Assassin of Gor (Review)

Tarl Cabot is dead.

Or rather, the world thinks Tarl Cabot is dead.

Under the guise of Kurus of the caste of assassins, Tarl and his slave girl Elizabeth Cardwell head to glorious Ar to infiltrate the house of the slaver Sernus to uncover his connections to the mysterious “Others” — enemies of the Priest-Kings. However, a former enemy moves among the streets, waiting to claim the abandoned title of Ubar.

This is Assassin of Gor.

The rot is starting to set in. While this book had a great deal more action and espionage than Book 4 (Nomads of Gor, reviewed here), there were far too many digressions from the espionage plot, digressions that utterly ruined the pacing. Details about an unnamed chesslike game were exhaustive, as was the descriptions of the races and, of course, the various methods of slave-girl training. This information is often infodumped in, making these sections rather tedious to get through.

That being said, much of the infodumping was plot-relevant, as the chesslike game ended up in moments of great significance to Tarl or other major characters, the slave training was largely a set-up for a plot to trick the bad guy, and the races prove pivotal near the end. This entry into the series eschewed a major war in favor of careful information gathering, and the book is better for it, as it is a nice change of pace.

This book is notable in that many of the female characters, especially Elizabeth Cardwell — or Vella as she is commonly known on Gor — play pivotal roles in the story. While they never take up sword or bow*, they pass along vital news since people speak freely among slave girls. More than once, Elizabeth Cardwell has had to relay things to Tarl so that he could act. It’s a far cry from the kung-fu ninja babes, aggressive ice queens, and sharp-tongued snark machines expected in modern fiction, and they don’t do too much but they are better utilized than in the previous entries.

I’d say this book is middling. It’s not awful, but it could use some better pacing. A definite improvement over Nomads, though.

* The book makes it clear that there are women who have chosen not only to take up weapons, but to reject the patriarchal culture of Gor entirely and live in their own society. However, their mention is brief and they play no role in the plot.

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2 Responses to Assassin of Gor (Review)

  1. Ingot9455 says:

    I would say that this is my favorite of all the books because of its ‘laying of pipe’.

    In scriptwriting, ‘laying pipe’ is the term used for establishing something so that it’s known for later on. It’s not quite foreshadowing, but it is front-and-centering. Assassins of Gor has a lot of lain pipe with payoffs that come later, and that personally trips my trigger.

    I liked chess as a lad and so it interested me that they had a stand-in, AND that skill at the game, being a ‘Player’, was considered to be similar to the skills needed to engage in intrigue, to ‘see moves ahead.’ Indeed, Tarl Cabot is often chided for his weakness in intrigue, for all that he is awesome as a Warrior.

    I enjoyed learning that Hup the Fool, the crippled spymaster, was Scormus of Ar’s father via a talented slave girl, and that their chess game was a father-son chess game of the type that I have had the joy of so many times. (Out of hundreds of games, I’ve only beaten my father three times.) Scormus shows up again twice, and is a crucial and redemptive element in ‘Players Of Gor’, the 20th book.

    And many other minor points besides – it’s always nice when Tarl wins by doing something clever and at the same time reasonable, which he does here; as opposed to just winning via swordplay.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      Yeah, the Hup bit caught me by surprise. I do like how the novels make full use of the setting. It was even better that Norman changed things up a bit.

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