Friday, January 11, 2019

Review - The Assassin's Blade

Original Title: The Assassin's Blade
Series: Throne of Glass, #0.1 - #0.5
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: March 4th, 2014

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens

Let me be clear. I was not going to review this novella bind-up. But since the characters and the stories struck me so hard, and I kept thinking about them long after finishing, I feel like I have to do something about it. As I read them separately to meet my reading challenge (otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible), I’ll analyse each novella the same way, as I have more to say about some of them, and less about others. 

Just so you know, this will contain spoilers from many books from the series. If you haven’t read the series, go and read it. Just do it. Don’t think it. Do it.

Let’s go.
If you read my review of Queen of Shadows, you know I said that I had got a little tired of how many times Sam was mentioned, when I myself didn’t really know him, and couldn’t share Celaena’s pain. Well, in this novella, we can see how they started to work together, and what they were really made of. I really like the fact that, even with all their training and learning to sell their services to the highest bidder, they very clearly draw the line in regards of their job. They are assassins, not murderers. And that added a lot of depth to both Celaena and Sam, given that they are not naturally inclined to kill people, nor they enjoy it. It is what they do for a living, they are not naturally inclined to evil.

I like Celaena’s attitude and wit. She’s always one step ahead, and never yields, all the time with the sarcasm and defiance that rule her life. I like how deep her character is, because she’s both selfish and selfless, and knows when something is bigger than herself, or her master. When she found out Arobynn and Rolfe’s deal was about slavery and human traffic, she didn’t think it twice, and immediately started to plan their freedom, perfectly knowing that she would pay a steep price for it. Even then, her attitude is that of a queen.

I loved to get to know Sam Cortland, his sad past, and the fact that, even from the very first book in the series he appears as Celaena’s first love, here we get to see how they started their relationships butting heads, not always agreeing with each other, but finally finding common ground, to work together, and set the slaves free. Obviously, nothing stopped Celaena from being herself:

Sam,” […]
If you ever tell anyone about me embracing you … I’ll gut you.

Celaena Sardothien, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t expect less from her. Even when she started warming up to Sam and thinking that she may have a true friend in him, instead of a colleague, it didn’t stop her from threatening him. She’s always been a bone hard to crack, and this is not exception. But one thing is true: she feels everything deeply and fiercely. Love, hate, anger… And if someone messes with them, her blades will answer for it. 
This is the second story in the bind-up. Not a lot happens in it, but I hope Yrene Towers appears again in the later books. And now that magic is free (as it happened in Queen of Shadows), her healing gift can truly bloom and be used in the war effort. 

This takes place right after what happened in Skull’s Bay, in the previous novella, and wee meet Celaena facing its consequences. Arobynn didn’t take the ruining of his business lightly, and punished her and Sam mercilessly, subjecting her to a terrible beating, and forcing Sam to watch it. But even that didn’t break Celaena, because she didn’t regret freeing the slaves. I really like how deeply her character is developed, how you can truly feel her inner struggle with both her thoughts and her actions, and her attitude worthy of a queen. She had to go through the punishment, but doesn’t apologize for what she thinks is right, and I love her for that.

And, honestly, I’ve never read about a heroine that kicks butt the way Celaena does. I have had my share of badass protagonists, but Celaena is in a whole other level. She has no qualms about gutting people, beating them, and torturing them, if she has a clear goal in mind, although it is true that her feelings cloud her judgement, more often than not. I liked how she instinctively jumped in Yrene’s defense (partly because she was bored and still reeling from the beating, true). But still, she even taught her a move or two, so she could defend herself, in case she needed it, and gave away her own brooch to pay for her education in the Torre Cesme.

Not much to add, except I hope to see Yrene back.

This one was, no doubt, my favourite. It was incredible, and mostly because of the extended worldbuilding. It’s amazing to keep knowing this land, knowing that other places still exist and buzz with life outside the places the characters visit in the series. It deepens the complexity and the layers of this world, and for a moment I stopped thinking this was fictional. It truly feels like it is alive.

Sarah J. Maas’s writing shines in this one, and I love it even more with each story she tells me. Among other amazing things, she says that “Words could be just as deadly as steel.”, and I couldn’t agree more. The right words, said in the right moment, can mean the difference between life and death, between the rise and the fall of an entire empire, and hit as high as the destiny of a nation, or as deep as the heart and the feelings of one single person. And that is visible in the character Ansel. I really liked her, because she was deep and layered, and had very clear reasons to do what she did. Her story gave a glimpse of what later can be read as a part of Manon Blackbeak’s story and that of her fellow witches in Heir of Fire. Plus, I liked the fact that Sarah J. Maas is perfectly capable of writing female friendships that are true bonds of fondness, when literature nowadays (especially YA) is filled with cat fights and slut shaming, and girls are always rivals instead of friends, judging and hating each other non-stop. It’s a breath of fresh air, and I’m grateful for it.

I loved everything in this novella, and I like Celaena even more after this. She may be impatient and passionate, talking back and hardly restraining the fire inside of her, but, as I said before, she’s not a murderer. Being an assassin means shutting off her heart and doing what she is paid to do, but she knows when death is meaningless. And I’m sure she found a friend in Ansel beyond what they shared in the Red Desert, because, just like her, Ansel lost her family and her lands at the hands of invaders, and bores a terrible pain inside. Just like Celaena feels about Terrasen. That’s why I think their bond is even deeper, because it lies in understanding. Celaena can fully see why Ansel did what she did, because it’s not further away from what she herself would’ve done in the same situation. That is why she fired that arrow a minute later than she was supposed to, and this only helps me state my claim. Death may be Celaena’s profession, but it’s not her passion, nor her goal.

I really hope to see some of these characters again.

This one killed me. I hate Arobynn Hamel, I hate him! But I have to talk about him. It’s one of the best written characters I’ve ever read. He’s the epitome of everything that is rotten in Rifthold. Everything that happens in the Vaults, summed up in one person.

Arobynn Hamel is one of those villains that truly grow fear and hate in you. He’s everything that is wrong with the world, and that wouldn’t be so terrible, if he wasn’t the King of Assassins. I mean, he’s possessive, greedy, lustful, and is willing to do everything he can to get his way. The power he wields only makes everything worse, because the consequences are far greater. He uses everything in his favour. He knew exactly where to hit to get Celaena and Sam to cooperate and fulfil the mission, making them go to the party and see Doneval with those girls, to paint the picture of him as the bad guy, when in fact, he was the one who wanted to save the slaves. Look how well written Arobynn is, how smart he was there, acting as the puppeteer and pulling the right strings in the right moment. He doesn’t feel any love or empathy, and the world is his chessboard. He knew exactly when to exploit pain, weakness, and virtues. He knew Celaena, knew her passions, and her integrity, and used her virtues to his advantage, knowing that she wouldn’t spare any slavery supporter’s life, whoever he or she was. He used her as a weapon, using her light for darkness. And that, my friends, not only speaks of a great character, but also of an amazing writer behind it. 

Now that I know Sam better, I can understand Celaena’s pain. Their feelings for each other were real, and it’s sad to see that they could totally have been happy together, if they had had the chance. Finding someone to open up to, to be vulnerable with, and not get hurt in the process, was what made everything a lot more painful. As I said before, Celaena doesn’t know moderation when it comes to her feelings. She feels everything strongly, and has both light and darkness in her, and Sam is the ice to her fire. He knows how to calm her down and I even when I knew what would eventually happen to him, I couldn’t help but loving him, and that made the next novella so difficult to get into. 

It killed me, guys. I cried real tears as I read this one. I couldn’t help it.

But first things first. I really loved Celaena’s passion in this one. She may be an assassin, knowing how to handle poisons and blades, and fight like hell, but she’s also this girl who loves music and has an indescribable passion for dresses, make up, and everything beautiful, which, for me, it’s a good thing to see in fantasy. Normally, the heroine is not like that. If she is a badass and can wield a sword, she hates dresses, and dancing, and all girly things. But Celaena is both things. She kills because she has too, but she’s still is a lady on the inside, and doesn’t hide her taste for fine clothes, and expensive things. The balance is perfectly written. It can be seen how she can be both, and still stay a great character.

Sam and Celaena start planning their future in this novella, and it wouldn’t have been so difficult to read it if I didn’t know what would eventually happen to them. After being manipulated by Arobynn into doing the dirty work against her own principles, Celaena decides to leave Rifthold and start a new life somewhere else, with Sam by her side, finally free from his manipulations. But Arobynn and Celaena are more alike than they think. Nobody messes with them without facing the consequences. Although while Celaena is pure fire and goes straight for her blades, choosing gutting over reasoning, Arobynn’s ways are subtler, he destroys his victims from the inside out, utilizing their strengths and weaknesses against them, to get his way. He’s definitely one of the most incredible characters I’ve ever read, and one of those I wanted dead the most. Bravo, Sarah J. Maas!

This novella is how everything started. In Throne of Glass, we are told that Celaena, as long as she suffered as a slave in the salt mines of Endovier, told herself “My name is Celaena Sardothien and I will not be afraid”, to keep her sanity in a place when very little people could survive. And here, we get to know she learned that from Sam, who told himself the same thing when he was scared. He stayed with her long after his death, and I can only call that love. It gets perfectly understandable why they love each other, and how Celaena wants to be with him because he sees her as more than an assassin, and can love her with all her faults, with the burden of everything she did. No wonder she went berserk after what happened to him. Rourke Farran wasn’t exactly merciful with him.

Reality opened wide and swallowed her whole.” – I think all of us can think of a situation in our lives that felt this way. Sarah J. Maas’ writing is beautiful, accurate, and painful like a dagger to the heart. She’s a gifted writer, and she’s definitely among my favourites. It took a little while for me to realize that, but after this novella that made me cry a sea of tears, I can positively say so.

Long story short, this novella was utterly heartbreaking, and you need to read it to understand how much. It’s not the same effect if you read them before reading, at least, the first book in the series, because ignorance keeps you safe. If you come here having read as far as Throne of Glass, you know what to expect, and it doesn’t make the ride less painful. 


Thank you for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon with another review! Bye! 


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