I have an ARC of this one, but the real deal comes out in a few days. This is another book that has gotten a ton of wonderful reviews. I didn’t know much about the story going into it besides there being one tough teen girl assassin proving herself, and frankly what else did I need to know?
The book begins with Celaena being retrieved from a harsh labor camp and forced into an audience with the crown prince. She’s famous for being Adarlan’s top assassin, and has been worked to the bone (literally) for the past year in the salt mines. Celaena first believes she’s finally been sentenced to death, but instead is surprised to receive an offer from the prince. He wants her to be come train and compete against the rest of the nations’s best assassins, thieves, and soldiers to win the place as the king’s champion. Each member of the royal council has picked a fighter to represent them, and the prince thinks Celaena could win it for him.
The prince (Dorian) and Celaena make a deal; if Celaena beats the rest of the competition and becomes champion, she will serve the king for four years, and then she can finally be free. Of course Celeana takes the deal. It wouldn’t be much of a book if she didn’t. And Celeanea is then forced into court life, training sessions, and very little recuperating time. It takes her some time to regain her health after the labor camp, but the girl goes right into training mode, getting up even before my favorite character, the captain of the guard, Chaol, to work on her strength and agility.
And while Celaena pretends, in front of the other contenders, to be a mere jewel thief, it’s clear she takes her freedom seriously, spending extra hours in training sessions and working as hard as she can. At the start of the competitions though, random contenders are being murdered within the castle. And the further along the game goes, the more fighters are being killed. Celaena gets involved with trying to figure out who’s doing the murdering because she’s starting to fall for both Dorian and Chaol and wants them to be safe, and also because she’s now involved in some illegal magic activity where the ghost of an ancient fairy queen has requested her to get rid of the evil in the castle.
There’s a love triangle. There’s plenty of action-packed battle scenes. There’s balls, parties, holidays, fancy ball gowns, court snobbery, ghosts, secret passageways, fairy legends, forbidden magic, raised demons, poison, archery, and so much more! What didn’t this novel have? I loved the action! I loved the fight scenes! I loved watching a teen girl kick some serious soldier butt! I loved the boys! They seriously reminded me of George and Jonathan from a certain Tamora Pierce series.
But, I kind of wasn’t the biggest Celaena fan. I loved how arrogant she was. I loved how strong she was. She really epitomizes the word survivor. She’s been through hell and back, yet still manages to take her training so seriously. I love that she refused to give into court life, never taking that stuff too seriously. I mean the girl walked around with candy red stained teeth for a day around a court of jealous/corseted/uptight ladies! However, she was a bit contradictory. For someone constantly thinking of escape routes, best methods to incapacitate an enemy, etc, she also spent so much time thinking about dresses and parties and boys.
And I love dresses, and parties, and boys. I really do. It’s just that with Celaena, I kind of kept wishing she’d think about other things. I wanted more fights and more assassination attempts on her part, and less complaining while hanging out in her room. For such a tough person, she really was kind of whiny. I wanted her to actually escape her room instead of just talking about how she could escape her room. I wanted her to beat up some of the awful court people instead of just talking about how she could. I know that she had to be in line or risk her place in the competition, but I really think being as smart as she is, or at least as smart as everyone keeps saying she is, could allow for her to figure out some ways around this.
Also, I think this was the first high fantasy I ever read that included billiards…I feel like I can’t read a teen romance without at least one learning-to-play-pool-scene. And I really don’t think that was necessary here. It just felt out of place.
I loved the plot, even though I guessed who was doing the murdering in the first quarter of the book, and was kind of hoping to be a little more shocked or surprised in the mystery aspect. I loved all the symbols, the magic, the books and the research that Celaena did in the library. I did like Celaena a lot more when I realized she loved to read…I loved the history and the magic. I loved the world building. And I loved the ending and its premise for book 2. So, even though Celaena is not my favorite, I still give this a 9/10. And I highly recommend it to Tamora Pierce fans!