Title: The Bloodless Assassin (The Viper and the Urchin Book One)
Publisher/Author: Celine Jeanjean
Pages: 363pp
Price: 0.99 ebook / $12.99 trade paperback

Rory is a thief. She makes her living on the streets of Damsport, picking pockets and running small cons on the unwitting and arrogant. She and her partner, Jake, have saved up enough that she can finally realize her dream of training to be a swordswoman. But then Jake loses all of her money, and, when she stumbles across the famed assassin The Viper in the middle of a kill, she devises the perfect plan. Unfortunately for Rory, The Viper is not quite as he appears. Yes, Longinus Pendergast is a brilliant alchemist. But he is also uptight, prissy, and prone to fainting at the sight of blood. He is also haunted by something terrible from his past …. And when that past returns, only The Viper and the street urchin stand between Damsport and its destruction ….

I fell in love with Celine Jeanjean’s quirky style of writing and her off-beat sense of humor in Razor’s Edge, a contemporary urban fantasy set on a fictitious island in south-east Asia. When I heard about The Bloodless Assassin, I quickly snatched it up, and I wasn’t disappointed.

First, there’s the setting. Damsport is a sort of fantastical mash-up of Bali and Haiti. Once a poor and neglected part of the Airnian Empire, the peninsula achieved independence thanks to the tough-minded Marchioness. It is now a thriving port, grown rich on the trade that comes through its artificial bay. It is a vibrant, colorful, multi-ethnic, polytheistic society of tea rooms, steampunk technology, masked revels, and cemeteries haunted by voiceless cats.

Then there are the characters. Rory and Longinus are, individually, terrific characters. But together they truly shine, playing off one another’s strengths, weaknesses, and even prejudices. Longinus thinks that Rory is an uncouth, uneducated termagant. Rory thinks that Longinus is a stuck-up, elitist snob. They’re both right. But Rory brings a vitality and chaotic energy to Longinus’ life that he didn’t realize he needed; and Longinus brings a patience and sense of responsibility to Rory’s life she needed.

(Also, this particular adventure is free of romance. So, for folks looking for an urban fantasy, as opposed to a paranormal romance, The Bloodless Assassin more than fits the bill.)

The Bloodless Assassin is a terrific first volume in a quirky, exciting steampunk adventure series. Highly recommended to fans of Jeanjean’s other books, as well as fans of Lindsay Buroker, Patrick Samphire, Joseph Lallo, and Jeannie Lin.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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