Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Title: The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass #0.1-0.5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Publication date: March 4, 2014
Rating: ★★★★½

Summary (via Goodreads):

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

I've been rereading the first three Throne of Glass novels to refresh my memory in preparation for Queen of Shadows, and I finally had the chance to read The Assassin's Blade, which includes all five of the pre-Throne of Glass novellas: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Healer, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld, and The Assassin and the Empire.

This review contains spoilers for those who have not yet read Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight so proceed with caution, my little darlings.

I have always loved Celaena, in spite of her haughtiness and arrogance, or maybe because of it. I have always admired her. I loved her even more in Heir of Fire, watching her grow exponentially, seeing her confront her biggest fears and challenges.

But The Assassin's Blade made me respect and admire and feel for her infinitely more. It's that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, when you're observing something and you already know it's going to end badly. It's like watching a train come off its tracks – fascinating and horrifying and dreadful all at once. This is what it's like to read these novellas.

It's almost upsetting to hear her talk of the life she will lead once she's free of Arobynn Hamel – all you want is for her to be happy and for her to live the life she deserves… and for a moment, you almost forget that Sam dies and that Celaena ends up in Endovier and that everything else happens. For a moment, you entertain that dream with her. For a moment, you imagine what her life could have been had she stayed in the Red Desert from The Assassin and the Desert – not the most lavish of destinations, but maybe something good for her soul. How different things would be.

It's hard to watch things start to backfire, from the slave deal in The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, all the way to her sentence to Endovier in The Assassin and the Empire. Just thinking about it makes my heart squeeze painfully. I can't even get into what happens with Sam in The Assassin and the Underworld. Like, my brain will just not even go there.

And that's only the beginning of her story. To think about everything else Celaena has gone through… all this darkness that spans her life… she is one of the strongest characters I've ever read. You just want to tell Sarah J. Maas to give the girl a freaking break already. There's a line in Heir of Fire where Celaena says that she can't remember anymore what it feels like to be free. And reading that, and knowing all that happens in The Assassin's Blade, makes it so much harder to take.

I loved these stories. I love that they were meaningful and revelatory without being required reading. I love that they enhance the rest of the series – they make Celaena a more empathetic character; they reveal more of the world that Sarah J. Maas has built; they expand and play on little details mentioned briefly in the other books, like Dorian's sapphire eyes that feel like something she's forgotten, and the stolen Asterion horses from the Red Desert, and so much more… Such a treat for anyone who's read and enjoyed the Throne of Glass books.

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