Sweet Vernal Zephyr

Succinct Book Reviews
(aka Creating & Whit)

The Mediocre Assassin's Handbook
by Tamara Sheehan

Hyabusa Jao’s life is in a slump, and the quality of his work is slipping. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Jao was in any other business, but he’s an assassin, and quality kinda matters.

Since the death of his lover, the heart has kind of gone out of Jao’s work and now his boss, the sadistic Kazematsuri, wants a favor from him. There’s a new opium dealer muscling in on the local scene and the old drug lord, Aso, is getting worried about the safety of his sons.

Masahiro’s old enough to look after himself but Ryo’s still a kid and he needs protection. Enter Jao. Too bad for Jao he’s not much of a baby-sitter, and too bad Ryo’s brother is damn good looking, because pretty soon Jao’s got to keep Masahiro out of trouble too.

Can Jao keep it together, or will he be shown up as a mediocre assassin?

Cover Art: Strong title, plain, nondescript, monotone, generic*

Sexuality: Young Adult, M/M, Very tentative and light

Paranormality: Hedge Magic

There are no super stars here. The title is very appropriate. There are really no clear cut bad or good guys, the main character is not invincible, love is not life changing, there are no happy endings. *grumble grumble* The ending is wide open, leaving room for the possibility of a series. (UPDATE: According to THIS POST on Tamara's website, the sequel, A Field Guide to Assassins of Muromachi Street is forthcoming from Prizm Books. Looks like this IS the start of a series!)

The setting is unique, alternative fantasy 19th century Japan. You become submersed in the culture with Japanese terms and phrases interspersed between the modern phrasing. A plus for sure, a new experience for me as well. I did stumble a bit with the proper names - but when I took a second to sound them out in my head, the book was able to flow. (I won't be pronouncing them out loud to a knowledgeable Japanese speaking person though!) Tradition and language are explained well, balancing between immersion and confusion.

"That was awfully noble of Aso-chichi," Jao murmurs.
For a moment Masahiro stares a Jao, and Jao wonders if he's pushed Masahiro just a little too far, after all, Aso may be paternal, but he's not likely to take kindly to being called Papa by anyone.

I was very impressed with the male sexuality presented. Homosexuality was not put under a spot light. It was just everyday, normal. Very refreshing. No dramatic scenes of being the outcast. But no dramatic love scenes either. This is a romance in the lightest sense of the term. Sweet sexual encounters are initiated but not explained to fulfillment in detail. I found myself holding my breath waiting for more explicit love, this never came about. This is further explained with publication under the Prism Young Adult category.

I recommend this as a unique read. If you disagree with homosexuality, this book is not for you. It frames the life of the assassin in the most normal terms - as a man not a definition of his eroticism. There is no moral outrage. Simply life & struggle.

Click HERE for a Teaser Tuesday spotlight on this book.

* I'm a graphic artist. We are trained to be vicious bloodsucking weapons of truth, hence the "rough" critiques/reviews. It's not that I don't like this novel. Simply, everything can be better. And examining what could be polished allows me to learn and better MY skills.


Wow, this book sounds totally intriguing! I love the title, and I'm fine with obscure morality. Hmmm. I might be going for it if it's not HC!

Looks like I am going to be giving this book out for Christmas gifts :D

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Thanks so much for delving into my head. It's scary in here sometimes, so it is nice to have company! Don't step on the zephyr...

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