Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)'s Reviews > The Assassin's Curse

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
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Wow - what a beautiful and original cover; I defy anyone to see that and not want to at least peak at the inside novel. I caught sight of this beautiful, evocative cover a few weeks ago on GoodReads and once it had popped up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. For once, this is not a case of a beautiful, alluring young adult cover hiding a big ol' mess of plot and characters inside (unlike numerous others I could name that lied to my eyes); this is a novel worth that eye-catching picture. Boasting a wholly fun and quick-moving storyline about Pirate Confederations, blood-magic, assassins, battles and more, The Assassin's Curse tries for a lot for a debut novel and happily, it succeeds in most of those areas. Immediately entertaining, original and full of compelling characters, this is a welcome addition to the fast-growing young-adult fantasy genre. Fans of the soon-to-released Seraphina and other such fantasy offerings will find a new strong heroine to root for and identify with, in an alien but vaguely familiar world, populated with the weird and strange sprung from this author's fertile imagination.

Though The Assassin's Curse is truly just a bit too short to see all its potential awesome to its full fruition, this is a novel rich in imagination and atmosphere. With islands of mists that can drive men mad, magic, pirate allegiances and Orders of assassins, there's an obviously medievally-influenced fantasy feel to the world being built by this author and it works for both the story and the characters being created. And the characters are a tretat -- for all that I was enveloped in the feel of Clarke's world, the strength of this novel rests mainly on its strong teen protagonist Ananna and her foil, the withdrawn Naji. With a sluggish, almost juvenile beginning, it was my interest in the mythology and in Ananna's story that kept me engaged. As it turns out, the novel matures from its initial impression of simplicity as its leading heroine does: quickly and smoothly once the narrative gets going. The introductory infodumps are not the best method of storytelling (duh), and thankfully the author matures out of that foible soon enough.

Ananna is one of those memorable heroines: strong, difficult, smart, and deadly. She is a wonderfully complicated, flawed woman - this is a girl who will kill to stay alive but will feel regret for it after. She's a hard woman, but not a cruel one -- and that's perfect for the cutthroat pirate world she hails from. A wide-eyed innocent wouldn't escaped from her wedding on a stolen camel, but a fully proficient one wouldn't be caught in the situation she finds herself in with Naji. It's a delicate balance, but one that is well-struck here. The first person POV is used skillfully with this particular protagonist; though I did grow tired of certain phrases she used, I felt connected to the independently-minded Miss Taranau immediately. Her strong and defiant voice, coupled with the conversational tone of the novel make for a vibrantly fleshed-out young-woman. I was really impressed with the air cultivated for both Ananna and Naji - both are prickly and difficult people, but you root for them because of (or in spite of?) their often harsh outlooks. Naji, whom I love, does still need a lot of personal development. I'm a sucker for any brooding assassin but I hope more characterization is down the road for him. A tortured love interest is well and good -- but don't leave it at that alone. Naji has potential and though I love him, I will be pissed if he is wasted and becomes a stagnant character.

As much as I was wrapped up in Ananna's inner monologue and travails, I didn't fail to notice that some aspects of this novel can feel a bit shortchanged, and that the plot can feel a bit thin in places. There's a lot of rushing about from place to place, long treks from one location to the next, all to find Person X and then Gandalf Dumbledore, the old Hermit Mystic Wizard trope...which didn't exactly light me on fire with its originality or do anything to fix the lack of tension. Those are all fairly common fantasy tropes and its a shame to see a novel as original as The Assassin's Curse fall prey to such easy traps. Ananna and Naji are more than able to carry the novel and create momentum between them that makes me want to read, but I never really felt any tension or suspense when confronted with the Mists, or other enemies. There's not a lot of worldbuilding here, and as this is character-driven, I'll allow a pass. For now. The bittersweet ending is open-ended enough for a sequel or companion novel (in fact, I am counting on a series for this) and that is one area that sorely needs some detail and attention.

Cassandra Rose Clarke is an author to watch. This novel was quick, fun, unique and filled with two wonderfully imagined characters -- all the more impressive for The Assassin's Curse being her first. Though not free of a few pitfalls, I greatly enjoyed reading this and eagerly look forward to the next adventure on the horizon for these two characters.
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Reading Progress

06/14 page 1
0.0% "I am so so stoked to read this one. I just hope my high expectations don't come back to bite me!

(Also the digital ARC only has 188 pages. Definitely not 416.)" 5 comments
06/14 page 208
50.0% "Roughly halfway, thus the 208.

Enjoying this (and Ananna) very much."
06/15 page 365
88.0% "So close to the end, totally not ready to end this. I really like Ananna, but I love Naji." 7 comments
01/05 page 15
5.0% "Reread time!"

Comments (showing 1-11)

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message 11: by Lauren (new) - added it

Lauren I have this one to read! I have several others I have to get to first, but I'm really excited for this one.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Oh my god I want this one so so bad. I can practically taste it - you're so lucky to have one!! I can't wait for your review of it. I'll be so pissed if I don't get accepted on NG!

message 9: by Blythe (new) - added it

Blythe I was just accepted for this a few hours ago! I can't wait to start it!

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Nice one! I hope I get it. I may cry if I don't. Just Kidding!

(view spoiler)

message 6: by Karina (new)

Karina Halle Nice review, I got this too (fucking...rhymes) - looking forward to it now!

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Hahaha I love when I talk and then realize it's a rhyme. I think to think I get +2 points on the great scoreboard of the world.

I hope you like it! It's a lot of fun and super easy to read :)

message 4: by Christina (new)

Christina Wilder The font on the cover is crazy awesome.

Alexandra One of my favorite covers! Good review :D

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) thanks so much, Alexandra! And yes ---- this cover is forever a favorite!

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