Review: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke


November 8, 2012 by Heidi

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke book coverTitle: The Assassin’s Curse [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First in a duology.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: October 2nd, 2012 by Strange Chemistry
Format: Paperback; 320
Source: ARC copy from publisher via NetGalley

There really can’t be enough awesome things said about Cassandra Rose Clarke’s debut novel, The Assassin’s Curse.  Already read a veritable truckload of awesome things?  Don’t care.  Still not enough.  Actually, I take that back, I do care.  I care because if you’re still reading reviews debating whether or not this one is worth picking up, you need to get run over by said veritable truckload of awesomeness–go pick this one up already!  I’ll wait.

Okay, good now?  Let the fawning commence!

It’s hard to even know where to start my fangirling over The Assassin’s Curse.  The amazingly gorgeous cover art?  The characters so wonderful I want to carry them around in my pocket as new literary BFFs?  The fantabulous world Cassandra Rose Clarke created?  The completely fun adventurous plot?  Okay yes, the plot, I suppose we should start with a rundown (literally…too early for knee slappers?):

Ananna, an ambitious young daughter of an established pirate family decides to ditch her douchey fiance to pursue her own goals in life–namely captaining her own pirate vessel rather than playing second fiddle to a cocky pretty boy with questionable decision making skills.  Unfortunately for Ananna, this kid’s family was very much looking forward to the advantages of joining their clans and they took her flight a bit personal, lashing out by sending an Assassin with a capital A after her.  As luck would have it, this assassin is a more skilled than cocky former pretty boy with much more sound (if no less crazy) decision making skills.  However, he also bears a curse that Ananna unwittingly activates, tying the two together in a fight and flight journey to figure out how to get un-cursed.

Sound fun, don’t it?  It is!  (Yes, I may be slightly infected with Ananna’s poor grammar at the moment.)  The Assassin’s Curse is a no holds barred adventure story.  It’s not charming like the middle grade fantasy adventures I read, or epic like much of the high fantasy I consume, but it is a book that I quite happily read in a single sitting–one that had me grasping at straws when I tried to remember the last time I had quite so much fun.  If I had to pick a read-alike, I’d point you to The Princess Bride, and obviously that’s saying something.

The world Cassandra Rose Clarke has invented is rich–at times uncomfortably warm and gritty, at others chilled to the bones.  As an avid fantasy reader, I crave those high fantasy worlds that aren’t inspired along the lines of the British or French.  Not because those are bad, but because those are the usual cases.  Clarke’s world embraces the desert and is much more inspired by an Arabian setting.  The magical structure is familiar with elemental magic, utilizing the reviled but revered blood magic, and more acceptable water magic and earth magic, but it is also unique in the exact execution of it.  Additionally, Clarke overlays the world we know with the magic-soaked and frightening Mists, which I will say no more about so as not to spoil.

And of course, as stated, I love me some Ananna and Naji.  I think traditionally, this story would have our assassin, Naji, saddled with some classy broad like the mayor’s daughter, but I love that Clarke chose to go a different route.  Both of our main characters are of dubious backgrounds and professions, meaning that neither is really horrified by the other in ways that almost any other member of society would be.  This allows them to be allies and potential friends, but also causes them to hold one another at a respectable arm’s length.  Ananna isn’t a delicate beauty with talents for much besides fighting and mouthing off and Naji is mentally and physically scarred from his use of blood magic and profession as a murderer.  Their relationship dynamic wasn’t what I expected–I was certain they would be resentful and butting heads at every turn, but they really weren’t.  Naji’s just too broken to let it even occur to him that he could mean anything more than a burden or bogeyman to anyone, and Ananna is too bent on the vision of her own future ambitions to consider alternatives.  Ananna and Naji are skilled, but not cocky, BAMFs with real and obvious limitations, sullen but not angsty–and let’s face it, we all love us some tattoos and scars at some point in our lives (Hint: Zuko fans…you will love Naji).

The Assassin’s Curse is just quirky enough to seem like a fairy tale, but real enough to be taken seriously.  It is so much fun, it’s almost astounding how words like ‘light’ and ‘whimsical’ need not apply.  Clarke’s debut is a very real and touching story, I’m sure I could get nit-picky and find some faults, but I don’t want to let it to become that sort of experience.  I loved its unpredictability, and my only real complaint is that the sequel is too far off!  I’ve read other reviews that say the book was too short, or seemed like half a story, but the stopping point didn’t bother me–maybe because I was forewarned?  The fact that this is set up to be a duology makes me very happy, I feel it’ll be a two-volume set that will make one very fine adventure.

