Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-#0.5)Title: The Assassin’s Blade

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Series: Throne of Glass #0.1-0.5

The Verdict: Overall Verdict – ★★★★★

For: Lovers of young adult fiction, sci-fi/fantasy-esque, female protagonists with attitude to spare

Genres: Young adult, fantasy

Publication details: March 4th, 2014 by Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback, 440 pages

Links: Amazon UK Amazon US Nook iTunes Books Kobo Google Play Books

This review contains spoilers please highlight the white passages below to reveal them.

Book Synopsis: Celaena Sardothien owes her reputation to Arobynn Hamel. He gave her a home at the Assassins’ Guild and taught her the skills she needed to survive.

Arobynn’s enemies stretch far and wide – from Adarlan’s rooftops and its filthy dens, to remote islands and hostile deserts. Celaena is duty-bound to hunt them down. But behind her assignments lies a dark truth that will seal her fate – and cut her heart in two forever…

Contains all five novellas of the Throne of Glass series


My Review: The Assassin’s Blade is divided into 5 novellas – usually when you read a novella it’s between books and usually follows on from the first and leads into the second, or third to fourth etc. With The Assassin’s Blade the novellas are prequels to Throne of Glass.  I was – originally – quite dubious about this book purely based on my disinterest and dislike in young adult fiction, I purchased the Throne of Glass series at the MCM Expo in London on 23rd May when I met the author, I’d originally purchased Throne of Glass on kindle about 2 weeks before I went to the Expo then realised that the author was going to be there.

I am quite happy to say that this book blew my dubiousness to utter shreds and left me screaming for more!! Luckily, I’ve got the next one to read 😀

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord is the first of five prequel novellas and you can see that quite clearly.  The characters are introduced and their backgrounds are provided to an extent. In this novella Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assassin, is sent to collect a debt The Assassin’s Guild are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. When she learns that the debt is not in coin but in slaves – men, women and children alike – she sets out to right the wrong she’s been sent to do.

In this novella we meet Celaena Sardothien at 16 years old, protégée to Arobynn Hamel – King of the Assassins – and Sam Cortland.  Two of their fellow assassin’s have been killed on a mission and Celaena and Sam are sent to Pirate’s Bay to collect a debt the Assassin’s guild are owed; they work out that unfortunately the debt is a slave-trade agreement – 100 slaves to be sent to Adarlan to work.  Celaena and Sam set out to destroy the agreement and free the slaves.

I will say that I didn’t like Celaena in the first few pages – she was arrogant, spoiled, self-righteous and thought she was better than people twice her age and with twice her training.  To be fair, I didn’t much like Sam Cortland either but I think that was the way that Sarah J. Maas wrote Celaena’s distaste and disdain for Sam more than my not actually liking him as a character.

Celaena and Sam save the slaves – Sam nearly dies!- but have opened up a can of worms that continues on throughout the next 4 novellas and I thought that it was very well written and gave just enough insight into the characters to justify its short length.

The Assassin and the Healer is a direct continuation of The Pirate Lord and shows us that Celaena’s destruction of the slave-trade agreement between Arobynn and the Pirate Lord has caused a bigger problem than she first anticipated.

Arobynn beats Celaena unconscious while his guards hold Sam back – what we don’t know until later is that Sam is screaming “I’ll kill you” at Arobynn (Can you say *squee*?).

Once Celaena regains consciousness, she is shipped off the Red Desert to study under the Mute Master.  She makes a pit stop in a small town where a barmaid/healer named Yrene needs her help.  Yrene gets attacked by some men and Celaena comes to her aid – the thing I wasn’t too keen on was the fact that Celaena was still so arrogant and I’m-better-than-you that it was a little bit irritating despite the fact that she taught Yrene a thing or two on how to defend herself.

In The Healer we learn that the King of Adarlan has banned magic users across Adarlan and that they are persecuted – Salem Witch Trials anyone? – and that the gods have gone away.  The Healer I felt was pretty much just a filler piece to show that Celaena is capable of doing the right thing in the right situation and just a filler between when she was beaten by her Master and her onward journey.

The Assassin and the Desert  follows on from Celaena’s stop with Yrene and provides fresh insight into the way that Celaena works and how she feels regarding certain things.  She is sent to the Silent Assassin’s of the Red Desert as punishment for her destruction of the slave-trade agreement from The Pirate Lord and is tasked to spend a month there and to come back with a letter of approval from the Mute Master.

To begin with, Celaena doesn’t gain an audience with the Mute Master and is instead forced to train with Ansel – an assassin who, in my opinion, talks too much and whores herself out to another assassin. I know they say that a girl has to use what she has but jeez really?! – A couple of weeks pass while Celaena is training with Ansel, Celaena gets a kiss from the Mute Master’s son but she can’t go through with it?  Why you might be asking? Two words.  Sam. Cortland.

Quote: *SQUEE*

“And Celaena felt it.

She felt each footstep, the phantom bruises on her face throbbing with the memory of Arobynn’s fists. And suddenly, as the memory of that day echoed through her, she remembered the words Sam kept screaming at Arobynn as the king of the Assassins beat her, the words that she somehow forgotten in the fog of pain: ‘I’ll kill you!’

Sam had said it like he meant it. He’d bellowed it. Again and again and again.”

Eventually it gets to the point where the person who is trying to kill the Assassin’s comes to kill them even more.  There is an argument between Celaena and Ansel and Celaena gets drugged and taken away from the Silent Assassin’s – not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing – but Celaena realises that the guy trying to kill the Assassin’s is sending an army to kill the Mute Master and she’s off on her horse (that she stole by the way) to save the day.

