Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
“Will her assassin’s heart be melted?” Ugh. Seriously. I don’t even have a firm ship after finishing this book – and maybe that’s partly to do with the (incredibly) slow, and awesome, build of the relationship throughout the prequel novellas, but there’s not enough here to make me want to ship Celaena with anything – except herself. I want her to get stronger, smarter, and better. And I am really enjoying seeing her do just that. You can really see the growth in her in this book. But blurbs are not usually the best at actually describing what a book is truly about.
This book has a lot going for it. There’s the beginnings of an incredibly intriguing world being laid. The magic that isn’t really there, but might be still somewhat available really drew me. I’m not entirely comfortable in this world yet, still figuring out what everything is, but I think that the author does a good job of laying the groundwork and walking us through some of the rules.
I wasn’t expecting to have multiple POVs in this story. I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe it’s because most young-adult books are a single, first-person POV. It was incredibly refreshing to be able to get alternate points of view, and know what’s going on elsewhere. I especially appreciated Chaol’s point of view scenes. The downside to this choice is that there are bound to be some characters that the reader just gets sick of reading. I’m no exception, and there were a couple of characters whose scenes dragged for me, and I sincerely hope I never have to read from them again.
There are some other issues with both of these things, and I’ll put them down to first-book-syndrome. And the fact that this was written in an almost serialized fashion and then later edited to transition more smoothly and flow better. It didn’t always work. There’s some definite kinks in the writing, the characterization, the world-building, and the pacing of the story. And though they nagged at me, everything was just interesting enough to make me want to continue.
I do think that your enjoyment of this book is probably going to live or die on whether you like Celaena. She’s an interesting character. She’s been trained to be an assassin since she was a child. In this book, she’s just eighteen. And if you want to see the previous two-years of her life, how she got to where she is, I highly suggest reading The Assassin’s Blade which includes all the prequels. In fact, I suggest reading that anyway as it gives some excellent character growth and building for Celaena. She’s smart and strong and incredibly skilled. She’s cocky – though not as much as she used to be – and has a smart mouth. She jokes and laughs, and likes pretty things. She likes to be comfortable and enjoys the finer things in life. I actually love that she loves dresses and jewelry and books and relaxing, but at the same time is infinitely appreciative of a good blade, work clothes, and weapons.
But she also has her more frustrating moments. There are times when I wanted to shake her and ask what she was doing – like the day before the initiation of the competition when she spends it reading instead of trying to get her body back into the kind of physical condition she’s going to need. I’m all for feeding the mind, that’s important too, but she’d just spent a year in a prison/labor-camp. She’s starved and unhealthy. She hasn’t been able to work out, train, or test herself in a year. Maybe spending some time on that would be good. To be fair, she does start to shortly after this, and it’s mentioned often enough that I felt comfortable she was doing it a lot on her own. But there are other little moments where I felt that she didn’t even take a moment to think, and – worse – that she acted out of character. I, again, put this down to first-book-syndrome. It’s something that I can see definitely improving and getting better.
The plot of this book is somewhat surprising to me. It’s supposed to be about the competition to become the King’s Champion, and it is – though I wish there’d been even more focus than there was on the tests and competition – but it’s also about Celaena settling in to life in the castle. It’s about her building relationships (and there’s even one with another woman that *doesn’t* center around the males surrounding them!) and becoming more comfortable again. It’s about learning the world she’s been thrust into, again, and finding out she may not have known it all. So in addition to the competition-like tests and training, expect conversations, games, balls, and some small amount of intrigue.
I’m beyond intrigued to find out where things go from here. There’s so much potential in this world and story that I can’t stop now.