The allure of a new book grabs most readers on a nearly daily basis. Oftentimes, we find our next read based on what others have been enjoying recently. The Assassin’s Curse came to my attention because so many other book bloggers were reading it and raving about how good it was. Not wanting to miss out on an amazing opportunity, I made sure to get my hands on a copy and see what all the fuss was about. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, there have been plenty of fantasy novels I have enjoyed and even more to be found on my TBR. But did it live up to expectations?
Title: The Assassin’s Curse
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Series: The Assassin’s Curse #1
Page Count: 298
Publish Date: October 1, 2012
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.
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The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.
Fair warning: This review is more a rant than a review. Spoilers ahoy!
I had high hopes for this book. Based on the synopsis and the reviews I had read I was quite eager to get my hands on a copy of it. So when I was sent a copy of it from the publisher I was excited. Sadly once I started to read it my opinion of the book was quickly swayed in the other direction.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t entirely enjoy books written in first person. Though I admit I’ve gotten better about reading them over the last few months, reading that first sentence made me cringe a bit. Not only is it written in first person but then I felt like I was reading a narrative from someone who lives in the southern states. Also, the content of the first sentence made me shake my head.
I ain’t never been one to trust beautiful people and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw.
I nearly laughed at that. I can’t say why. Maybe because it doesn’t seem like the type of opening that should draw anyone into the story. But it made me pause and certainly interrupted the flow of that first paragraph. But I made myself continue on because surely it would get better, once it got past this awkward scene. Some books start off slow, it’s an inevitable part of world-building and introducing the main characters, these things aren’t always the most exciting part of the book but later on prove to be invaluable information to the story as a whole. Now while it did seem to pick up just a bit as Ananna made her escape from her future husband I was hoping this would be the part where the story would truly start to unfold for the better. The threat of an assassin hunting her down for running off was sure to be exciting. And honestly, it’s something I could see one pirate do to another. If you can’t kill them yourselves, as some pirates would, then hire an assassin to do it.
Now, before we get too involved in the assassin’s part of the story I want to take a moment and talk about the magic. I have to admit the idea of magical pirates didn’t really appeal to me. It felt more like an excuse to add magic to the story than anything else. Now, there was some good reasoning behind the magic at some points, for example, Ananna’s mother used water magic to help them while out in the sea. That makes perfect sense even if I don’t particularly like the idea of magical pirates. Of course, it wasn’t just the pirates who had magic, but the assassins and several other characters along the way as well. The more magic I saw in the book the less I enjoyed it. However, let’s face it, there will always be parts of a book that one person does or doesn’t like, and this happened to be the part I was unhappy to see in The Assassin’s Curse.
Getting back to the assassin. So after ditching her future husband Ananna inevitably finds an assassin on her heels, which means his threat of sending an assassin had come true. Here is where I expected things to become filled with action and reach the part where I would have a hard time putting the book down. Wrong! This part seemed to drag on even more. Oh here she is wandering through the market, here she is stealing clothes (because that’s what good pirates do, steal instead of paying for things), here she is getting a room at the inn. Again I realize these parts were setting things up for something later on in the book, namely the confrontation with the assassin but it just felt so slow. Then of course there was the creepy lady in the one market. I knew she was no good from the start and couldn’t help but think Ananna was extremely foolish for trusting her.
After her initial encounter with the assassin, which had not been as thrilling as I was expecting, she faces off against him once more in the desert, this time aided by the potions given to her by the creepy market lady. This fight had a bit more action. However, she makes a mistake (accidentally saving the assassin’s life) and by doing so, Ananna ends up bringing the fight to a halt, and the assassin can no longer do his job of killing her, instead, he is bound to protect her. Thus he is struck by a curse. This curse also means Ananna can’t leave him. They are stuck together whether they like it or not. It was an interesting twist, and it’s certainly something that has shown up in other books and adds an extra element since enemies are suddenly thrust together as allies. But then it gets slow again, Ananna must now help the assassin, Naji, by shopping for him (because no one will sell to an assassin) and they must travel together to cure his curse.
