Disclaimer: This review may turn into a discussion at the end of the nonspoiler section. All opinions are 100% honest and my own opinion. To know how I review my books and the YA Bookish News review policy, please go here.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
This novel had me drawn into the book from the very started. Now, I do have to warn you guys that I have tried to read this book before. I think the difference from before and after, is that before: I guess I wasn’t in the mood to read YA high fantasy novel. And the difference from before and after is well I guess I was in the mood because I was immediately drawn into this world that Sarah J. Maas has created. This novel is taken place in a world where Ardalan has banished the use of magic from all around the world. Ardalan is a country that seeks to conquer all of the worlds slowly and brutally. They send their most notorious criminals and rebels to the worst place on earth: death camps.
One of the worst death camps is in Endovier where we meet our main protagonist, Caelena Sardothien, the world’s most notorious assassin. Whenever her name has been said, people cringe at her name and look behind their backs. At the beginning of the novel, Caelena’s vicious and snide. She has a hatred for Ardalan because of what they have done to her in the death camp. However, as vicious as she is and as murderous as she is, she still does have her humanity. One of the most interesting qualities that Caelena has is that she has interests in books and piano. I think that surprises most people like Chaol and Dorian which brings me to my next point. Although its not explicitly expressed in the story, Sarah J. Maas explores themes such as feminism, humanity, and morality. One would never stop to think that murders such as Caelena would have any of these qualities inside of them because people would just simply jump to the conclusion that she’s a murderer. But she’s not. She’s an 18 year old girl who’s profession just has to be an assassin.
While there are much to be said about Caelena, I have to note that this is told in multiple perspectives which brings us a better experience because as much as I like Caelena, I want to know more about the other characters as well. I have read novels that fails to do a good job at transitioning point of views because the narrative tends to blur together, however, Maas does a wonderful job at distinguishing the characters and having different personalities for each of the characters.
Some people lower their rating because of the love triangle in this book (no this is not a spoiler because it says it in the back of the book or inside flap cover), but I didn’t. Normally, I despise YA love triangles because some of them are too predictable, underdeveloped, and monotonous. However, as predictable as this YA love triangle is, it has a beautiful build up to the relationship. This love triangle almost reminds me of the love triangle in The Infernal Devices trilogy, which I fear it might end up being like that and that was just a overwhelming emotional catastrophe (but a good catastrophe ?).
Although the plot could be predictable at times, I think Maas could surprise us with a plot twist in the next book. Speaking of which, I have so many of my own theories about the next novel I cannot wait to discuss them with you guys in the spoiler part of the review.
As for now, all you have to do is trust me when I tell you that you will read this book, love this book, fangirl over this book, and then come back to discuss some of the spoiler-y parts with us. It’s a Hunger Games meets Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire type of book, so if you’re interested in YA high fantasy and of the novels I have mentioned then hopefully you will enjoy this book as much as I did.
Discussion (a.k.a SPOILERS, MAJOR SPOILERS, RUN AWAY BEFORE YOU CAN or specifically RUN AWAY TO A BOOKSTORE SO YOU COULD BUY THIS BOOK, READ IT, AND THEN COME BACK AND DISCUSS WITH US)
Okay, okay first thing’s first: I just love how Caelena loves to tease Dorian and Chaol. There were just so many laugh out loud moments. Here’s a couple of my favorite scenes:
“Are you found of dogs?” asked the prince. She nodded. Why was it already so hot? “Am I going to be blessed with the pleasure of hearing your voice, or have you resolved to be silent for the duration of our journey?”
“I’m afraid your questions didn’t merit a verbal response.”
Dorian bowed low. “Then I apologize, my lady! How terrible it must be to condescend to answer! Next time, I’ll try to think of something more stimulating to say.”
The other moment is the day before Yulemas, Chaol walked in when Caelena wasn’t feeling well because of her cramps. Chaol was in the middle of speaking when Caelena vomited. I mean, Caelena did try to warn Chaol but he just didn’t get the hint unfortunately. It was just hilarious when he started to flush and walked out of the room. And then, moments later Dorian came into the room acting casually.
