Blurb from Goodreads:
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.
To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks – all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic… and the growing romantic tension between them.
My rating: 4/5 Stars – A good read. I really enjoyed it.
The Assassin’s Curse is not your typical young adult fantasy novel. First of all, it’s set in a distinctly non-European world and features multiple people of color – no whitewashing! In fact, the white northerners are described as savage barbarians; I’m not sure if this is progress exactly, but at least it’s different. The worldbuilding is rich and evocative, though there’s still quite a bit of mystery surrounding the Otherworld – a strange, magical, alternate realm.
In addition, The Assassin’s Curse stands out because of the relationship between the main characters, Ananna and Naji. In most young adult fantasy novels I’ve read, the heroine is overflowing with romantic attention. Here, Ananna’s unrequited feelings came as an unexpected and refreshing surprise. I’m interested to finally read a story where the heroine has to win over the hero instead of vice versa.
But the real reason why I enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse so much is Ananna herself. Though she struck me impulsive and irresponsible at first, I soon came to love her confidence and strength of will. Ananna doesn’t take any crap, and she ends up rescuing Naji just as many times as he rescues her. I also love that Ananna isn’t pretty. In contrast to the thousands of novels written about beautiful people, this story is about a girl who knows she’s not beautiful and does whatever the f*** she wants anyway. In contrast to Naji’s crippling insecurity about his appearance, Ananna accepts herself just the way she is.
Even so, Ananna still has plenty of flaws. In particular, she unfairly stereotypes beautiful people as stuck-up and spoiled, a viewpoint that is understandable from her perspective and adds layers to her characterization. The problem I have with this is that the stereotype is reinforced in the novel by the evil ex-girlfriend Leila, and Ananna’s presumption that all beautiful people are selfish and shallow is totally confirmed. The treatment of beautiful people in the novel is similar to the way racial stereotypes have been reversed; it’s effective in helping us recognize the disparities in our own culture, but it’s also simplistic. By merely reversing which group of people is looked down on, it feels like an opportunity has been missed to overcome prejudice and confront these issues in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Despite my minor disappointments, I found The Assassin’s Curse surprisingly entertaining and different. Even though the plot is mostly spent traveling, it moves along at a decent pace, and the imaginative setting drew me in from the start. But, ultimately, it’s the characters that kept me glued to the page. I fell in love with Ananna and can’t help rooting for her to succeed. I’m definitely going to pick up The Pirate’s Wish to see how the story concludes.
- The Assassin’s Curse
- The Pirate’s Wish
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