I recently read and loved Crescent City by Sarah J Maas, so I thought I’d dig into my backlist and read one of her popular series from before.
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 four 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 loved the premise of the novel which was what attracted me in the first place: Celaena, an infamous assassin sentenced to a life of torture in the salt mines, was given an offer to participate in a contest to become the King’s Champion in exchange for her freedom.
I enjoyed delving into the world of Celaena’s country, its history and politics.
The banter between Celaena, Dorian and Chaol were incredibly witty, fun to read.
I kinda went into this book thinking that there’d be a lot of fighting and killing and scheming and backstabbing… and there kind of were, but there were a whole lot of frilly dresses and balls and blushing and “oh, between these two lovely gentlemen, who do I choose?” At some point, it felt like more like a period romance instead of a fantasy novel.
Although I didn’t dislike Dorian or Chaol, I couldn’t bring myself to care for Celaena. She was beautiful and talented and lacked a personality. Even thought the other characters treated her like she was “unlike any other girl”, she didn’t seem to have any distinct traits of her own.
The love triangle. Did I mention how I hate love triangles? It’s especially cringe-worthy when the character in the love triangle does not know they’re in a love triangle. Also, there might have been, like, at least two love triangles in this novel.
I get that Celaena was an assassin (the most infamous assassin, in fact), but she didn’t… seem like an assassin? Other than having the “assassin” backstory pop up, she didn’t seem to think like an assassin or act like an assassin. She even had some clumsy moments and in several scenes she was asleep while someone was watching her. Huh?
Not much happened for a good chunk of the story. Sure, the contest was progressing along, but the main storyline for this first novel (who was killing the other contestants? and why?) barely moved until the very end. Instead, there was a lot of dancing and book-exchanging (hey of course I love books but this is a fantasy novel about kings and assassins here).
It was an entertaining story, but not for me.