“Wait,” said the shopkeeper.  I stopped.  “Be careful,” she said.  “I don’t normally do this for free, but I like the look of you.  They’re coming.  Well, one of them.  Him.”

I stared at her.  She said him like it was the proper name of somebody she hated.  “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you know.  Your dream last night.”

All the air just whooshed out of my body like I’d been in a drunkard’s fight.  “I ain’t had no dream last night.”

She laughed.  “Fine, you didn’t have a dream.  But you know the stories.  I can tell.  I can smell them on you.”

“The stories,” I said.  “What stories?”  All I could see was the gray in her eyes, looming in close around me.  And then something flickered in the room, like a candle winking out.  And I knew.  The assassins.  That bogeyman story Papa used to tell me whenever I didn’t mind him or Mama.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Oh goodness yes.  The cover for The Pirate’s Wish is just as mesmerizing, and I was so wound up and excited about where the next book will be going I was pretty much definitely bouncing in my seat like a little kid by the end of The Assassin’s Curse.  Not to mention, Cassandra Rose Clarke will have another book coming out towards the beginning of the year, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which I will be reading very soon.

Recommended for:  Anyone who is awesome and likes to read awesome things.  That is my professional advice on this one.  Yep

Get a second opinion:
Ivy Book Bindings – “It is entertaining, filled with heart-pounding action and characters that you cannot help but love. Even though this novel comes across as juvenile in some parts, I think it is an excellent addition to the small cluster of good YA fiction out there.”
Young Adult Anonymous – Consider this link a gift from me to you: it involves the story of The Assassin’s Curse to the tune of the Fresh Prince theme song. Nuf said.
Paranormal Indulgence – “Moments of frustratingly slow pacing aside, The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke gave me a fantastical story of epic levels, with grand fantasy that seems bigger than the story itself and characters that I’m ever-rooting for, and I’m ridiculously impressed!”
Love Is Not a Triangle – “The Assassin’s Curse is a fun ride. I enjoyed following Ananna and Naji on their adventures. But my biggest issue is that it felt like half a story.”
The Readventurer – “My one criticism is that this book is so short and there are so many things left to be explained – it feels unfinished.”
Janicu’s Book Blog – “The Assassin’s Curse an entertaining Fantasy YA story: it has swashbuckling adventure, a pirate heroine, and a blood magic-wielding assassin, for crying out loud.”


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  1. Yay! I’m so glad you loved this one, Heidi! I think The Princess Bride is a spot-on similarity to this one but the relationship completely surprised me in this novel. I found the ending to be achingly bittersweet and realistic and I’m so curious to see how the story plays out in the sequel. I can’t wait!(: Amazing review, dear!

    • Heidi says:

      I did! It was so much fun! I completely agree about the ending, I was okay with the bittersweet, largely because I’m so excited for where it’s going. But you just KNOW that that last task is going to be left to the end of the next book. *Bites nails.* Can’t wait!

  2. I’m so glad you liked this Heidi! Love this review & I totally agree on The Princess Bride vibe. Reading this book just made me HAPPY and that automatically earns it a special spot on my bookshelf. I’m so intrigued by her other non-Pirate’s Curse book. (So thoughtful to release something to tide us over until the sequel comes out!)

    • Heidi says:

      Ahh! I know! I’m still so enthusiastic about this one, and I’m so happy to see others that way as well. I can totally see myself turning back to this for a reread when I need something to make me happy. :)

      I’m really curious about The Mad Scientist’s Daughter too! I honestly would have dived into it right away if I wasn’t trying to read books published THIS year first. 😛

  3. janicu says:

    I know, this was such a fun book! Have you seen the cover for the next one? PRETTY, and in the same style as this one. I will buy and then pet them as they sit on my shelves together.

    Oo, and I didn’t know it was a duology. I was wondering how many books this would be.

    • Heidi says:

      I have! I love both these covers! I completely agree that this is going to be a set worth buying. They’re so pretty, and the FUN factor gives them total reread value (she said assuming the next one will be as good).

  4. This review had me laughing, left a huge smile on my face and reminded me how much I loved this story! I really like what you said about it being quirky like a fairytale but also real. I love that these characters have real life struggles and issues – Ananna and Naji are such a great pair! I felt like I could relate to them, which I was pleasantly surprised about.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I completely agree, I think that’s part of what made this book so much fun. The characters were completely relatable, even if the situations were completely not. Love those two!