Oh my gosh you guys, both of these scenes just had my bursting with laughter. I honestly did not expect Dorian to respond back like that. For the Crown Prince to act like that and have a cruel and brutal father that claims he’s the King, it makes me wonder if Dorian is adopted. Which brings me to my first theory: I definitely think that Queen Georgina could have slept with someone else in the castle. Now I say that Queen Georgina could be Dorian’s biological mother because it seems to me that Queen Georgina really does care and love Dorian. On the other hand though, the King of Ardalan despises his son a lot which makes me jump to the conclusion that Dorian could have been just adopted or maybe he’s just his stepson. Now Hollin on the other hand is most likely related to his father because of his mischievous behaviors. Maas doesn’t mention too much about Hollin, but I think that he’ll most likely appear in the next couple of books because Queen Georgina or Dorian mentioned that he would come back for the Spring, so maybe in the next book. But when Hollin comes back, I do smell trouble in the air.
Speaking of trouble, was it too obvious that Cain was the one behind the murders of the Champions? By the time Caelena mentioned how bulky Cain is getting, I definitely suspected him to be the suspect. I also suspected the King was plotting something too because he has been gone for awhile. And as a King, if you hear that a murderer is happening within the walls of your castle, wouldn’t you come back to the kingdom to inspect what is going on? But then again, he is the “King” so we wouldn’t want him to die so early on the book. But if he did though…I think everyone would be happier, but then again why are we getting 6 books to begin with right?
By the end of the book, we’ve practically been comfortable with all of the characters. Now I think it was the second to the last Test that Caelena had told Nox what is going on within the walls of the castle. I didn’t think it would be so easy for Nox to escape, but I don’t think that will be the last time we will see Nox. I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s some tugging feeling in the back of my mind that Nox might play an important role in this story which I hope he does because I’m not going to lie, I kind of did have a small teeny tiny crush on Nox.
Then we have this whole ordeal with the King and Wyrdmark. The first time we were introduced Caelena has noticed the Wyrdmarks, I knew there was something important about them but I didn’t know what it was. Although it has been revealed to us a little later on in the book, that it does in fact have a important role, the question is: how important will it be and what we will discover from these marks? Also, how does the King know so much about it? And oh my gosh you guys, the last scene with the King and the duke gives me the chills. I’m just wondering cruel and evil the King really is? Because we don’t get much of the King during this book because he’s been gone for awhile. I’m pretty sure we will get more of him during the second book because Caelena has become the King’s champion, so I wonder what kind of missions will he send her on. I hope that we get the King’s perspective because I really want to know what the King is thinking about everything that is going and about Caelena. I don’t know why, but I feel like the story has just begun and Caelena has just become the bait of the story.
Speaking of the King of Ardalan, I want to discuss Caelena and her family history which may or may not have to do with the King but it could possibly have to do with Ardalan or perhaps the entire country. We know that she has been born in Terrasen, her parents had died at the age of 8, and the King of Aborryn (?) has rescued her and trained her to become an assassin. But, there was a part in the book where Caelena was in the tomb and she was thinking about Queen Elena and her possible connection with Queen Elena. Again, I have this tugging feeling in the back of my mind that Caelena and Elena could be descendants and that Caelena might be the next heir to the throne which could possible explain why one of the other titles in this series called Heir of Fire. And, I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or not but did you guys notice that Elena’s name is embedded in Caelena’s name? Is it a sign from Sarah J. Maas (a.k.a. the God of these characters) that will predict something in the near future?
The last thing I would like to discuss is Nehemia. I don’t think she showed up in the book coincidentally. I don’t think of any of the characters and events occurred coincidentally, and even Katlain and Philippa too. But anyways, when Nehemia showed up in the first scene and befriended Caelena, I had the slight impression that Nehemia might have known Caelena’s true identity. As innocent as Nehemia’s character is, she has shown to us later on in the book that she is not really who she is. Depending on how Maas will go with the story line, Nehemia might be Caelena’s friend or foe.
Those are my predictions and favorite moments of the book. Now what are yours?