The Assassin's Blade is a compilation of five interrelated novellas that take place about a year before the first book in this series, Throne of GlassThe Assassin's Blade is a compilation of five interrelated novellas that take place about a year before the first book in this series, Throne of Glass. Each one can be read separately, but work best together, showing how the infamous assassin Celaena Sardothien went from being rich, spoiled and deadly, to being a slave in the salt mines of Endovier.
These five novellas go a long way towards rectifying one of the main complaints I had with that first book, namely that we were shown almost no proof of Celaena's supposed assassin talents. Maas kept telling us how badass and assassinatrixy she was, and meanwhile we saw almost no evidence of it. And when she was in tough circumstances, a lot of the time she doesn't behave like a trained assassin, just a dumb, oblivious teenager. There was still a bit of that in this book, actually, but we can probably also chalk that up to the other thing I have a problem with in Maas's writing, which is still a problem even after this book, and that's her predictable plotting skills. Celaena is dumb and oblivious because Maas needs her to be unaware of practically everything that goes on around her, otherwise it would reveal the "surprise" of Maas's plots. But: they aren't surprises. I called every single thing that happened, and that just ended up making Celaena look incompetent. She is not subtle, and I hope going forward she'll lay off the "plot twists" and focus on her strengths, which is feeeeelings.
These aren't like most YA novellas on the market these days, which are mostly fun extras that fans can skip if they like. These novellas seem pretty crucial, and though I don't have proof of it yet, I'm fairly certain a lot of the events in all five novellas will become relevant later in the series. It was a good call to publish them all in hard copy form to emphasize their importance.
I will say that I timed this perfectly. Book five is coming out in a little over a month, and I'm all caught up. Honestly, I wish the last book was ouI will say that I timed this perfectly. Book five is coming out in a little over a month, and I'm all caught up. Honestly, I wish the last book was out right now, because the last fifty pages or so of this one made me intensely curious about how this series is going to end. Which is good news! Because throughout the first half of this one, I was going to three-star it and hope for the best for book five.
What charmed me so much about the first book, Written in Red, was how immersive it was to this new world and its characters. We were in Meg's head as she got to know Simon and Sam and Tess and Vlad and Henry, etc. But as the books have been widening in scope, other POV characters have found their way into the narrative, and the focus has shifted away from Meg and to the world at large. I get why she did this. The scope of what happens at the end here, with (view spoiler)[The Elders choosing to wipe out all but a few human settlements protected or befriended by The Others (hide spoiler)], is a really big deal, and changes the world these books take place in forever.
Anne Bishop, at least in this series, has a tendency anyway to write logistically and methodically. Characters are always talking about what they've done, what they need to do, how they did it, how they are going to do it, etc. That didn't bother me for the first three books, which were more focused on the Lakeside characters, but here where there was so many new characters and locations, my attention was forced to spread out, that logistical focus just made it harder for me to connect emotionally to what was going on. Luckily by the end, the events going on were so massive my attention and emotions were forced to become involved. But I really hope it's back to focusing on Meg and Simon and the other Lakeside characters in the next one, because that's what I really love.
I will say, I appreciate very much the way that this series portrays the conflict between the humans and The Others. For as fantastic as the players are, their reactions all seem very real, and a little bit too relevant, frankly. I'm not naïve enough to think we're going to get a simple happy ending to the conflict between the two groups, but I hope we get at least a hint of one, a way for the two groups to respect each other going forward. Oh, and also Meg and Simon need to get together already. That part is very important. I think taking it super slow was the right choice for Meg's character, (view spoiler)[especially since it's all but confirmed near the end of this book that Meg was sexually assaulted, perhaps multiple times, when she was living in the compound, and that's why Simon being a wolf and not a "man" is so comforting to her (hide spoiler)]. But I'm ready for it to happen already. It's time.
[3.5 stars, rounding up because the second half was back on track]...more
NB: I received a finished copy of this book as part of a marketing campaign, but that has not affected the content of my review.
This book was disappoiNB: I received a finished copy of this book as part of a marketing campaign, but that has not affected the content of my review.
This book was disappointing and pretty poorly written, but not worthless. There are far better books about Scientology out there, so don’t make this your first stop. But there are a few interesting glimmers here I haven’t read in any other Scientology books, so if the subject matter is something that really gets you going, you may want to check Ruthless out anyway.
The title (and subtitle) may have clued you in, but just in case, this book was written by Ron Miscavige, the father of David Miscavige, who currently heads up the “church” of Scientology. RM (as I will call him) ostensibly decided to write this book after an incident in a parking lot, where the private investigators RM’s son had following him thought they saw RM having a heart attack, and when they checked in with David, he reportedly told them not to offer any assistance, letting him die if that’s how things went. RM took this inciting incident, which occurred about a year after he left Scientology, and uses it basically as an excuse to tell us his life’s story, when the book is marketed like it’s all about his son.
I’ll be honest, most of this book was dull as turds. RM has led a more interesting life than most people, and yet reading about it is about as exciting as watching said turds dry in the sun. That combined with the beyond basic writing style, and an emptiness of content, meant that most of this book was not engaging at all. It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that it became interesting. Then again, it really is very difficult to make the abuses one suffers under a cult uninteresting*, so I don’t think RM should get much of that credit.
*I remain completely fascinated by the fact that what pushed RM out of Scientology at last was not the violation of privacy, terrible working conditions, literal physical abuses and deprivations, emotional terror, and essentially being a prisoner in his own mind. No, it was that RM lost his job composing music and no longer felt useful as a man, so when he asked David to intervene for him and help him have a purpose again and David didn’t, RM wanted out.
Overall, this book as a whole feels like RM wanted to examine how his son turned out the way he did, but didn’t actually want to place any blame on himself. He makes nods towards examining his own role in his son’s life, but there’s no meat in it. It just ends up feeling like a big mea culpa, that in the end accepts no responsibility at all. I also think ex-Scientology members maybe need to spend a little more time outside of the cult before they write their books. He was still fresh as a daisy when he wrote this, still professing to believe a lot of the tenets of the religion. He needed more time. This out-in-a-physical-sense, but still-inside-in-his-head mindset, actually dovetails with the book acting as more of a defense, an apologia, than honest reflection, though he does have some really interesting things to say about the meaning of freedom, and allowing others to take away your basic human rights in exchange for, well, anything. Safety, security, salvation . . .
I think this book would have been better with more time on the author’s part reflecting, more hard facts, and a better ghostwriter. I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more to be found here, though I’m not unhappy I read it....more