So the pair must set off across the desert to hopefully find a cure to Naji’s curse. It makes me wonder if he is cured does that mean he is free to kill Ananna once more? Well, only time will tell, so I kept on reading. Finally, another action scene pops up, as Ananna and Naji are hunted down by her fiance’s pirate crew, who ironically enough have mechanized land ships for traveling across the desert. Now, this stand-off has a nice amount of action in it, I thought finally things are starting to get going, even if they are in the middle of a desert. Yes, there was a good amount of fighting, swords, daggers, and pistols firing, all good things a pirate fight about entail…even if it lacked the pirate ship as the setting. As suddenly as the fight started it was over. Disappointing but that’s how some battles go, they start and finish quickly, while others drag out for a long time.
With a possibly mortal injury, Naji is in rough shape and Ananna must tap into a magic she apparently isn’t attuned to in order to help him. Let’s continue to journey so that Naji can be hopefully cured. They need to find a river witch named Leila, who can possibly cure the curse and also help with the injury he received. And of course, Ananna doesn’t like Leila cause she is a bit too flirty with Naji. What’s that, could Ananna be falling for her assassin bodyguard? Oh probably, why wouldn’t that happen?
Now, by this point, it’s only halfway through the book. And of all the things that could happen, there was one important element missing so far. There wasn’t a pirate ship in sight, okay now she was shown on her fiance’s pirate ship shortly before she ran away from him but that’s it. I just can’t imagine a pirate not being on a ship for long, they live to be on the seas, and yet here’s one going on a little journey through the desert. At least after dealing with Leila they finally get on a boat, but it felt far too long to get there. Plus it wasn’t a large pirate ship, just a little riverboat. I suppose it’s better than nothing though, and how large of a ship can just two people handle anyways? Oh did I mention that the boat was magical too? Why not! Everything else in this book was magical in some way, so of course poor Ananna was stuck on a boat she needed to do nothing on because the magic did it all for her. So much for getting to use all her pirate sailing skills. At least when they made it to the port city they were able to get on a real ship and have Ananna show off her work on a ship.
Of course, sadly that part didn’t happen. Other than mentioning her being up on the rigging a few times there was a lack of talking about her work on the ship. Sure she got to learn a bunch about navigation but I honestly would have liked to see a bit detailing the work on the ship. I realize some people might have found such a thing boring but adding even a small amount of those details to the book would have shown that there was research done on what it took to work on a pirate ship or any large ship for that matter.
So stuff happens, though nothing special, and they eventually make it to the Isles of the Sky, which is basically a magical island of magic and the home of a wizard. More things happen, though again nothing that popped out at me as something to finally bring the story to the appealing side. Sure there is a bit of action but not enough to satisfy me.
Finally, the end of the book arrives, which of course really gets them no closer to curing Naji than they were before (yes there are a few tasks that may help them but even they don’t feel like enough) and I felt the ending was a bit anti-climatic considering it’s the start of a series. If there is another book coming the ending should make you want to read the next book and hate the fact that you have to wait for it to come out. Not the case with this book, I was just glad it was over.
Note: One thing to the story’s advantage is that it could be very flexible to fit into any other possible subject that the YA genre seems focused on. For example: If you were to take this book and replace assassin with pirate and pirate with a vampire, edit a couple of paragraphs here and there, turn the ship/island/desert into a high school/mall/house, and it’s a brand new story. It would be like the next Twilight or any other book out there currently that focuses on the vampire and werewolf trend.
Summary: Was I disappointed with The Assassin’s Curse? Yes. Was I disappointed that I read it? No, because every book has the potential to be good or bad, but you will never know until you read it. Would I recommend this book to others? Yes, but only if I thought they would enjoy it. Will I read the next book in the series? More than likely not.
Have you read The Assassin’s Curse? What did you think?