Review: ‘The Assassin’s Blade: The Throne of Glass Novellas’ by S.J Maas

 

Blurb from 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.

Review:

Unnnnggghhh….*insert weary sign here.* I’m not sure why I keep on going back to S.J Maas’s ‘Throne of Glass’ (TOG) series- maybe it’s because I feel, somewhere deep down, that this could have been a really amazing, even groundbreaking YA series. That Celaena could have been a tough warrior-woman heroine- smart and sharp and merciless. A role model, even. But she’s not, and this series just keeps on disappointing me. I thought TAB would perhaps be better than TOG as it is comprised of novellas- I (wrongly) expected each one to be sharper, neater, more focused on the plot. TAB wasn’t. It was just basically a rehash of the main characters of TOG- it was meant to show Celaena’s beginnings as a ‘ruthless’, highly skilled assassin, but she remains the same narcissistic, sulky, selfish fluffkin that she was at the start of TOG- and a fair bit into ‘Crown of Midnight.’ (Read my original review of ‘Crown of Midnight’ here.) Don’t be fooled by the blurb- a kick-ass heroine she is not.

For the first part of the opening story, ‘The Assassin and the Pirate Lord’, Celaena remains focused on whining about having to wear a mask and a heavy cloak. Like in TOG, she also whines about when she is hungry. She is also immensely irritating, just like in, yep, you guessed it, TOG. Sam Cortland, her assassin colleague and obvious-love-interest, remains as one dimensional and ‘Ken Doll’ as TOG’s Chaol or Prince Dorian. (Bore-ian, as I have christened him.) The pirate lord, Rolfe, is reasonably interesting, as is Arobynn, her surprisingly-good-looking-assassin-tutor, but Rolfe gets bested by the tantrum-throwing Celaena far too easily. Celaena basically bores him (and the reader) half to death, she and Sam have a weird little frolic/fight on a suitably-romantic beach, and then she frees some slaves because HEY YOU GUYS, GUESS WHAT, SHE’S GOOD AFTER ALL!

In fact, the body count is so low in each of these stories that she’s hardly an assassin at all. She’s more like a talkative, arrogant, vain princess forced to kick and bitch-slap some baddies. All because she’s apparently so good-hearted. What’s the point in calling something ‘The Assassin’s Blade’ when we barely get to see it?

And the way in which Celaena is nauseatingly described as ‘beautiful’, over and over again, just makes me want to scream at something. Preferably Celaena. This review may sound harsh, but I genuinely believe that young people- and young adults- deserve better than this kind of writing, or these kind of characterizations. Everyone is so beautiful, everyone swans around in cloaks, everyone is so skilled at being an assassin…yadda, yadda, yadda. Young adults deserve more than just cookie-cutter beautiful characters and stilted action. This just all seems so dated, and some of the descriptions are so cliched. In my opinion, one to avoid.

For real powerful, unique and memorable female characters in fantasy fiction I recommend, amongst others:

Arya Stark from George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’  (‘Game of Thrones’) series.

 

(Disclaimer: I do think GOT is misogynistic and full of gratuitous violence- particularly sexual violence- towards women. I’m not embarrassed to say this- this is my considered opinon. As a feminist such violence does not sit well with me, and I stopped watching GOT a long while ago. But Arya Stark remains, I believe, one of its strongest and most enduring characters, and a testament to the power of survival, grit and sheer determination. If you are a GOT fan, you may want to check out one of my previous Literary Heroes of the Month, GOT’s Prince Oberyn.)

Jacky from Charles De Lint’s ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ (review coming soon!)

Inej Ghafa from Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Six of Crows’ (read my 10/10 review here.)

Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from J.K Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series. (Read my review of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ here.)

Emma Carstairs from Cassandra Clare’s ‘Lady Midnight’ (read my review here.)

Read any of these recommended books, love any of these characters. But if I were you, I’d give ‘The Assassin’s Blade’ a miss. Sincere apologies to any Maas fans out there, but this just didn’t do it for me.

Overall rating for ‘The Assassin’s Blade’: 2 out of 10

This Book in Four Words: Not. One. For. Me.

Read if you enjoyed: ‘Throne of Glass.’

All images from Tumblr

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