Celaena and Ansel fight, Celaena saves the Mute Master and his son and gets given the letter of approval she needs to take back to her Master as well as three trunks full of shiny gold.

There was further character development in The Desert and  I found myself liking Celaena much better than I did previously – it’s like she’s mellowing out a little bit after realising that maybe Arobynn isn’t good for her.

The Assassin and the Underworld – OH SNAP! I loved this novella! LOVED IT!

Celaena returns from the Red Desert and the Silent Assassin’s with enough money to pay off her debt to Arobynn; when she returns Arobynn seems to be quite upset over his actions previously and tries to make amends by buying her gifts and presents etc. We find out that Sam has been playing bodyguard for Lysandra – a courtesan that Celaena doens’t like (to be fair, neither do I) – and has been doing that for the past three months.

Celaena is offered a contract to stop a slave-trader and after thinking on it she accepts and she and Sam begin gaining intelligence on their target. They attend a party when Celaena gets drunk and she says one of the nicest things in this entire book: “What’s your name?” he asked above the roar of the music.

She leaned close. “My name is Wind,” she whispered. “And Rain. And Bone and Dust. My name is a snippet of a half-remembered song.”

He chuckled a low, delightful sound. She was drunk and silly, and so full of the glory of being young and alive and in the capital of the world that she could hardly contain herself.

“I have no name,” she purred. “I am whoever the keepers of my fate tell me to be.”

He grasped her by her wrist, running a thumb along the sensitive skin underneath. “Then let me call you Mine for a dance or two.” 

Celaena goes to infiltrate the house of Doneval –her target – but gets caught and is tied up in the sewers and nearly drowns.  Sam comes after her and it all gets very emotional.  A couple of days later they’re back in the sewer because she found a way into the house.  There’s the most amazing declaration down in the sewer’s of all places!

“Please don’t go.”
He let out an uneven breath. “You’ll be fine without me. You always have been.”
Maybe once, but not now. “How can I convince you to stay?”
“You can’t.”
She threw down the torch. “Do you want me to beg, is that it?”
“No-never.”
“Then tell me-“
“What more can I say?” he exploded, his whisper rough and harsh “I’ve already told you everything—I’ve already told you that if I stay here, if I have to live with Arobynn, I’ll snap his damned neck.”
“But why? Why can’t you let it go?”
He grabbed her shoulders and shook her. “Because I love you!”
Her mouth fell open.
“I love you,” he repeated, shaking her again. “I have for years. And he hurt you and made me watch because he’s always known how I felt, too. But if I asked you to pick, you’d choose Arobynn, and I. Can’t. Take. It.”
The only sounds were their breathing, an uneven beat against the rushing of the sewer river.
“You’re a damned idiot,” she breathed, grabbing the front of his tunic. “You’re a moron and an ass and a damned idiot.” He looked like she had hit him. But she went on, and grasped both sides of his face, “Because I’d pick you.”
And then she kissed him.” 

After Celaena and Sam complete the contract – Celaena realises that the target was a good man and that Arobynn is not the person he claimed to be.  She pays Arobynn the money she owes him and becomes a free woman, she sells the horse she stole to buy Sam’s freedom and then she has her heart cut from her chest when Arobynn tells her he used the money she paid him for her freedom to buy the virginity of Lysandra the courtesan just to spite Celaena.  Bastard is too mild a word for that man.

I hate Arobynn. I think Celaena should cut his head off. I much preferred Celaena in this novella than in the others – here it seems like she actually has a heart and that she is capable of using it too.

The Assassin and the Empire – Sam dies. WHY?! WHYYY?!!!! 

Up until this point I’ve been pretty impressed by The Assassin’s Blade and haven’t felt like it could do with much reworking other than I didn’t like the main character in the first two and a half novellas of this book.  Sarah J. Maas ruined the streak in The Assassin and the Empire – not ruined it ruined it but she tore Celaena’s heart out of her chest, ripped it into shreds and stomped on them for good measure and I was there right along with her.

The Empire was probably the most romantic as this book got – I’ve heard the Throne of Glass series being called a romance before I even got the books – and it was so beautiful. I showed how much of a sap for a romance I am.

“I love you,” he breathed against her mouth. “And from today onward, I want to never be separated from you. Where you go, I go. Even if that means going to Hell itself, wherever you are, that’s where I want to be. Forever.”

When Celaena and Sam were talking about secrets, he told her of a way that he overcomes his fear: “He removed her hand from his cheek to kiss the tips of her fingers.

“I get scared, too,” he murmured onto her skin. “You want to hear something ridiculous? Whenever I’m scared out of my wits, I tell myself: My name is Sam Cortland … and I will not be afraid. I’ve been doing it for years.”
It was her turn to raise her brows. “And that actually works?”
He laughed onto her fingers. “Sometimes it does, Sometimes it doesn’t. But usually it makes me feel better to some degree. Or just makes me laugh at myself a bit.”

The Empire was amazing in so many ways. I can’t list them all without giving away most of the book though so you have to read it to see.

The worst part though is the sheer pain you can feel in this: “She would tuck Sam into her heart, a bright light for her to take out whenever things were darkest.
And then she would remember how it had felt to be loved, when the world held nothing but possibility. No matter what they did to her, they could never take that away.
She would not break.
And someday … someday, even it took her until her last breath, she’d find out who had done this to her. To Sam.” 

This book has quite possibly changed my opinion on Young Adult fiction for the future and for that I say Well Done Sarah J. Maas. Changing my opinion is hard but you did it!

It was written amazingly well, and towards the end I got over my dislike of Celaena and started liking her character more and more, by the final page I was begging for more of the story.

One last parting quote:

“But she squared her shoulders. Straightened her spine.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien,” she whispered, “and I will not be afraid.” 

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