TLDR; A heartbreaking, relentless story that will have you aching for the characters.
THE IMPOSSIBLE CONTRACT continues K.A. Doore’s brilliant world-building and then throws it all into a whirling devil dervish and begs you to hold on until the end. All of the thirst-inducing setting and intricate social structures of Ghadid are expanded upon, as a new character seizes control of the narrative. Thana is a cousin of Amastan, and a fellow assassin, about to take on her first big contract. Amastan plays a supporting role as Thana learns how to plan and execute (*pun*) the job, but things get very complicated very quickly.
Thana’s target, Heru is not only very highly connected politically, he also may have the ability to control the dead. Or undead. Either way, Thana’s in way over her head when she follows Heru across the desert and finds the undead pursuing them both. Yet, Thana both won’t and can’t abandon her contract when she starts to fall for a gorgeous healer who is also travelling in their company and wields a blessed magic of her own.
Doore yet again shows how she can weave meticulous fantasy world-building with slow burn mystery, and I was happy to dive back into the desert world she’s created. Thana is headstrong and reckless, and she’s foolish in how she overestimates both her knowledge and her abilities, which produces just the right amount of hubris and humanity. She’s painfully real, and I really gave my heart to her. Her budding romance with Mo the healer was heartbreaking and sweet, and her antagonism of Heru was delightful, in part because he is such a brilliant character himself. I frequently found myself torn between who I liked best in the cast, but Heru’s dry wit might have won me over the most.
The stakes are so much higher in this sequel than in The Perfect Assassin, and the costs are so much more unbearable. I had my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes, well before the final showdown, and it’s a testament to Doore’s writing that she could wring you out again and again and still have you still coming back until the final page. I don’t know if she can hurt me anymore after this, but I’ve already ordered the final book of the trilogy, so I’m willing to give her another chance.
Oh, and don’t think that it’s all heartache, hurt, and horror. There are genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Huffy Heru has some brilliant lines, even if he’s too smart for his own good. And there’s an UNDEAD CAMEL! Bless its poor heart. Doore doles out the light-hearted bits just enough to soften the blows of her brilliant, brutal story.
Corpse Reviver Variation
As with THE PERFECT ASSASSIN, I went with a corpse reviver for the sequel. I mean the story has necromancers and undead camels. The choice is obvious.
I didn’t cheat and just have a second round of the first cocktail, though. (I was tempted. Gin, lemon, orange, and lillet? YUM!) Seeing as THE IMPOSSIBLE CONTRACT is a variation on the original, I went with a different mix of the classic “hangover remedy” cocktail. This corpse reviver, like the book I’ve paired it with, hosts entirely different main characters, while the taste is all a bit darker, but a bit sweeter, too. Upping the stakes, upping the romance, upping the drink. Perfection!
Corpse Reviver Variation #1
.75 oz brandy
.75 oz applejack
.75 oz sweet vermouth
Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
And don’t worry. I have another variation in case there are more undead in The Unconquered City!