Heart of the Assassin

By Robert Ferrigno

Heart of the Assassin, a novel by Robert Ferrigno
Book details

The Butterfly Effect is a device used to explore alternative versions of our world. The simple action of a time travellers going back to the time of the dinosaurs and standing on a butterfly would alter everything that followed, ripples expanding from that one point. Robert Ferrigno decided to explore something a little more controversial than standing on a butterfly. What would happen to the world if the US became a Muslim State? Is Heart of the Assassin a geopolitical tour de force, exploring the world of today through a science fiction prism? Nope. It is an action novel with slightly controversial premise. 

By the events of Heart, Rakkim Epps is tired of all the killing. Rakkim is an elite Shadow Warrior who for years did the bidding of his leaders and now works for an underground force trying to undermine the work of The Old One, a master manipulator who has managed to live for over 150 years. With the US split between the Muslim lands and Bible Belt, a very uneasy peace is in place. Can these two rival factions work together now that South America is flexing its muscles? A piece of the true cross may help. 

Heart is the third in a trilogy of books that took Ferrigno far from his normal comfort zone. This was an author famed for his excellent crime novels. They are some of the best of the 1990s and early 2000s. When he moved into speculative fiction it was a surprise and started off a as a little of a bum note. The first book was written just five years after the events of the September 11th and felt too frivolous and raw for the time. It is now 2020 and I finally got around to reading the final instalment of the series. The added time sitting on my bookcase has allowed hindsight to expand and the book to breath. It no longer feels like a slightly controversial look at religious politics in American, but the fun action book that it was always meant to be. 

Although full of tension and violence, Heart is a fun book. Ferrigno no longer worries too much about the politics of faith and instead just has some entertaining enemies. The first two outings struggled to engage, but now that the world is built, watching it burn is very entertaining. Rakkim has become almost superhero like with his abilities and he takes on enemies that are comparable to him. This includes deadly assassins and a lumbering hulk whose skin is armoured. 

To get the most from this book you will need to read the first two, but they act more as a way of building to this title. It is only now that everything clicks into place. The different factions clash fantastically; not just the two main religions in the book, but the factions within. You have fundamentalists, modernists, liberals, all of them fighting within their own systems for control, not even mentioning the various other religious entities without. 

The key to the book is Rakkim’s character. He is cool and calculated, but also super powerful. This final chapter allows him to enact the revenge the reader has been hankering for over three books and the conclusions are very satisfactory. The action means this feels more like a light science fiction novel sprinkled with come Lee Child’s Jack Reacher character. If you go into the book with this mindset you will find yourself enjoying it. If you think it is going to be a meaningful exploration of religious relations, you would be very wrong. 

Even ten years after its release, Heart and the rest of the series feels a little tone deaf in places. It paints characters with caricature and a bold brush. There is not much subtlety, which is odd as it is one subject that you would think subtlety is key. What the intervening years have allowed is some hindsight for the reader. Detach yourself from the events of early 2000s and read the book for what I suspect it was always meant to be – a daft action series. Perhaps next time just choose a slightly less controversial subject matter. 

Written on 2nd June 2020 by .

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