After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I remember reading about people going postal to get their hands on the third book in this series when BEA was going on. To be honest, up until then this series never even really registered my radar even though it obviously is immensely popular and has a lot of tropes I’d go for.
So, I was like yeah…I’ll give it a chance eventually. Then the first one was extremely cheap as an ebook when the third installment came out to the masses and I decided to give it a whirl.
The result: well, it was okay.
Okay, not great.
Not OMG five star worthy squeal fan girl review which I was hoping and expecting for.
I didn’t hate it though. So that was good. Very good.
I think I’ll talk about first what really worked for me:
1) The Premises:
Talk about awesome. The premises of this book hits a lot of MJ buttons. A main character that’s not a goody goody and is a supposed bad ass. Sign me right up.
Yep. Sign up.
Contest with a creepy serial killer.
For the most part, it does live up to its summary too-that’s a good thing. And there’s none of those annoying comparisons (i.e. this is like so and so) are there. And it actually leads up to how it’s summarized for the most part so check mark there.
2) The Romance:
It doesn’t overwhelm the book-thank God. And I’m giving Mass a big plus sign for that. In high fantasies, I usually don’t want them to be about the romance. I want them to be a bout the plot and the fantasy world. And for the most part that’s what this book does. But there is a teeny tiny bit of romance or hints of romance here. And the amount that’s there is perfect.
3) The World Building
The world building intrigued me enough where I wanted more. While most of the story was confined to one place, we had a good idea of how the world was developed. And I’m guessing Mass is going to explore it more with future installments.
One of the things that particularly interested me was all the political stuff that was going on.
Yeah, that might’ve been because I was a Poly Sci minor once upon a time…but this sort of stuff intrigues me. But Mass didn’t try to sugar coat anything in how awful a conquer and then enslave the rest of the population regime is.
Also, I like how the magic stuff was kind of not explored that much in the first book. It gave the series a nice element of mystery that I’m interested in exploring.
What Didn’t Work:
And now we come to the things that didn’t work for me. Sigh….
Most of the time I felt like she was pretending to be an assassin. For someone apparently bad ass, she really wasn’t that bad ass. Even during the final showdown.
I hear she gets better with more books, but all I could think of was how vain and idiotic this character was most of the time.
Why not run? You had the option. It wasn’t like you were running around before on borrowed time?
And if you’re the world’s greatest assassin, you should be able to defend yourself. Build yourself up a Moriarty network. But no….she decides that the option she’s forced in is her only option.
Is it sad I just wanted to shake her?
2) The Romance
Odd since I mentioned how I liked the lack of romance in the first part. But both love interests really didn’t work for me. I think because this book almost would’ve been better without a love interest. To be fair though, the other two parts of the triangle weren’t that offensive. Even though I got annoyed with Chaol, I understood his motives. And Dorian wasn’t an offensive tool either. But they just didn’t work. In part, because of the situation. They condoned the fact that the main character was a slave and essentially use her freedom as a bargaining chip 😦 And then there’s the reasons listed below:
Dorian is sweet and I do like him, but at this moment I just don’t think he and Celaena are going to be the end game. And I’m okay with that.
That’s not what you want to do when you’re trying to establish a love triangle. The good news is, I guess, that I don’t hate him like I usually do in the obvious loser YA trope. I just feel bad for him because my YA psychic powers are telling me it’s not going to work.
I get why he was the way he was but really…such a tool. And not in the offensive I want to wring his neck tool like in YA books, but the kind of tool I can sort of understand and even admire to a degree, but I don’t really root for him and Celaena to be together at this point because it would ruin this nobility.
Hey, maybe this ship will grow on me in the next book. Lots of people liked them.
3) The Villain
Sigh…yeah, I get he’s evil, but I wanted his evilness fleshed out. Some parts in his point of view. Yeah, I know subsequent books…but I’m in need of some YA baddies. Come on, YA get your Disney villain on.
So yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan but I liked it a lot. I probably will keep up with this series in the future, but it’s not like I’m going to binge read this. Maybe I’ll grow to like it better in future installments.
I think that big fans of epic fantasy will love this one though.
However, Celaena, you are not the world’s greatest assassin. Maybe world’s vainest assassin.
Overall Rating: B+.