  5. So it seems I’m just as bad as you when it comes to buying books and never getting around to reading them until someone gives me a beautifully worded prod.

    I’ve had this on my Kindle for ages now and I keep looking at it but reading something else.

    You’ve convinced me though. I adore books that are just so good you forget to look for the faults.

    Brilliant review, Heidi.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Jo! I know JUST what you mean–I had this one on my Kindle for at least 2-3 months before I actually decided to sit down and read it. I really hope you do though, it is certainly so much fun you don’t bother finding what’s wrong. :)

  6. Everybody loves this book. And clearly I need to read it too. As evidenced by this statement –> “Anyone who is awesome and likes to read awesome things.” –> because I am that person.

    Haha, just kidding. Seriously, everything I’ve read about this has been much better than I even imagined it would be. Great review.

  7. elena says:

    auuuugh I need to read this soon because pretty much everyone has said such nice things about it! Quirky enough to seem like a fairy tale and FUN? This totally seems like a book I would love. Fantastic review! <3

  8. Yay I am glad that you also enjoyed this book! It definitely is wonderful and creative in so many ways. I may be one of the few people who had a slow start getting into this, but I think that I ended at the same place as basically everyone else – I need the sequel now! I also didn’t mind the ending point. I felt like the first book was more intended to set up everything and figure out how to break the curse. And then the sequel will be the actual breaking of the curse. It makes sense to me. Great review, Heidi!

    • Heidi says:

      I did! I’m glad that you stuck with this one despite getting a slow start. I agree, I really feel like the split makes sense, and I’m SO excited for the next book. 😀

  9. Okay, that’s it. Why haven’t I read this yet?! I remember seeing this up on NetGalley and I don’t think I requested it. *smacks forehead* But your review has me SO EXCITED!

  10. Okay, that’s it. Why haven’t I read this yet?! I remember seeing this up on NetGalley and I don’t think I requested it. *smacks forehead* But your review has me SO EXCITED!

    *Something went wrong with my last comment. Probably because I spelled my own blog name wrong. #fail

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, nah, I think WordPress just tried to eat your comment. 😛

      But YES, I really feel like you’d have a lot of fun with this one, Stephanie. Totally with tracking down (heck, I believe it’s only about $4-5 on Kindle).

  11. Hurrah! And not even the ending could get you down, eh? I’m so happy. This is definitely one that I read and thought…”yep, Heidi would like this.” I wish there were more fantasy like this, that’s light and fun but also smart and really well done. I don’t know why those two things seem to be mutually exclusive so often. I can’t wait to see what happens to Ananna and Naji. Great review, Heidi!

    • Heidi says:

      You were so right! And no, the ending didn’t get me down. I felt like it was the best possible breaking point, and as stated, having the warning helped. :)

      I completely agree that it’s pretty rare to get both smart but fun, and when the rare occasion arises, it’s almost always something I love. So excited to see where this goes!

  12. Adventure! Middle grade! YES YES YES.

  13. Jasmine Rose says:

    Like Zuko, you say? Okay, well pardon me while I go get this book RIGHT NOW.

    Seriously, though, awesome review, Heidi :] It wasn’t on my TBR before, but it certainly is now!

  14. This is definitely one of my favorite reviews of the book! I loved how you did justice to the humor, the relationship between Ananna and Naji (HURRAH FOR ZUKO REFERENCES!), and the magic and world-building and oh my sweet goodness, THIS BOOK. I don’t know how anyone cannot love it. I can’t wait to get my hands on both THE MAD SCIENTIST’S DAUGHTER AND PIRATE’S WISH. They’re bound to be epic, probably but in different ways, but epic nonetheless.

    • Heidi says:

      OMG they’re the best, I love them so much! I’m glad you think I did them justice. I almost picked up The Mad Scientist’s Apprentice immediately after finishing this, but am making myself get through some must-read 2012 books first. 😛

  15. Readalike – Princess Bride? Challenge Accepted.

    (Also, I read the Mad Scientist’s Daughter. WEIRD, but good.)

  16. […] the Stars by Andrea K. Höst Biggest Jaw-Dropping Twist: Starters by Lissa Price Best Adventure: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke Most Thrilling: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga Most Promising Series Start: The False Prince by […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.