The Assassin's Curse

By Cassandra Rose Clarke
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Strange Chemistry
Source: ARC from Publisher
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.
The Goodreads-provided summary tells you most of what you need to know about the plot of this book.  Ananna is a feisty seventeen-year old pirate girl, running off from an arranged marriage which she finds objectionable.   The family of her betrothed are less than amused by this and send an assassin after her.  Such is the way of life for these pirates: Ananna can't even say that she's surprised that she's marked for death.  She just wants to escape, that's all.

Ananna is a particularly feisty main character.  She's a pirate, after all, and she's not afraid to lie, cheat, and steal to get herself out of any given situation.  She's a competent fighter and can hold her own with a sword.  Naji, the assassin, is skilled at his craft (both killing and magic) and we see him in action several times.  It was a nice change of pace after reading many fantasy-style books where we're told that characters are excellent at something and just have to believe it, because we never actually get to see them in battle, or doing magic, or doing anything out of the ordinary.

I felt like Ananna was a very realistic character, especially for her age.  She makes life-altering decisions without much thought -- like, oh, running away from an arranged marriage when she knew full well that it wasn't going to go over very well.  She was full of confidence and bravado when it came to fighting and taking control of any given situation, but she also had her moments where she didn't do as told because she thought her way was better.  She can be stubborn and rude, but she also has a little more depth to her personality than I'm used to seeing.  The voice that the author developed for Ananna was really interesting.  It used a lot of slang and dialect without sounding too hokey.  (I develop a twitch any time someone tries to write out a southern accent.)  The universe is definitely interesting, too, and we get glimpses into the way that society works, particularly the different types of pirates.  I hope we get to learn more about this universe in future books.

I do wish that Ananna's feelings towards Naji were better developed: it's made clear that she is, of course, starting to fall for him, but I spent a lot of time not being entirely sure why she cared about him as much more than a friend.  The author did such a great job of showing us so many other aspects of the characters that we're usually only told about, that I couldn't help but wish that we were shown this, too, especially because the book was written from Ananna's perspective.  I did appreciate that it took her much of the course of the book to realize that she had feelings for him, rather than any sort of "love at first sight" nonsense.

The book is written in a very easy-to-read way, which makes it seem as it caters to a younger YA audience.  There is strong language and some violence, however, so I would recommend an adult preview it before giving it to younger teens.  I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next book.

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