The royal prince offers an imprisoned assassin the one thing she wants most—freedom—at a heavy cost. She must compete for the honor of serving the king who imprisoned her as his champion. At first Celaena is only determined to bide her time until she can escape. The competition begins with a chilling event. Competitors are found murdered, their bodies mutilated. