November 8, 2012 by Heidi
Title: 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.”