening.
Overall the events of the Stiehl Asssassin moved with speed, but the progression is going at a snail’s pace.
When we get to the end of the book I was left a bit confused and annoyed all at once. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say there’s a conflict, and the conflict made me think it was a total farce and then the story ended without any “gotcha!” moment.
Let me try to be more clear. One hero went head to head with one villain. Our hero knows that it’s a trap and thus plans for the trap, but then the trap is sprung and I kept waiting for our hero to avoid it, but it never happened.
It was a huge let down that this conflict in the Stiehl Assassin that I’d been anticipating for quite some time was over in a matter of seconds without any cleverness on the part of our hero. Perhaps I missed something. Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe it was magician’s slight of hand and we’ll see it all change in the opening Chapter of Book 4.
But I say that all to tell you to enter the book with an open mind and whatever you expect to happen, realize it doesn’t go that way. This book will surprise you in more ways than one. Some of them satisfying, some of them not.
Either way, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable ride.
I give The Stiehl Assassin a 4.25/5
If you enjoyed the first two books, you’ll love The Stiehl Assassin as Brooks keeps ramping up the heat.
Interested in more reviews? Check out my review of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty.