Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade

Posted January 19, 2015 by Kara in book review / 3 Comments

Book Review: The Assassin’s BladeThe Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #0.5
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on March 13th, 2014
Genres: fantasy, short stories, young adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Contains all five novellas.

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.

Over a year ago, I picked up The Assassin and the Pirate Lord shortly after reading Throne of Glass and hated it. Celaena Sardothien is not an easy character to like; I didn’t really like her at all until I read Heir of Fire. A lot of that has to do with the way she’s written about rather than who she is. In the first book especially, Sarah J. Maas kind of pounds it into our heads that Celaena is the fucking best assassin in the world, but she doesn’t actually kill anyone in the first book. In the second book, she doesn’t actually assassinate – that is, she doesn’t take on any contracts (on the page, anyway) and she doesn’t do the things we associate with assassins. The Assassin’s Blade fixes all the problems I had with Celaena’s characterization and then some.

Like I said, Celaena starts out this series as a piss poor assassin who is routinely bested and out-witted over and over again. She is rash and angry and arrogant, confident for seemingly no real reason, and very, very dimwitted. Celaena is a character that grows over time, exponentially. When I picked up the first novella in this series I hadn’t yet become acquainted with her and that really colored my perception of these short stories. I ended up only reading the first two and hating them both. Now, after having read Heir of Fire I feel much closer to Celaena’s character, and The Assassin’s Blade, rather than alienating me further, actually gave context to a lot of Celaena’s character arc. In my opinion, this is the best way to read the series, but of course, your mileage may vary.

Separate, these novellas aren’t exactly my favorite short stories in the world, especially the first two. The Assassin and the Pirate Lord tells us the story of Celaena (supposedly the best assassin, like, EVAR) freeing two slave ships. This short story provides the foundation of Celaena’s and Sam’s relationship, which is really the whole point of these novellas anyway. And while I found Celaena’s and Sam’s actions admirable, I didn’t find them particularly assassiny. Story number two, The Assassin and the Healer is even shorter and chronicles Celaena’s ‘layover’ in a particularly shitty town and how she helps a barmaid learn to defend herself. Here, she actually kills people. I did like this story because it opened up a part of the world that we hadn’t seen before, and of course, every time Celaena befriends another girl is makes my heart ache.

The last three stories are ones that really define who Celaena is, what kind of assassin she is, and what kind of person she wants to be. The Assassin and the Desert shows us Celaena’s remarkable discipline but also her longing for connection. The Assassin and the Underworld shows us Celaena’s more feminine side, her taste for the expensive, her jealousy and her vulnerability. It shows her cunning and her skill but also how she is too trusting. This story really outlines for readers what it’s like to grow up in an abusive home, what can happen to your person when someone who you trusted unconditionally isn’t exactly a good person. Finally, The Assassin and the Empire shows us how Celaena got to her current state in the opening of Throne of Glass. This was the most emotional story for me, detailing all the horrible shit that happened to her to make her so angry and so vengeful. It also puts into harsh relief exactly how fucking awful Arobynn is.

Together, the stories of The Assassin’s Blade give readers great insight into Celaena’s character – her motivations and her doubts and how she came to be the girl she is at the beginning of the series. Those who didn’t like Celaena in Throne of Glass might want to give these stories a try. Heir of Fire showed us exactly why Celaena thinks she’s better than everyone else. The Assassin’s Blade shows us the girl beneath the bravado – it shows us exactly who Celaena really is.


3 responses to “Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade

  1. Jenny

    I’ve heard good and bad about this series and I’m getting a little nervous about reading it now. Sounds like i should read these short stories though.

    • I absolutely LOVE this series, but I am the first to admit that it starts off wobbly. It gets better as it goes along, especially with Heir of Fire, which was on a whole different plane from the other books in the series. I really hope you give it a chance!

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