First Kill by Gregory Lynn

First Kill by Gregory LynnIn this sequel to Kill School, Lynn continues his run of sympathetic characters drawn from the traditional evil-mook species of fantasy fiction.

Having survived Kill School, Hobbs receives his first assassination mission. With Conway, the closest thing he has to a friend, as his partner and an obviously brilliant plan, he is confident of avoiding disaster. But now school is over, the simplicity of kill or be killed has been replaced with politics, and his target might already know Hobbes is coming.

Although adopting the same technique of narrating past events as Kill School, removing the threat of Hobbes failing so badly he dies, Lynn again skilfully maintains tension by also using a narrative voice filled with asides and omissions.

Unfortunately, there are a few moments when this imperfect and casual retelling teeters on the edge of omitting information just for tension: while it always feels as if Hobbs rather than Lynn is holding back, an entire planning session covered by the statement that she told him the plan and he didn’t like it felt a touch too secretive for the sake of it.

Where Kill School focuses on the personal aspects of how a thinking person integrates premeditated killing without personal gain into their life, this novella begins to focus on the society that produces a school for assassins. As before, the darker aspects of this are neither dodged nor allowed to overwhelm the comedy.

The characters are a similar expansion on the world. Having survived the school, Hobbs is more casually violent, but is beginning to question whether killing to order is the only response to his situation.

Conway’s personality has grown in the same way. Still wanting to be Hobbs’ friend, he has already realised that, outside the school, they work for different masters.

Building on this political tension between the main characters, Lynn introduces detailed characters from groups only mentioned in passing in the first book. The hobgoblin bibliophile adds an especial depth to Hobbs’ conflict between mellow reader and ruthless killer.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. I recommend it to readers looking for comic fantasy that is more than pure farce.

I received a free copy from the author with no obligation to review, but a request that I call him a demented loon.

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