21 January 2013

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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.

I had all kinds of wild expectations for The Assassin's Curse: there had to be romance, but not of the sneak-in-through-the-window-and-watch-you-sleep variety; the main character had to be kickass but not untouchable and immovable; the world had to be fully realized and epic; and, the plot had to be exciting and fresh.  For a woman with such a sugar-topped name as "Cassandra Rose Clarke," she sure knows how to write a story to surpass all expectations.

The world of The Assassin's Curse makes me want to toss my computer aside and head for a pirate ship.  While Clarke's writing style wasn't fantastic, it fit the story.  So as I read, I could easily imagine the chatter of the day market, the rush of a hot desert wind, and the crash of waves against a ship on the open sea.  I loved the design of the assassins with their desert masks, of how their tattoos and eyes glow like Avatar arrows.  But, I feel like Clarke's only scratching the surface in this first installment, like she's just laying the foundation and secretly chuckling, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Which reminds me of Ananna's character, a girl of many layers.  The absolute refusal of an arranged marriage has been around since Romeo & Juliet, but would Romeo's father have sent an assassin after Juliet for marrying his son?  Would Juliet have fought back, accidentally saved the assassin's life and end up bound to him?  Didn't think so.  Ananna's character was on a knife's edge: if she got too cocky, she would risk coming off as fake and irritating, but if she strayed too much to the soft side, she'd appear fluffy and superficial.  Ananna was a girl who took a stand, called people's BS (even the dude she took a shining to), and backed up her arguments.  I loved how her insecurities were not shrouded by bravado in her narration.  She was strong, but not without empathy.

I could totally get into the story.  While the writing style could've been a little deeper, could've stood for a little more polish, it had a certain... je ne sais quoi.  But what was important was that Clarke knew how to develop the story in a way that heightened the suspense while delving deeper into the characters.  The stakes were laid out starkly, so that I understood perfectly why Ananna would quake with fear, or rise to face her attacker.

The Assassin's Curse is what I would shamelessly call "masterful."  I was hooked from page one, and had such difficulty putting it down!  And when I did manage to yank myself away from the page, the characters would follow me and stalk me while I went about my day.  I love books that manage to do that, invade my world so thoroughly.  And with the way Assassin's Curse ended, I'm on tenterhooks for the next book, which doesn't come out until June?!  If it's one mark against Assassin's Curse, it's how much I fell in love with it and how much it makes me want the sequel, which I'm going to have to wait forever for!

She moved like water, graceful and soft and lovely. Every part of me wanted to stick out my foot and trip her, just to see her stumble.
"Ananna's learning mathematics," Naji said.

Atano howled with laughter, too stupid or too intent on acting the bully to notice that Naji hadn't answered his question.  My face turned how like it had a sunburn but I kept scribbling cause I wanted to learn navigation more than I wanted Atano to like me.

"The hell?" Atano asked.  "That's even better'n the idea of her writing spells."  He laughed again.

"Don't you got deck duty?" I muttered.  It was hard to concentrate on the equation with him standing there gaping at me.

"You can't tell me what to do," he said.

"She will once she learns navigation," Naji said, "and you're serving under her colors."

I stopped writing, embarrassed as hell but also a little bit pleased that Naji thought I could be a captain someday.

There was this long pause while Atano stared at Naji.  "She ain't never gonna be my captain."

"Yes, that's probably true," Naji said.  "Since I doubt she would require the services of someone as incompetent as you."

Book Info
  • pages - paperback, 320
  • published - October 2012
  • publisher - Strange Chemistry
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - The Assassin's Curse
    • The Assassin's Curse
    • The Pirate's Wish