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 exhilarating 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 first read this book about a year ago. I really loved it then, and was looking forward to picking it back up. While it was still enjoyable there are a number of things that bother me about it that I didn’t really pick up on the first time around.
I lost count of the number of times the men “raked their eyes over her body” or some such nonsense. It was oddly placed and over-used into ineffectiveness. In the very beginning when she is hauled out from the prison camp before the prince and captain, both of them oogle her at some point.
She could be a Victoria Secret model, after a year without a bath, in the mines, working, being beaten… no one is looking at her without gagging a little. Emancipated skeletons covered in bloody/dirty rags are not sexy.
She’s a cocky little piece of work, I will give you that. But at 17 most people are. I can suspend the disbelief that the most feared assassin in the world is just a teenager, it’s a novel… writers are allowed to take liberties. What I would have liked to see was some character growth, maturing as she goes through the competition. There’s one line where she mentions that she’s no longer completely certain she’ll win… but as a reader I didn’t buy it. I can accept that perhaps, this second time through, there is very likely less suspense as I already know what is going to happen. I think you’re meant to see her accepting help [won’t elaborate for fear of spoilers] as growth, but I personally didn’t pick up on much resistance that would make me feel it was a struggle.
Enough bashing of the book, because honestly… it wasn’t all bad.
I found Dorian, the Crown Prince, rather adorable. Honestly I liked him more than Caelena, and sort of wish that he had been the main character. His struggles and story were far more engaging and intriguing to me. I am without a doubt #TeamDorian. That’s not to say Captain Westfall was bad, but I found him incongruous. Maybe because we didn’t see enough from his perspective. He spends a lot of the book not trusting that evil assassin chick, but also somehow falls in love with her? It didn’t jive. That said, it was still one of the least annoying love triangles I’ve ever read. Probably because, setting aside the issues with Westfall’s stuff, it was one of the more realistic. I still find triangles to be a stupid, drama-causing, copout for writers that can’t figure out how to spice things up any other way. But this one did not, in my mind, fail nearly as much as some others.
Despite it’s faults I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it more the first time through, I think because the suspense and questions are really what drive the story. Once those are gone there was less to drive the book, which I guess makes sense. Still, there are some books that even though I’ve read many, many times I still reach for because of great characters and fascinating worlds. This isn’t going to be one of those. But, it’s enough to make me curious about the second book.