Book Talk- The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Mass.

The Assassin's Blade

Finished: 8/1/15

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, she’s sworn to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer for hire, Sam.

In these action-packed prequel novellas to Throne of Glass, Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and avenge tyranny. But by acting on her own terms, will Celaena truly free herself from her master, or will she suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery?

Well… It turns out I’m not quite done with “Throne of Glass” after all…

So after binge reading all three books that are out so far in the “Throne of Glass” series I fell into an intense book withdrawal. I was able to read the book I had planned to use to ease out of the series, and I absolutely loved it, but at the same time I just kept thinking that I missed the TOG characters, and the fantasy setting, and Sarah J. Mass’s writing style in general, and I really wanted to read something set in this universe. And then I remembered that there was a prequel…

Now to be specific this book is a compilation of five novellas that were published as e-books, but it does flow as one coherent prequel. I actually usually save novellas for when I need to get out of a reading slump and want something with familiar characters, and that’s exactly what I intended to do with “The Assassin’s Blade”, but then I realized that I really wanted to know more about Celaena’s backstory, and the world in general, and to make a long story short I read the entire thing in a few days. And it was a complete rollercoaster of fangirling and emotional pain!

SPOILERS FOR “THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE” AND THE “THRONE OF GLASS” SERIES BEYOND THIS POINT

Like I said, this book is actually made up of five novellas compiled into one book, so I’ll go in order through each one, starting with “The Assassin and the Pirate King”. The first novella takes place a while before the series and follows Celaena and Sam Cortland on a mission from Arobynn to collect a payment from a pirate king. But then when the payment turns out to be in the form of slaves they develop a plan to go against their orders and free them. And it was actually really fun to read! There was some sad stuff with how messed up this world is, especially in regards to slavery, but overall there was kind of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” feel to the whole thing. We get to see Sam and Celaena in their element as assassins, and a plan actually works out for once in this series, and the action scenes are just awesome and the whole story is really cool and fast paced.

We’re also introduced to Sam, who is mentioned several times in TOG, and now we get to see him as an actual character, and I loved him so much. He was such a good match for Celaena, and through the whole story they were established as having one of those relationships I am complete trash for where they argue all the time but actually care deeply for each other and work really well as a team, and I’m starting to love them together and ship them really hard.

But then suddenly I remember. Sam is dead in the main series. He dies before the events even take place. And instantly I’m just like:

“OH NO. I’M GOING TO GET ATTACHED TO HIM. AND THEN HE’S GOING TO DIE. AND I WILL BE AN EMOTIONAL WRECK. HOLY CRAP. OH GOD, NO.”

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See that’s the thing about prequels: they are so darn painful because you typically know almost exactly what’s going to happen, and you’re completely powerless to stop it. You spend the entire book concerned for any character who isn’t in the main series and you know certain things are going to end horribly, and you just want to prevent those things from happening, but you can’t because it’s fictional and it’s all completely devastating and amazing at the same time. And that all definitely applies to this book.

So anyway, then we have the next novella: “The Assassin and the Healer”. This one actually focused more on a barmaid named Yrene, who wants to train to be a healer, and is taught by Celaena to defend herself. I actually don’t have a lot to say about this one. It was really cool to see Celaena from an outside perspective, and I did really like Yrene as a character, and I hope things worked out for her.

I actually saw this theory once that Yrene and Scorcha are the same person, and I can actually kind of see it. Their physical descriptions were very similar, and that would make for a very interesting story (even though it would have a really depressing ending with what happens in “Heir of Fire”…). I don’t know, it’s something I might read a fanfiction on if I found one.

Then there was the third novella “The Assassin and the Desert”, which follows Celaena during her time training with the Silent Assassins. And I just have to say upfront, the Silent Assassins were super cool. I mean I know that they kill people for a living, but they seemed almost like a religious order or something, like their society seemed very respectful and inclusive and way safer than the Northern Assassins. I kind of hope we get to see more of them in the main series.

But then we had the thing with Ansel. Freaking Ansel. I really wanted to like her, she seemed like a great mentor-type character for Celaena and her backstory with the witches was really interesting. But then she went and betrayed everyone and tried to kill the Silent Master and I mean I get what her motives were but that doesn’t excuse any of it and oh my god this is turning into one of those series where you can’t trust anyone!

you cannot trust anybody ever

I actually wouldn’t mind if she showed up again in the series though. Like I could see something happening with Manon and the covens since her backstory had to do with the witches. I don’t know it’s going to happen, but it may be interesting.

