Sarah J. Maas, 2012
Premise: Celaena is an assassin, sentenced to die in a labor camp for her crimes. She has one chance to earn her freedom: Win a competition to work for the king she despises.
The cover of the book says that fans of The Hunger Games will love this book, and I agree in that it’s very readable. The pace is breakneck from almost start to end. And yet, I found that to be a critique as well, as when I described the competition premise to a friend who immediately said: “So this got published because Hunger Games made lots of money, right?”
The setting and backstory had lots of intriguing hints which might be developed in later books, but the ending of this book I found unsatisfying. There seems to be an undercurrent of untapped magic in the society and the palace, mysteries abound around why magic was outlawed in this land and how it’s connected to a former ruler, and Celaena’s connection to a nearby conquered land is also left unexplained.
I enjoyed the action, and some of the romance, although the romance ends in an awkward forced state. There are two suitors, and it’s as though the author wrote most scenes to point in one direction, but ended up deciding the next book should go in another direction. I wish she’d drop the whole thing.
I liked Celaena’s friendship with a visiting royal from another land. The scenes between Princess Nehemia and Celaena were some of my favorites.
However, some of Celaena’s character traits drove me up the wall. She was trained as an assassin for most of her life, spent the last year in a labor camp. When she gets to the palace, the thing she’s most excited about is the library. And I could accept that, hey, she used to read as a kid and is excited about the chance to read more. What I cannot accept is a character who doesn’t seem at all embarrassed about staying up til all hours reading before a freaking life-or-death competition. That just makes her seem like an idiot.
I don’t know. I did enjoy most of the experience of reading this book, but it just fell apart for me at the end.
3 Stars - Still A Good Book