ARC Review: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

title:  The Assassin's Curse

author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

pages: 320

format: Kindle Netgalley ARC

isbn/asin: 978-1908844019

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Harry Potter (JK Rowling), Throne of Glass (Sarah J. Maas), Tamora Pierce, or just plain well-done fast-paced magical action-packed fantasy. Fantasy fans looking for something fresh. Hopeless romantics who like a slow build rather than a quick burn.

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

the basics
Remember when I said that Throne of Glass is the fantasy I've been waiting for?  Well, here's its best friend.  Clarke has brought my childhood of Tolkien and Tamora and Diana crashing back with her classic (with a twist) high fantasy.  The book starts with some staples: girl on the run from a marriage, mysterious assassin, clever and conniving pirate, untrustworthy magic.  The way Clarke lays them out is anything but predicable.  Her heroine is lifelike, clever, and more than a match for her assassin counterpart.  The hints of romance are believable and satisfying; they feel real, not thrown in just for effect.  The world?  It feels like it was always there, waiting to be written about, deeply imagined with a fully-realized magical system and flavors of Middle Eastern and Polynesian culture--a far cry from your typical medieval Europe overhaul.  The plot and world played off of each other to lure the reader along.  I had a hard time putting this one down.  If I had the time, I'd read it again right now.  It makes the kid in me laugh and better yet, it makes me want to write.

plot . 5/5
You don't get much of an introduction before you're thrown into the pirate world.  Just like I like it.  Ananna becomes instantly endearing.  She's not your typical tomboy.  She just wants to go her own way.  And she's a little lost as how to go about it.  Enter Naji, cursed assassin, bound to protect the life of the one who saves his.  Even if they save it very accidentally.  It's clear there's something bigger than just their journey, some deep magic bubbling under the surface.  Half of me wanted to speed up and find out all the secrets, the other half wanted to slow down and learn more about this incredibly detailed world.  Which for me, means I was obsessed.  It all crashes into a cliffhanger that still has me reeling.

concept . 5/5
I don't know why it took me so long to read this.  I love all the elements; I think I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my hopes.  Fat chance.  Clarke is like Tamora Pierce reimagined.  Her world is every inch as powerful and legendary as Tortall, but nowhere near the same.  Magic has its own strange ways--relationships with the sea, herb concoctions, people moving in shadows.  The history and the people is completely new, but with just enough familiar hints to seem like you've known it forever.  There are hints of good vs. evil, but for the common man, those are dark, old things not to be trifled with. Everyone else is just worried about getting ahead and making a quick buck.  The perfect backdrop for two of fantasy's most storied professions.

characters . 5/5
Ananna reminds me so much of my old Pierce favorites.  (Seriously, if you read this and love it, go read Tamora.)  She's fiery and a little foolhardy but not in an annoying way.  She's just young.  She's desperate to make her own way without being some man's trophy wife.  And she has some skills of her own that make her more than a match for her surroundings.  Scrappy and smart, you'll love her instantly.  Naji is you basic bad-boy, without the basic part.  He's disfigured, but we don't know why.  He's an assassin, but we don't know how.  He's suave and clever but also a bit of a baby.  And he's definitely got a selfish streak that plays off Ananna's own self interest.  They make the perfect team, sometimes united but often fighting to eke out their own interests.  And their relationship feels organic, not forced. The side characters...some a little too thinly described for now, but I hope to meet them more.

style . 5/5
Magical.  Clarke writes like she's writing an old tale, but with fresh, snarky teenage eyes.  Ananna feels like a presence, not a cardboard cut-out with a name.  No typos, no strange wording, just very clean writing that knows when to stop for a pretty description and when to rush forward.  It makes the world come alive.  It's also got a bite and it'll make you laugh as much as it'll make you gasp.

mechanics . 5/5
Beautifully polished.  Nothing to complain about.

take home message
Fantasy's newest hero is Cassandra Rose Clarke with her fresh beginning right out of old-timey fantasy, but far from stale.

Note: I received this copy free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. I found this an enjoyable read too but I was a little disappointed with Naji. He's an assassin and a good one at that but Annamaria kept on saving his life. Nevertheless I'll looking forward to reading book 2

    1. I liked that part. I thought it was a testament to the fact that Naji had flaws and Ananna had a lot of strengths. Even a good assassin makes mistakes.