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 when I started this one, I was also reading the first Bloody Jack novel, which is also about pirates. It was kind of funny to compare the two, as one is middle-grade and one is YA, one girl is an urchin and one is a princess, but they speak the same dialect. Ananna also reminded me a lot of Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns. The setting is similar and some of the circumstances are similar, but it’s more that Ananna’s voice reminded me of Elisa’s. It’s hard to pin down exactly with words. So. Ananna is a pirate princess about to advantageously married off to some pirate prince or other. She escapes, only to be hunted down by the assassin, Naji. Through a silly, silly technicality, Naji’s personal mission changes from “kill Ananna” to “protect Ananna at all costs.” The tone of this one is light, a little silly, but I have reservations about any love story that starts off with the love interest attempting to kill the protagonist. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, the story continues, and Naji is keeping secrets from Ananna all while sending her back out into the city to buy things for him, which seems…imprudent to me, but what do I know? I’m not an assassin.
Soon, the silly oath from earlier is revealed to be a curse, and so Ananna heads out into the desert with Naji. As they traveled together, I found I sort of lost my reservations about Naji. The problem with the whole “falling in love with the assassin” story lines is usually the assassin has all the power. Either he’s stronger, or more experienced, or has magic, or something that puts the relationship out of balance. Ananna is a pirate princess, and she knows what she’s doing in a fight. She can work her knife well, and she can survive on her own by using her skills. She kills people when she needs to, and then goes on fighting. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and while Naji has magic and is withholding information, they just aren’t as unevenly matched as usual. And, just randomly, Ananna’s hatred of the heat while traveling over the desert is much the same as Elisa’s. But you know the other (slight) annoyance I had with this one? All the villains were beautiful, and if the beautiful people weren’t villains, they were at least cruel or clueless. I can think of three examples off the top of my head. Naji was once beautiful, but his face is scarred, so he falls under the category of Assassin with a Heart of Gold. I believe this is on TV Tropes, so I’ll let that speak for me.
Besides that though, I loved this novel, the lightness, the fun, the changing settings. Ananna is attracted to Naji, but the love story (if you can call it that) isn’t really a focus of the story at all. This is very much a tale of misadventures, from the desert outside Lisirra to the Anyel’s Revenge on the sea. Near the end of the novel, I sort of realized that Ananna’s strength is also her weakness. She is strong and capable and used to being those things, so she believes herself to be capable of resisting magic, and she isn’t. She has never come up against something like the Isles and their magic, and her abilities mean less than nothing. I liked that. Ananna has to do some self-discovery in this one and that’s always something I enjoy.