Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.
Thoughts: This book has a great deal going for it, and I’m very glad that I decided to read it. From the beginning, I was drawn into the world, the writing style, the story, and i tore through this book like there was no tomorrow. As YA fiction goes, this has to be one of the best I’ve read in quite a long time.
The setting has a heavy Arabian Nights feel to it, not just in the location but also in the story itself, the characters, the way everything works. It would be one thing to say that this book’s setting is based on Middle Eastern folklore. But that only scratches the surface, and doesn’t take into account the real depth of the fantastical elements, the great feeling of adventure and action and mystery. And the story doesn’t stay solely in lands covered by sand. We get to see Ananna’s pirate upbringing come into play as they travel by ship to the great frozen north to try to break Naji’s curse, so we’re not limited to one small area when it comes to the setting.
Like many YA novels these days, the story is told in first-person perspective from the view of the female protagonist, Ananna, who starts off being betrothed to a pirate but deciding to run away when she realizes that this is going to mean captivity rather than freedom. But unlike most YA novels written in the first-person, Ananna narrates exactly like she talks. Her speech is peppered with “ain’t” and double negatives, and her thoughts are exactly the same way. It’s amazing how few authors actually take the time and effort to do this, but it really makes the difference. You get more of the sensation that you’re actually inside Ananna’s head rather than just sitting on her shoulder, or reading her memoirs. It’s a wonderful touch, and made the story that much more appealing.
The romance between Ananna and Naji was deftly handled. As another reviewer said, their relationship was based on trust and not lust. They certainly felt drawn to one another, but were more wrapped up in Naji’s curse and the people being sent to kill them than they were with gazing into each others’ eyes. As I’ve often said before, I prefer my romance as a side-dish rather than the main course, and this is exactly what was served in The Assassin’s Curse. It added flavour without being overwhelming, and attraction did play a part in things without being the focal point of the story. Mostly, they were too busy actually getting on with the plot to get so lost in each other, and I really liked that.
If there’s one thing that bothers me about this novel, though, it’s that Ananna is rarely wrong. Her first impressions of a person always turn out to be correct (“never trust a beautiful person” being the big one, because just about everybody she thinks that about is either out to get them or just stringing them along), and never ends up having her ideas proven to be misconceptions, her fears and prejudices unfounded. I know she’s supposed to be savvy and observant, but it would have been nice to see her proven wrong every now and again, and to struggle with that knowledge. The closest that the book really came to this was in her initial mistrust of Naji, and considering what the plot is about, I don’t entirely think that counts.
With an interesting setting, engaging writing style, and incredibly interesting storyline, The Assassin’s Curse is sure to be a YA hit, one that teenagers and adults alike will enjoy. This has definitely turned me on to Clarke’s work, and I look forward to seeing more of what she’ll do in the future. Especially in the continuation of this series!