February 17, 2013

The Assassin's Curse: A Panoramic Review

"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.
" (from Goodreads)

The Assassin's Curse by
Cassandra Rose Clarke

My reaction:
I felt kind of mixed about this one. The premise — a curse that more or less binds Ananna and Naji while not new, is a neat way to throw together two completely different people and force them to work with each other. It gives a reason and impetus for an emotional bond to form between them.

For the most part I enjoyed the characters, particularly Naji and Ananna. In fact, I wasn't really into the book for the first few chapters, but once Naji appeared on the scene things definitely improved. I was not a fan of Ananna's voice to start with, but I found myself warming to her as the story progressed. She's so refreshingly blunt and forward, telling it like she sees it. While her language is a little inconsistent — sometimes she sounds fairly educated, other times she's swearing and using slang — there is no question that Ananna is a smart, especially street-smart, heroine. She's very capable and resourceful, and can take care of herself; moreover, she is sometimes needed to take care of Naji, too. At other times, she needs his help, so really it's a matter of the two of them learning to rely on each other. 

Naji is a real mixture of admirable and irritating traits. He's certainly flawed, with his tendency to evasiveness, leaving out important information that might be very useful for Ananna to know, and a slightly controlling streak. But we can see that he does care about her, feeling protective of her beyond the effects of the curse.

The attraction on her side is quite clear, even if she doesn't want to admit it to herself. Indeed, it's so obvious how Ananna feels that it's almost like the author is sharing a joke with the reader about how dense Ananna's being. Naji, in contrast, doesn't appear to have a clue of how Ananna feels — and it's rather ambiguous as to whether he likes her back. Indeed, outwardly he appears to still be pining over Leila — which brings me to THE most annoying character in this book. Oh my, did I ever dislike her. She's one of those individuals who grates on your nerves and makes you grind your teeth...sort of like nails on a chalkboard. And she pretends that she's nice, which somehow just makes her even more awful. 

Best aspect: the tentative trust developing between Naji and Ananna, and the general premise of the curse. Really, their two characters are the highlight of the story. I thought the relationship thread was handled quite well, and was an interesting tack to take with a YA novel. There is certainly no danger of an "insta-love" romance here!
If I could change something... I would not leave the story feeling half-finished, as it does at the end of this first book. I understand there will be a sequel, but The Assassin's Curse ends up feeling almost like a prelude to the next installment of the story. It lacks the complete internal story arc that I look for in each book within a series. There were spaces for several chapters where there was a lull plot-wise, with not much going on (for example, when they're on the island doing all the survival things...sorry, Hatchet lovers, but it just doesn't quite cut it for me). Since the way to break this "impossible" curse isn't introduced until the end, these sections seem like filler being used to stretch the book out — and let's face it, it's not very long anyway. The problems posed by the curse, while consistent, become a little repetitive; it feels like we're always banging up against the same wall. While I haven't read the sequel, I suspect that the first two books could probably have been compressed into a single one, with some of the non-essential portions being taken out and the repetition lessened.
I'd also either flesh out the storyline involving the arranged marriage to Tarrin, or ditch it entirely and come up with another, more compelling, subplot. This one, as it's presented here, didn't really work for me. It just seemed thrown in at the beginning to give Ananna a reason to run away and start her adventures, and then again in the middle because it needed to get resolved.

If you haven't read it: and you enjoy YA traditional fantasy, I'd definitely suggest checking it out. But you might want to wait until you have the second in the series at your fingertips

If you have read it: did you find Leila as irritating as I did???

Just one more thing I want to mention: for the longest time the origins of the curse are not explained, which gave rise to both confusion and frustration on my part. Eventually we are told the story, but I found it annoying to be kept in the dark for most of the book about something that could easily have been cleared up. 

Final verdict:
3.5 shooting stars. I wasn't crazy about it, but I think there's potential here and I'm interested to see what happens in the sequel.

I received an ARC of this book for review from the publisher.


  1. I agree with you in wishing this had felt more like a complete story-it ended just as it was getting good (I loved Ananna's thoughts about true love's kiss).

  2. I expected I would love this one more than I did, but I'm with you -- it definitely dragged in parts. I wasn't really understanding of the feelings Ananna had towards Naji, but perhaps book two will fix that. I liked the idea of this book more than I liked the actual product, but it wasn't the worst. Ha, and Leila was definitely annoying! Great review!


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