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The Dead Cat Tail Assassins

By P. Djèlí Clark 

12 Apr, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework


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P. Djèlí Clark’s The Dead Cat Tail Assassins is an upcoming secondary-universe fantasy novella1.

Death proved a passing malady for Eveen. Reanimated by Aeril, goddess of assassins2, Eveen is a holy assassin, one of Baseema’s posse of Dead Cat Tail Assassins. The price of resurrection is two-fold: comprehensive amnesia concerning her life before resurrection and a century of service to Aeril. Thanks to certain well-intended transgressions, Eveen owes Aeril two centuries.

As Eveen will discover, there are much worse punishments than an extended service contract.

As long as they follow the rules concerning legitimate targets and pay an exorbitant fee, clients enjoy considerable leeway. Take Eveen’s latest assignment: the undead assassin has been given no name for her victim, only an address and a sign by which the victim will be known. The client is also unnamed, having paid extra for anonymity.

The target, a girl named Sky, is easy to find. This is the only part of the mission that goes according to established procedure. As soon as Eveen lays eyes on Sky, she recognizes her. This should be impossible; Eveen’s memories have been wiped. But Eveen knows Sky’s face as well as her own… because Sky has Eveen’s face. Sky looks just like the living Eveen of many years ago.

The unnamed client’s true target is Eveen; they seek revenge for a past contract. If Eveen carries out the contract and kills what appears to be a past self snatched out of time, she might very well disappear in a puff of logic.

If Eveen refuses? The goddess Aeril takes a dim view of broken contracts and is a firm proponent of disproportionate punishment. Eveen would suffer. All her colleagues would suffer. The consequences would be far worse than simple non-existence.

Eveen must discover the name of the client, the nature of their grudge, how they pulled off their temporal trick, and then, perhaps, escape the dilemma… all before the other Dead Cat Tail Assassins and an angry goddess can catch up with Eveen and Sky.


My apologies for reviewing this so far ahead of time. For some reason, I had the release date completely wrong. By the time I discovered this, I did not have time to put this aside until August and review something else.

Interesting datum: it turns out at least some fantasy universes have the sorcerous equivalent of tech bros, pursuing cool new applications without worrying too much about externalities. Yay.

Aeril isn’t all that smart. But she does have enough smarts not to fall for Eveen’s desperate attempt to argue her out of retribution, no doubt having heard those arguments before3. She’s also mean enough to enjoy the power she has over Eveen. She reminded me of a cat, if a cat were all-powerful, judgmental, impatient, and given to playing with her food.

I don’t think it would be much of a spoiler if I were to tell you that Eveen manages to escape her difficulties. I wonder if she’s going to appear in more stories; she’s an engaging character and there’s room in this setting for more thrilling adventures.

Dead Cat knows exactly what sort of story it wants to be — an ingenious and skilled killer energetically fends off repeated attacks from people almost as skilled as she is, while doing her best to escape a no-win scenario, while charging towards a thrilling court scene — and it does what it has to do to be that story. Good read, recommended.

The Dead Cat Tail Assassins is available (for pre-order; sorry!) here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).

1: The novella is 224 pages in paper, which is a novel as far as I am concerned.

2: And of cooks, as both assassins and cooks use blades.

3: Anyone planning on swaying an angry god should be aware that the client is tricking you” is a losing argument, as it would require the god to admit fallibility.

Speaking of things that do not work, I was sure I had figured out how Eveen could save herself by technically fulfilling the contract in a way that the client did not intend. No spoilers… but a second reading revealed that the loophole I had in mind would not have worked. Perhaps the client foresaw the possibility. Perhaps the loophole was closed after another assassin exploited it.