The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Release date: 2nd October 2012
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Reason for reading: Liz told me to
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.
So, Asher reviewed this many months ago and I thought “well, it does sound really great and Asher really raved about it buuuut is it really my thing?” And I dismissed it. And then I kept seeing it everywhere and got really into fantasy again and thought “yeah okay, I’mma give it a go, maybe” and THEN Liz who is *clearly* some kind of mind reader bought it for me for Christmas and I thought “well, I have to read it NOW” don’t I? (Because every book Liz has ever recommended to me and I have read I have ended up adoring) And you know what? I adored it. So yes, you were right guys, well done.
What I loved most about this book, was Ananna and Naji. Specifically, their faults. They weren’t perfect characters by any stretch. Both could get sulky and kinda moody, taking their moods out on each other and snapping. The flaws made them seem more real, more normal. I much preferred it to them being perfectly poised and always in control. They frustrated the hell out of each other at times and it was so entertaining. Naji was so…enigmatic. Hired to kill Ananna because she offended another pirate family by refusing to marry their son, the curse she activates means he’s got no choice but to protect her. He was so secretive, partly cause you know, he’s an assassin and they can’t share their assassiny secrets, but also cause that’s just the way he is. He never gave anything way, half the things he said were totally ambiguous and I loved it. How does he feel? I honestly don’t know. I know how the conventions of YA says he should feel, how I WANT him to feel, but does he *actually* feel that way? I do not know. He is so OPAQUE. Ananna was kinda the same, in that she didn’t give much a way, but she was less prickly about it. It was more of a ‘raised as a pirate, don’t trust anybody’ vibe really. She kept her cards close to her chest, all the way through the book, both in terms of what she admits to Naji and to herself. They had such a reciprocal relationship, each of them bringing skills and experiences to their journey, each of them saving the other at different points. In fact, Ananna probably ended up helping Naji more, the combination of the magic and the curse left him weak and sick at a lot of points and she often had to resort to literally dragging him places. I liked this reversal, it was very refreshing.
This book is a superb lesson in ‘show, don’t tell’. Ananna never voices her feelings until right at the very very end. But you infer how she feels from her reactions, from how she acts, from throwaway comments and I loved that. Too often characters in books talk of how much they love each other, without ever showing any reason for such feelings.
I really enjoyed the plot, it had a good mix of journey and action, meaning it was fast-paced but left enough slow-time for character development and humorous moments. I have a couple of tiny nags, the first is, this book felt kinda unfinished. It’s fairly short, which coupled with the unfinished feel and the fact it’s (as far as I know) book 1 of 2, made me feel as though only half the book was written when the book was acquired and maybe the other half wasn’t finished in time for publication. My other minor issue was I felt the language was sometimes a little simplistic and repetitive, and it got a bit repetitive with all the stealing Ananna did. Ananna’s colloquialisms annoyed me, but that’s totally a personal thing, I have always found that irritating.
TL;DR: Cassandra Rose Clarke has created an imaginative fantasy world, rich in detail but not too bogged down in specifics. If you’re looking for a tale of adventure with some kickass leads who aren’t afraid to be themselves, this is the book for you.