Cover by Sarah Coleman
THE ASSASSIN'S CURSE
CASSANDRA ROSE CLARKE
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/Can/E-book 2 October 2012, UK 4 October 2012
On the cover:
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. And 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 curse, 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.
This is a novel that have much in common with Fairy Tales, and its setting is very much reminiscent of A Thousand and One Nights. There's also elements here that are reminiscent of traditional Epic Fantasy. After a beginning that is bound to a single city we are taken on a quest, and this quest blends Epic Fantasy with Fairy Tale in a seamless manner.
Clarke is very good at getting the Fairy Tale feel of the novel across. It's established early and never lets go as the novel progresses. But these elements don't constrain the novel, and it becomes apparent as the story progresses that it is not a simple Fairy tale re-telling. Instead it is a Fantasy novel that soon takes you on a journey through an interesting landscape.
I'm always a bit skeptical of the "quest format" of Fantasy, but I needn't have had any worries here. Clarke makes the journey a very interesting one, and the change in scenery as the story progresses makes it a very interesting journey of discovery. From the desert setting of the beginning we are taken to different landscapes that become a great backdrop to this tale.
Although the story does follow a similar path to other Fantasy novels out there, there is more than enough here that sets it apart, it never feels like it's just following a formula. Clarke's main strength when it comes to the story is making the events that happen along the way unpredictable. Even when you get a sense of where the story is going she manages to get there in ways that were unexpected.
While the larger through line of the story is interesting enough, there are also many small events here that are really interesting and add to the story a great deal. Clarke is very good at adding great deal of exposition and worldbuilding without bogging the story down. There's lots of little details here that makes the atmosphere of the world in the novel come alive, and that is a world where it is well worth spending some time.
There's a great deal of magic in the world Clarke has created. And that element of the book is done in a great way. It's certainly not wholly original, but what we are presented with here feels very fresh.
We do get a good idea of magic's place in this world, and it feels like an integral part of it and not as an afterthought on the author's part. The way magic is done also feels very realistic, which in my opinion is a great strength in a novel like this.
We also get some very interesting characters here, especially in Ananna - who is also the one telling us this story. Clarke manages to get across early on what type of character Ananna is, and as the novel progresses we get to see her show herself as a well rounded and realistic person. She never become just a vehicle for the story, but stays believable in all she does throughout the story. Ananna does have her flaws, but those only make her become more alive, and they don't make her come off as annoying in any way.
The other main character, Naji, the assassin, is also very well realised. At first he seems a pretty standard mysterious figure, but as we get to know him better we see that he is much more than that. And despite him not always being the most forthcoming type, he does reveal that he has sides to him that make him feel like he's very much an individual formed by his past.
We also meet quite a few other supporting characters along the way. Not all of them are as well developed as the main characters, but we do get to know them as more than just extras needed to get the story moving. There's especially one of them that stands out, and I think we may see more to her later. Clarke is very good at getting her characters come alive to the reader. They are interesting, and realistic, and are well worth spending a day with.
All in all this is a very good Fantasy story. Clarke takes us on a great journey, in very good company. The style the book is told in fits in perfectly with the story and adds to the novel as a whole. The Fairy Tale elements make it a great books for fans of Fantasy based around that, and the quest format makes it worth reading for fans of Epic Fantasy. And it's a novel I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to Fantasy fans of all ages.
Clarke has managed to create a set of very compelling characters that inhabit a well realised and interesting world. A world it is well worth travelling to.
I really enjoyed this story, and I can't wait to follow it further in later volumes.
NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.
Links: Cassandra Rose Clarke Strange Chemistry