Life in Endovier, the worst of all of the King of Adarlan’s death camps, is brutal and Calaena Sardothien has the physical scars to prove it.
BackbreaLife in Endovier, the worst of all of the King of Adarlan’s death camps, is brutal and Calaena Sardothien has the physical scars to prove it.
Backbreaking labor, inhumane living conditions and the constant threat of violence practically guarantee that Endovier’s prisoners don’t last more than a few months within it’s heavily guarded walls. The fact that 18-year-old Calaena has lasted an entire year is a testament to the ruthless training by Arbynn Hame, the King of the Assassins and man to whom she literally owes her life. It seems that no amount of training can withstand Endovier’s continued cruelty, though. Despite her self-confident swagger, she’s come close to giving up and knows in her heart that she won’t – can’t -survive another year.
Even so, she’s torn when Dorian Havilliard, Adarlan’s Crown Prince, shows up with an offer that could result in her eventual freedom. She both despises and fears the King who conquered her homeland and most likely ordered her parent’s brutal murder a decade earlier. The shame of aligning herself with the tyrant who is bent on bringing every realm within Elirea under his violent rule is almost unbearable, but Calaena ultimately agrees to be the Prince’s Champion because she is a survivor.
She’s also smart, extremely self-confident and outwardly unapologetic for the difficult choices she’s been forced to make. She’s proud of her reputation as the most skilled killer-for-hire in all of Elirea and won’t be shamed by the disdain of the attractive Prince Dorian or rigid Chaol Westfall, Adarlan’s Captain of the Guard. She hates to lose, even one competition, nor does she feel the need to run to a guy every time she’s confronted with a dangerous situation, like when she like when she discovers the truth behind the gruesome murders of several other Champions. At the same time, she uses the effect she has on the opposite sex to get what she needs without guilt or remorse.
Yet Calaena isn’t yet so hardened that she doesn’t love the silks and frills of beautiful dresses, the comforts of the palace or the increased attentions of both Prince Dorian and Chaol. She still is able to experience happiness even after all of the heartbreaking losses she’s suffered. She still has hopes, still suffers from shyness and nervousness around the opposite sex, still finds some way to remain loyal to those she cares for despite all of the secrets she carries. Including her surprising feelings for both Prince Dorian and Chaol. Yes, a love triangle does develop but Maas doesn’t make it into a case of insta-love. Instead, Maas uses the way in which the very different relationships with two very different men develop to reveal new facets of Calaena’s history and character.
Because of this approach, I don’t feel as though either male character was fully developed. Prince Dorian is the flirtatious pretty boy who despises his father and wants to break away from his evil rule. Chaol is the duty-bound best friend who has made great sacrifices to follow the course he sees before him. Now that Calaena’s character is established, I hope that these characters and Calaena’s relationships with them will change as the series continues because I think they could both offer so much more to the story.
Overall, Maas has done a great job of creating a strong female heroine and an intriguing, well-written story. It’s a bit more PG than the stories I typically go for, but there’s enough action and tension between the characters to keep me interested enough in their futures to continue with the series. ...more