Sarah J Maas Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
Celaena is serving a life sentence, hard labour in the salt mines, a place where few live longer than a year. She is famous, famous for being a killer for hire. Then the son of the despotic king comes to visit. The king wants a champion, someone prepared to do his dirty work. There will be a competition to decide who this will be, with each Lord of the realm supporting a contender. The Prince wants Calaena to be his and if she wins after 3 years she will gain her freedom. But first she has to win and also decide whether it all is too much to pay, even for her freedom.
I don’t think words can describe quite how much I loved this book. It has the same kind of feel as Maria Snyder and Trudi Canavan’s books, two of my favourite authors. Before becoming a school librarian and switching to Teen, YA and children’s books, my genre of choice was fantasy. It was lovely to return to this, but in a more accessible format. This books contains most of the elements you would expect from a high or epic fantasy novel, yet at the same time I didn’t feel as though I had to take notes.
And pure fantasy this is, Maas has created a fantastic world and some very real characters. The language is richly descriptive meaning the reader can create a detailed picture in their heads. I really felt as though I knew the castle by the end of the book. Calaena is my favourite kind of fantasy character a strong female, with some flaws. The relationship she builds with both the Prince and the Captain feel very meaningful. There is a hint of the now typical love triangle, so prevalent at the moment in YA books. But this doesn’t feel forced at any point. It doesn’t dominate the book either. The journey that Calaena takes is more important. I loved the fact that the author still retains some mystery to the main character. You are given hints to her background, but not everything is explained. New information only comes out at the relevant points and this only adds to the tension and the desire to carry on reading. This is not a short book yet I still read it in a day, I felt so drawn into this new world that I just needed to know what came next. The book also ends well with a lot of questions tied up yet enough left open for the books to come. I do really like this, I’m not sure my nerves can cope with all these cliffhanger endings, much as I love them. It’s refreshing to read a book where I look forward to the next, but don’t feel desperate to know.
Sometimes, when there is such a strong central character other characters don’t feel as well drawn. This is definitely not the case here. Even characters not seem very often have their own personality quirks, and like most fantasy novels you do meet a quite a few characters. Others you get to meet quite a lot and I felt as though I got to know them as much as the main character.
I read this book as an e-galley, but have seen the cover since and it is beautiful! I also think it’s great that it doesn’t look too old style fantasy as I think that this is the perfect book to introduce people to a new to them genre. Verdict: Introduces a richly described world with well written characters, with a hell of a good story too. Really looking forward to the next one. Reviewed by Alison