The Misbegotten by Justin DePaoli
“Astul, assassin by day and purveyor of secrets at night, has agreed to hunt down a king slayer. Somewhat for the money, a little for the ego, and a bit for the adventure… but mostly for the money.
There’s just one problem. The king slayer’s trail leads to a cache of disturbing secrets involving insane kings, mad queens and kingdoms suddenly poised for a war to end all wars. People seem to be losing their minds. Or rather, forfeiting them.
Something harrowing lingers and lurks in the world of Mizridahl. And only an infamous assassin with a woeful reputation is aware.
Conjurers have returned.” – From Amazon
The Misbegotten is a dark fantasy adventure and the first book of the An Assassin’s Blade trilogy. We have a list of things that bother us, and unfortunately, this book manages to check off most of our list. The ‘dark’ of this dark fantasy is so cliché it physically pains us. Astul’s thoughts are rarely anything but expletives, and the character lacks development and depth. As well, he never seems to be actually challenged, leaving the novel appearing to be more of a fantasy wish-fulfilment than anything that tells us anything about the human condition. That is the purpose of dark fantasy, to show us a world without the lens of idealization, full of foibles and shades of gray. The Misbegotten lacks these things, trading nuance for clichés poured over a story that we have seen too many times before.
The places where The Misbegotten shines the brightest are the places where it is blatantly not trying to be dark (no pun intended). Mister DePaoli’s descriptions, when not marred by expletives, are actually quite delightful. The narrative shines during the world building, and we love the glimpses we get of Mizridahl. A colorful world has been created here. We just find it a shame that the story was not more developed and the character lacked real depth.
The Rating: D+
While not lacking in effort, The Misbegotten misses the mark. Even if a story falters, a solid, complex character can help fill the gap. Unfortunately, that does not happen here, with Astul being less of a character and more of an annoying narrator, we are left wanting more, and not in a way that would make us continue reading.
There are two definitions of the word misbegotten. The first would be unlawfully or irregularly begotten, born of unmarried parents; illegitimate, according to dictionary.com. The second has a tinge of irony to it, considering our review. Badly conceived, made or carried out. That describes this book perfectly, and while the author has no lack of talent, some ideas just cannot be saved. In the end, the too-cool-for-school assassin is overdone in the genre and should have been left in the dustbin.