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 three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. 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. – Goodreads
Oh, YA fantasy, you never fail to NOT SURPRISE ME AT ALL. This was recommended to me awhile ago and I couldn’t get into it at the time (burn burnout is LEGIT), but it’s been so long that I figured I’d try again. And I enjoyed it. But I also rolled my eyes the whole time. So the thing with YA, as I’m sure all of you know, is you often have to suspend your disbelief a little. Or a lot. Enough to accept that the most feared assassin in the land is 18 years old and obsessed with fashion. The standard YA protag has dozens of boys after her and some impossible qualities and weird interests. This book is sort of what I imagine is under the definition of “impossible YA.” Celaena is impossible. She’s a character that could not possibly exist, but the world she’s in makes it possible for her to. She’s also apparently Special (some kind of fairy was my guess), and she’s also the Person Who Can Save The World. Well, of course she is. It wouldn’t be fantasy without a one-dimensional Big Bad, an evil force, or something of that nature, going up against an Assassin with a Heart of Gold. Around the three-quarter mark, I lost interest a bit, but that has more to do with me than this book; it happens a lot. But around three-quarters is when the action might have started picking up, and it just…didn’t.
So. I had misgivings about all the tropes in this one, but I still liked it. I liked Celaena because she wasn’t some mousy, timid, doesn’t-know-she’s-beautiful type. She’s vain, mouthy, arrogant, and very very proud of her abilities and status. She has a softer side and a lot of pain and regret, so she’s a somewhat well-rounded character. I also liked Chaol, for reasons mostly unknown, or maybe I just liked him more than I liked Dorian. Hell, I liked Kaltain more than I liked Dorian. Dorian has his own issues, but he’s still about as deep as a mud puddle. I liked the writing and the pacing, even though the book is a little long (and I hear they just get looooonger). I also would have liked to see a little of Celaena actually assassinating people instead of just telling us all about how she used to assassinate people, but this book is not about that, it’s about this weird love triangle, and supposedly it’s about the quest to become Champion, even though we all know right off the bat that Celaena is going to win. In all, I found this one to be pretty standard, typical YA fantasy, which is probably why it’s so popular. The standard formula works and appeals to lots of people. I just wish Celaena could take some pointers from Ismae or Sybella.
I just found this to be SO BORING. It took me almost two months to read and I had to force myself to do it. I got stuck at the three-quarter mark and just couldn’t force myself to finish. I eventually had to quit. I read something like 4 or 5 books in between putting this down and picking it back up. I love fantasy, but I didn’t love this.