Summary from Audible:
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 exhilirating. 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.
Wow. Just wow. Before we get to the actual review, I just want to express the amount of fangirling that came out of when when I got this for review. I’ve been wanting to read this series since I finished Maas’ A Court Of Thorns And Roses. I’ve heard amazing things about it. Everyone LOVES this series and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I’ve also been in a bit of a reading slump, getting tired of reading the same story over and over in contemporary romances. I love them, but sometimes it gets too repetitive and this was the perfect thing to get me over it. Now, with that fangirling out of the way, we can continue on.
I loved all the characters here. One worry I always have going into fantasy novels is how well the characters will be developed. Maybe I’ve just read some bad fantasy in the past, but it always seems like they focus more on the world and the bigger picture than the individual characters. I’m a very character driven reader, so this presents obvious problems. That was not the case here, thank goodness. Sarah J Maas really knows how to make you love her characters. Celaena is badasses and awesome, but flawed and human simultaneously. She’s smart and snarky and completely confident in herself in her abilities. I think that’s something we need much more of in YA, more girls who know how awesome they are as opposed to those who whine about how ugly they are while all the guys flock to them anyway. But even as confident as she is, she is aware of her short-comings, in a begrudging way. I wholly enjoyed every aspect of her character. I kinda want to step into her skin and BE her.
Then we have Dorian and Chaol, the love interests. I’ve heard a lot of talk about both characters, but I’m on the fence. Each one had their own merits. Dorian is sweet and bookish and witty and handsome. Chaol seems to understand Celaena better than anyone else. At this moment, I’m leaning slightly towards to Dorian side, but I could easily be swayed! I mean, that gift he gives her for Yulemas? Let’s just say that’s the perfect gift in my opinion. And Sarah, nothing better happen to that gift, you get me?
Beyond the main triangle, we have a plethora of side characters, all of whom felt very fleshed out. I hated the bad guys, I loved the good guys, and I especially hated the empty-headed social ladder climber Kaltain. That bitch is so stupid and she gets what’s coming to her! Don’t get me wrong, I hated the king and the duke and the other asshat competitors, but something about Kaltain rubbed me the wrong way immediately and I could wait to see her comeuppance.
The world is beautiful and terrible. It’s not overly complex in a way that overwhelms you, but it is a completely different world. Maas does a great job at introducing elements slowly, instead of dumping everything on you at once. That is another reason I’m weary of fantasy even though I usually end of loving them. I don’t just want to be dropped into the world expecting to pickup every minute detail as soon as I start. My brain is not going to process it and I’m only going to remember half of what you write if that is how you do it. Maas eases us into her world. And her writing is beautiful. You’d think reading about an assassin would be gruesome and gory, but even in those moments, Maas’ writing comes of as magical.
Basically, this novel is amazing. It’s smart and funny and enrapturing. It grabs your attention and holds onto it for dear life. I can easily see why this series (and her work in general) gets so much hype!
I didn’t realize it until I started writing this review, but this is not the first thing I’ve listened to with Elizabeth Evans as the narrator. She also did part 1 and 2 of Colleen Hoover’s and Tarryn Fisher’s Never Never series. I didn’t recognize her voice at all! That is an improvement because I was not overly impressed with her work in those two novellas. Here, however, she shines brightly. Her pace is perfect and she does so many voice variations that it’s easy to forget that one person is reading the story to you instead of a cast of actors. I think she is the perfect Celaena and I’m very glad that I listened to this on audio instead of reading it on my own. I think she adds more to the story. Plus, Maas is notorious for having crazy names and this way I don’t ever have to wonder if I’m saying it correctly!
****Thank you to Esther Bochner at Audible for providing me with an audio copy in exchange for an honest review****