The Impossible Contract

Book 2, Chronicles of Ghadid
By K. A. Doore
Tor Books, ISBN: 978-0765398550
Paperback, 352 pages. © March 2019

Thana, novice assassin and daughter of the legendary Serpent of Ghadid, sees a chance to prove herself when she accepts her first contract. Her target, visiting diplomat Heru, holds the power to bind souls to his own purposes. Thana’s strategy seems solid until a new and frightening enemy appears and attacks Heru. Clearly, Thana doesn’t have all the pieces to the contract’s puzzle, and she isn’t the only one trying to kill her mark.

When Heru flees Ghadid for the Empire’s capital, Thana has no choice but to follow him across the sands even though Mo, a healer from Ghadid and Thana’s crush, complicates matters by tagging along with the target. But Heru’s enemies find him even on the sands and scatter the caravan, leaving Mo, Heru, and Thana alone and dependent on one another to survive. Thana learns there’s much more to this contract than she knew. Whether she fails or succeeds, the price will be high—for her, for Ghadid, and for the Empire.

I was charmed by the first book in this series, The Perfect Assassin, and this sequel does not disappoint. While Amastan makes an appearance, it is Thana who takes center stage here.
Young, determined to succeed, and eager to equal or even surpass her mother’s fame, Thana comes to life on the page. At every apparent obstacle to her goal, I found myself rooting for her.

K.A. Doore presented all her characters, even her villains, in ways that surprised me and made them feel more real. Mo and Heru each had their own arc and felt authentic, fully developed. At first, I didn’t like Heru, but that changed as I got deeper into the story. I especially loved seeing Thana and Mo connect in a sweet, romantic way and was glad for them both. Thana’s indecision over whether or not to tell the truth about who she was kept me biting my nails throughout, especially since Mo’s sincerity made her all the more vulnerable. Secrets between lovers are never wise, a lesson Thana learns the hard way.

There’s plenty of action to be had here. The Impossible Contract has its share of fight scenes with assassins escaping out windows and across rooftops, as did Perfect Assassin. But in Contract, we also get conflicts with nature and the threat of death in the wastes, not to mention wild guuli who haunt the sands in search of living bodies they can inhabit. Dark magic behind the bound, undead attackers pursues the characters throughout the book and in many settings. Not all dangers scream. Some whisper. Sometimes those are the scariest of all.

While Assassin’s setting was focused on the city of Ghadid, Contract’s plot unfurls while the characters are on the move. Scenes are vividly shown, whether in Ghadid’s platforms raised above the sands, the Empire’s lush capital city, or out on the sweltering and treacherous sands. Details make perfect sense in each context, like the sacredness of water, the shushing of wind-blown sand, the cultural differences between Ghadid and the capital. Descriptions of the caravan journey and camps along the way brought clear visuals to my mind. I could see and feel the rolling gait of the camels, smell both humans and animals in the group, taste the salty sweat of the travelers. Doore does a delightful job of making her readers long to see these places in real life. If there was a travel agent who could book a trip to Ghadid or the capital of the Empire, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

This is the second book in the Chronicles of Ghadid series. The Perfect Assassin came first; the third book, The Unconquered City, is due out in June of 2020. This is such a rich, detailed world that it doesn’t seem like fiction. Fantasy readers will easily lose themselves in the pages of The Impossible Contract and read long after they should be asleep. Ghadid, and its famous family, will linger long after the last page is turned. Most highly recommended.