Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Assasin’s Blade is a prequel to the seven-book Throne of Glass series and is broken up into five sections each depicting a significant event in the protagonist, Celeana Sardothien’s life. We learn that she is the best assassin in the Assassin’s Guild which is led by a domineering male authority figure called Arobynn Hamel. She is arrogant and brash which contributes to the arc of her character and lands her in complicated situations, some of which are good and some nearly get her killed. She finds love, heartbreak, finds friends, is betrayed, learns discipline, and how to have fun and live in the moment.
This young adult fiction novel is full of action with a fun hint of romance and fantasy to start off the series. We get a taste for how the world has been changed since magic left the realm and for the loyalty that Celeana feels for the people that she loves.
While this was not originally written first I do feel that it belongs at the beginning of the series. It was entirely by accident that I read it before Throne of Glass because I was unaware that it wasn’t the official beginning of the series but I feel that it makes a splendid introduction to the world and provides a vivid back story that makes you fall in love with Celeana before her will is tested in the Throne of Glass novel. It also allows you to understand why she struggles against her relationship to characters that she meets in the Throne of Glass novel including the Crown Prince, Dorian Havilliard, and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol.
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Celeana is a very interesting, complicated character which I become very invested in her finding a happy ending. Unfortunately, this book did everything to thwart that desire which made it impossible to put down but was also maddening. In the first story, the Assassin and the Pirate Lord, she frees 200 slaves and begins falling for Sam Cortland, the rival of her skill in the Assassin’s Guild. Because they’re rivals this could be considered an enemies to lovers romance, but I never felt like he was truly her enemy so much as her competition. Her master, Arobynn Hamel, doesn’t find her stunt with freeing the slaves to be endearing and he punishes her for it in ways that are straight abuse and in the second and third stories, the Assassin and the Healer and the Assassin and the Desert, she travels across the continent to train with the Mute Master of the Silent Assassins who live in a desert. She helps the healer to defend herself and to venture on to her dream of training with the healers in the city, Antica, a dream which she had essentially given up ever being able to achieve. In the desert, she finds a friend, Ansel, who teaches her how to enjoy life and a master who teaches her discipline and shows her that being in authority does not excuse abuse. She is betrayed by her friend, Ansel, and must defend the master and the Silent Assassins from her attack on them because her anger has fueled a hatred that has encompassed everything. Celeana spares her life and sends her on her way.
When Celeana returns to Rifthold she has enough money to pay her way free of her master but her fear wins out and she allows him to shower her with gifts. He gives her a job but this job is a betrayal in itself because he is tricking her into supporting the slave trade. She is lied to by Arobynn who takes joy in manipulating her feelings and because of this she buys her and Sam’s way out of his debt but they still belong to the Guild. They begin to form a life together and we get a glimpse of their life together but Arobynn cannot stand to have one of his ‘possessions’ belong to someone else so when they buy their way out of the guild he tricks them into taking a job which is really a trap. He has Sam tortured and then shows his body to Celeana, which is its own form of torture, and then manipulates her into escaping her rooms and going to confront Sam’s killer where she is trapped and given to the king. Arobynn likely expected the king to execute her but as a sadist himself, he decides that the worst punishment for Celeana would be to be made a slave and so the book ends with her being banished to the salt mines of Endovier.