Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Genre: YA, high fantasy, AWESOME
Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: 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.
☆: 4/5 – one of the most imaginative YA high-fantasy efforts this year!
Review: THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS. This is one of the books releasing this year that gives me hope for the high fantasy genre in YA. It mixes pirates and ninjas and witches and deserts with a Middle Eastern feel to everything and was absolutely lovely. Though there were a few issues I had with it, you better believe that I’m reading the sequel when it comes out next year. “The Assassin’s Curse” is one of the most creative looks at fantasy in YA so far, and definitely makes it to the best of 2012 list.
Okay, so my issues with the book: Leila. She wasn’t fleshed out very much, yet she’s apart of one of the larger sub-plots of the book. This book is a pretty quick read, so when you have an antagonist that’s important in such a short book and have them only kind of sketched out, it’s a bit of a problem. She’s one of Naji’s old flames, and she basically teases him for over half of the book. While I liked the tension she helped insert into Ananna and Naji’s journey, I wanted to know more about her. I understand she was just a pit-stop on the way to a larger part of the story, but considering she’s part of the foundation of that larger part, I feel like she could have been a bit better developed. It brought my enjoyment down a fair bit, but I’m hoping this will get fixed in the second book, due out next year.
The rest of it, though? Absolutely gorgeous. Clarke has a great way with sensory imagery and language, and I was totally intoxicated by this land of witches and pirates and ninjas and assassins and deserts and oceans AND ICE ISLANDS. YES. THEY FLOAT. IT’S AWESOME. I really hope a map of the Empire and beyond is included in the final edition of this book, because 1) I can’t wait to see where things are in a visual format and 2) we kind of need one. We do know we’re going away from the sea ports, into the desert and beyond, so it would be great to see how that would work in a map format. Otherwise, Clarke has created a wonderful, wonderful world that has the characters knit back into it (one of my checkboxes for awesome worldbuilding), and I just want more of it. I’m hoping it’ll be longer than two books because I can totally see more Naji and Ananna shenanigans going on for longer than that. Make it happen, Clarke!
All of the other characters other than Leila are fleshed out really well, and there were no other snags I hit when reading. It’s quite the addictive read, and I was sad when I reached the final page. I did want more fleshing out of the Mists (is it a different dimension? We get a sort-of answer, but not a clear, final answer), and more on the Ice Islands Wizard that tried to help Ananna and Naji toward the end of the book. Otherwise, though, I had no big issues with it. Clarke does well with the high fantasy genre, and I think she’s definitely one to watch within YA lit as a whole.
Finally, the romance: it’s very natural in how it develops, THERE IS NO LOVE TRIANGLE, and it’s realistic. Ananna doesn’t immediately fall for Naji, and the two of them fight each other the entire book when it comes to the curse binding them together. It felt right, and it made me want to cheer them on.
This one is a smooth, clean read that will work well with YA readers of all ages. I really enjoyed it, and it has me excited for Strange Chemistry’s future releases. It is, in fact, my Eye on Indies pick for September/October 2012, and I hope it gets a lot more attention once it does finally pub. “The Assassin’s Curse” is out October 2, 2012 from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot in North America, October 8th in the UK. This one is really fun, guys, so be sure to check it out then!