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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.
Dear Sarah J. Maas, I love you. Continue on you wonderful, delightful writer I promise all my monies ever are now yours. Love, Me
I knew almost from the first moment I heard about this book that I would either love it or hate it. Admittedly I began reading the novellas and fell in love with Celaena almost from page one, but those were short. I didn't know for certain that a full length novel of Celaena being snarky, arrogant and fierce would win me over.
Lesson learned, this just goes to show always trust the assassin.
Before I go further, there's certain spoilers for the novellas that get touched upon (sometimes repeatedly) in the novel itself. At the time of this reading I only read novellas 1-3...apparently novella 4 is the heart breaker. Kind of sort of figured that out before I read about how it is, but man it still made my heart seize.
As to the novel itself--I said this before, but I mean it. Maas' writing is on a different level from other young adult novels. I'd say this novel (and presumably the series) is geared towards the older set of readers, girls who grew up on Tamora Pierce and Shannon Hale, but aren't quite ready for the brutality of mainstream fantasy like George RR Martin or even my beloved Brandon Sanderson or Brent Weeks. Maas strikes a good balance between the bloody violent world Celaena inhabits without making it overwhelming and unreadable.
What intrigued me the most about this book is watching as Celaena did her best to cover up how upset she was. Or if not upset, nervous. The book is told from third person perspective and multiple perspectives thereof. Dorian (the crown prince), Celaena and Chaol (Dorian's Guardian, for lack of a better word) are the principle perspectives, but closer to the end we also have a few others to round out the menace lurking about.
Celaena is strong, a bit too strong and brash and reckless. Despite her intelligence she either doesn't think things through enough (the dark passageway filled with strange noises?) or overthinks things (she plots how to use the heavy tomes she borrows to knock out some of the guards). Her weaknesses are things that many people wouldn't see as such.
Interestingly her life before Arobynn took her in resembles her friend Ansel's in the second novella (The Assassin and the Desert), yet they found different ways to push the pain away.
The romance triangle is a bit murky because the three involved are obviously coming from very different paths with very different notions of what to want and what to understand that they can have. I like that Maas emphasizes that none of it is because the three NEED to be with someone. What they feel is closely tied with their feelings for the future and how pessimistic/optimistic they are therein.
Read this. Pick it up, begin reading it and don't stop until the end. There's no 'good' spot to just stop reading. Devote a few hours to it because honestly Celaena deserves that much respect.