Continuing on, next we have the fourth novella “The Assassin and the Underworld”. I have to say that this one was probably my favorite. It has a really similar tone to the main series, we see a lot of Sam and Celaena together, and we learn a lot about Celaena’s past. The story follows Sam and Celaena on what they believe is a mission to assassinate a man involved in the slave trade, and we get to see a lot of them working together, and eventually as a couple, which I absolutely loved. Honestly, if certain things hadn’t happened would be so on board with Sam and Celaena being together romantically. They just work off each other so well in terms of personality and they balance each other out and oh god I really wish I had more time with them together before stuff happened.

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We also learn a lot more about Arobynn and his relationship with Celaena in this book, and let me just say, if no one kills this man sometime soon, I will find a way to enter this universe and do it myself. Nearly everything Arobynn did in regards to Sam and Celaena was infuriating. Like he isn’t king of Alderan bad, that’s a special level of evil, but it’s so hard to find any redeeming qualities about him, especially with all the horrible ways he abused and manipulated Celaena.

For example, at the end of this novella we learn that he actually made her think she was assassinating an instigator of the slave trade, when he really had her kill a man who was planning to help free hundreds of slaves, causing her to inadvertently go against everything he stands for. That is so freaking NOT OKAY. It was so satisfying seeing Celaena and Sam finally free themselves from him, even knowing what happens to them afterwards.

Speaking of which, now we go into the final novella “The Assassin and the Empire”. This one ripped out my soul with emotional pain. Honestly, there was no other way to put it, it was great, but it was also soul-destroyingly devastating. I mean, the story starts off with Celaena on the way to Endovier, so you can instantly tell it’s not exactly going to be a fun time…

The premise of this story is essentially the set-up for the start of “Throne of Glass”: the assassination where Sam was killed and Celaena was captured, so of course you know exactly what’s going to happen, and I’m already anticipating the worst. But then it lures you in with Sam and Celaena living together and making plans to leave the Northern Assassins and Arobynn for good and start a new life, and they’re so perfect together and it’s all great.

But then they’re hired for a certain assassination, and I suddenly know exactly what’s about to happen, and then Sam goes out alone and my mind goes into this complete panic and I’m thinking “NO SAM DON”T GO YOU ARE DEAD IN THE SERIES. THIS IS WHERE IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN! OH GOD, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” and you’re completely powerless to stop what’s going to happen and oh god why do prequels have to hurt so badly!

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AND THEN we have to watch Celaena waiting for him to come back, Celaena learns that the person she loves has been horribly tortured to death from the man who we later learn orchestrated his murder, and she demands to see the body and there’s one of those devastating moments where a really strong character completely breaks down and she lies next to his body and oh my god I was an emotional wreck. Seriously, I was this close to crying my eyes out. In the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Because for some ungodly reason I thought it would be a good idea to read this book in public when I knew it would be painful and in my head I’m just repeating:

conceal don't feel

But in reality, I was so close to crying because SAM CORTLAND DID NOTHING WRONG. HE DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE, ESPECIALLY NOT SO HORRIBLY. AND CELAENA DID NOT DESERVE TO LOSE EVEN MORE. SHE HAS ALREADY LOST EVERYTHING, AND NOW SHE’S LOST THE PERSON SHE LOVED ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE. AND IT’S JUST GOING TO GET WORSE. WHY CAN’T ANYONE BE HAPPY FOR AN EXTENDED TIME IN THIS SERIES? OH MY GOD.

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                So yeah, that last novella was pretty darn painful. It was really interesting to learn about Celaena’s backstory leading up to Throne of Glass though, even if it did rip out my heart. Actually all of the novellas were really interesting and well written, and gave us a lot more information on the world and characters in the series. Overall, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone’s who enjoyed “Throne of Glass”. It does serve as a prequel, but I think I would suggest reading it after “Crown of Midnight”, when you’re already familiar with the world and characters. And it definitely helped with the series withdrawal!

Well that’s about it for this time. Thanks for reading!

 

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