While the line “a prince walks into a bar” may sound like the beginning of a joke, it is certainly no joke when Prince Vasili Caville approaches Nikolas Yazdan while he is having a drink and demands Niko kill someone. Niko isn’t an assassin and he gave everything as he fought for the crown in the war against the elves. Niko has no intention of doing anything for the royals, no matter how much coin the prince throws his way. At twenty-three, Niko has lived too much life on the front lines of war, his family and friends are all gone, and all Niko wants is a little solitude. But Prince Vasili never takes no for an answer and Niko is dragged off to the castle dungeons.
Niko isn’t a thief, but he’s placed in a cell with them and whipped just the same. The palace is a vicious place and all of the royals’ money and luxury can’t soften the cruelness that bleeds off of all of them. The one bright spot in all of this is Julian, the prince’s bodyguard, and while Niko longs to escape the palace, the sight of Julian keeps him there. The relationship between Vasili and Julian is incredibly tangled, but that doesn’t stop Niko from wanting Julian. But if Niko can’t stop the numerous attempts to kill the prince, they will all suffer.
There is darkness in the palace, as the king has been absent for a long time with an undisclosed illness and it’s also clear Vasili isn’t well. The elves are breaching the city once again and they will stop at nothing to take it all, but not everyone wants them stopped. There is more than one poison flowing through the palace halls and, while Niko wants to protect Julian, Niko may also find his life is forever tied to the vicious Prince himself.
I discovered Ariana Nash last year with her Silk and Steel series and, ever since then, I immediately look toward what she releases next. The Prince’s Assassin starts a new series and there is a long way to go for Niko to have any kind of happy ending or even peace. The first chapter sets the tone and instantly hooked me within a few pages. As Prince Vasili approaches Niko, it sounds like a request at first, but Vasili doesn’t make requests and Niko has no choice. I did wonder though why Vasili chose Niko in the first place. He’s not an assassin, he is a survivor and, as we learn Vasili was in no position to have been tracking Niko, the question remained, but more may be revealed as the series continues.
Niko gave everything he had to give, except his life, to the war against the elves. These are not the same elves Nash has written previously. Niko has now returned home, but that word is relative as there is no home to return to. Niko is the kind of character that gets himself into all kinds of situations and still can’t walk away when he thinks he can help. The palace is like no place he has ever been. The luxury is way more than he has ever seen, but the viciousness and the treachery and the betrayal and deception that flows easily through the royals is something Niko can’t wrap his thoughts around.
Still, in the worst of conditions, Niko presses on and catches the eye of Julian, the prince’s guard. It’s a tangled web here and if you have read Nash before you know there will be many twists that wind through the story. There is chemistry from the start between Niko and Vasili, but Julian is in bed with Niko for a good portion of the book and that can be taken more than one way. I didn’t feel as much chemistry between Julian and Niko and the air crackled when Niko and Vasili were near each other, and the journey is such that who Niko’s true love interest will be is still in motion.
There is a paranormal aspect to the story and that was the weakest link for me. Vasili suffers emotionally and physically, and his father suffers as well, and the diversion tactics of not revealing the story too quickly didn’t work as well for me because at the end, it was not as clear as I needed it to be to have the best understanding of it all.
This book is not nearly finished at the end, but has a “to be continued” feel rather than a cliffhanger and I will look forward to following Niko through it all. Ariana Nash excels in world building and transporting readers to vividly crafted locations. Niko has a long journey ahead of him and Vasili will be ever present every step of the way.