The name of this sub-genre says it all—these are stories about assassins set within a fantasy world. Intrigue, secrecy, espionage, mystery, shadows, corruption—dark ideas and themes permeate the Assassin Fantasy sub-genre. The world these stories take place in are not happy ones. Indeed, the grey morality of an assassin is incredibly useful in these worlds.
Assassins have a unique ability to blend into the shadows and yet, they shape nations. While assassins have been around for centuries, it is only recently that this sub-genre of fiction has become popular—books, video games, movies, comics and more.
Variable. Magic may be a part of the world, or not. The assassin may be a magic user, or may hunt down magic users.
Variable. Some stories focus more on character and therefore skip over wider social commentary. Others will expend much effort in discussions of morality and politics.
Badass. Assassin Fantasy stories are character driven, so a well developed protagonist is key. Assassins are captivating characters who are not perfect, they have flaws.
There are some common types of assassins, which can be typecasting and lead to simple characters, but also has a lot of potential for development.
Professional Assassin: trained killers who see it as just a job and often belong to a guild (or similar organization) with a code, morally grey; another incarnation of this type is Puppet Masters, pulling strings from the shadows to protect people or gain power
Reluctant/Inept Assassin: they don't want to kill people, or are hopelessly bad at it
Honorable Assassin: sees assassination as a calling and has a strong sense of duty and personal honor, money is not the strongest motivator
Moral Assassin: only kills those who they believe are deserving and leads to the greater good
Hunter Assassin: trained to kill specific targets: magicians, supernatural creatures, morality isn't really a factor
High. Expect the stories to be intense with plenty of action. Twists and reveals that complicate the plot are also common to the plots of Assassin stories.
High. When the profession of a story's protagonist is killing people, violence is going to be a big component of the narrative.
Urban Fantasy. Urban and Assassin Fantasy share a gritty atmosphere and are natural complements.
Sword and Sorcery. Both sub-genres share several common features: Violence-check, excitement-check, romance-check, character driven-check.
Epic Fantasy. Assassins are often key players in Epic Fantasy, so while these sweeping stories may not focus on singular characters, assassins still play pivotal roles.
Young Adult Fantasy. Assassin Fantasy is becoming increasingly popular in the YA audience.
By Steven Brust. Vlad is a mobster, a sorcerer and an assassin who lives in a magical metropolis.
By Eve Forward. Good has triumphed over evil, but things are not perfect. This is the story of the last assassin
By Kage Baker. Three stories about an ex-assassin seeking a new beginning make up this novel.
By S.D. Tower. At the age of eleven a girl is cast out from her village and begins her training as an assassin. Politics, romance, and magic weave a new kind of coming of age story.
By Robin Hobb. A traditional fantasy in its medieval setting. The protagonist is a royal bastard, with magical skill and an ancient talent with beasts.
By Anne Lesley Groell Two apprentice assassins feature in this series—witty, romantic, and adventurous
By Brent Weeks With magically enhanced assassins, intrigue, and a conflicted protagonist, this trilogy is epic and personal.
By R.A. Salvatore. An assassin and a mercenary turn protagonists in this series, which gives readers a deeper view into their minds.
By Lian Hearn. Historical Fantasy set in a fictional feudal Japan, this series follows a young warrior who seeks to avenge is adoptive father and escape the legacy of his biological father.