The Assassin’s Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke

  • TITLE: The Assassin’s Curse
  • AUTHOR: Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • PUBLISHER: Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot Books)
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 4th October 2012

The Assassin’s Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke is not my first YA title—though it is the first one that I would have purchased from the teen section at my local bookstore. The Seven Realms series by Chima is, as I’ve discussed before, YA that was purchased in the regular section. A foray into the wilds yesterday revealed Strange Chemistry titles in the WHSmith Teen section, so I know where to look in bricks-and-mortar shops for upcoming titles.

As it happens, I received this as an ARC from Strange Chemistry, and I gladly devoured it—I’d been looking forwards to this possibly as much as I’m looking forwards to Laura Lam’s Pantomime, which I am aching to read.

But, onto the Assassin’s Curse.

I loved this book. I’ve seen a handful of reviews, one of which awarded this book a one-star review, and I’m slightly perplexed by some of the comments, so much that I want to address them briefly as part of my own review.

But first…

The Assassin’s Curse tells the story of Ananna, a pirate from a pirate family, who is forced to marry into a richer clan with more prospects, in order to secure an alliance for her family. Distrustful of her husband-to-be, she flees on camel-back, a wild, spur-of-the-moment decision that will change her whole life. When the clan she fled from sends an assassin after Ananna—a dark, magical sort of assassin, the kind that nobody ever escapes from—her world is turned upside in a whirlwind of blood, magic, trust and betrayal.

Before I go on, I want to implore you not to read the synopsis of the book. There are spoilers that reveal (the way I see it) the very last “twist” of the book. I’ve seen this on the backs of other books before, but none so much as this: in the last fifteen pages or so, the spoiler on the back of the book is revealed, and not before. Luckily, when I am swept away by a story I tend to forget the information of the back of a book—but not everybody does.

The Assassin’s Curse is an adventure filled with a whole heap of Eastern Promise; camels and desert and masked assassins, and even the blossoming of a first love. It’s fun, meaningful and knows when to take itself seriously, and when to just let go and tell the story. I expected to enjoy this book, and I did. It’s everything I love about YA, in that really, is not YA at all: it’s just a damn good story that happens to be about a teenage girl.

In this vein, I’ve seen comments about how “stupid” Ananna is, and how childish and that she doesn’t read as a seventeen-year-old. Well, I disagree. Ananna is strong and brave and utterly out of her depth. She has been raised at sea, by a pirate mother and father, surrounded by a pirate clan. She knows nothing of magic and assassins and the mysterious Mists. But, she does her best and she tries to stay sharp. She gets frustrated, annoyed and irritated by her situation, but she never mopes and never does anything stupid or without thinking, without accepting that it was foolish afterwards. In other words, she learns.

Her counterpart Naji is every bit the mysterious assassin. His use of blood-magic frightens Ananna after the stories she grew up hearing—both from other pirates and from her water-witch mother—but she tries to understand, tries to accept Naji for who and what he is once they are bound together. Their relationship is very real and very addictive to read: yes, it’s a romance that’s slowly blossoming between them; yes, they’re very clumsy in their emotions and not-even-close advances—and that’s what makes it wonderful. I enjoyed seeing Naji through Ananna’s eyes; I enjoyed the mystery and intensity of his character, but moreover, I liked that he wasn’t overdone as the archetype of The Mysterious Assassin. Naji is complex—I expect we’ll find how out just how complex in later books—and multi-layered and enjoyable to have around. His magic is intriguing, dangerous and exciting and it adds just the right amount of drama.

The story is compelling and the prose quick, witty and moreish.

The cover is stunningly pretty and it acts perfectly to set up the wonder of the desert and the magic that lies within. With excellent pacing and adventure in spades, The Assassin’s Curse is an utterly captivating read that has the right kind of heart mixed with the best and most exciting kind of adventure: at the end of the day, The Assassin’s Curse is a quest novel. But a quest for what? A cure to the curse? To return home? Freedom? Or is there something else that Ananna wants that even she is only beginning to realise?

Splendid, magical and brilliant.

5/5

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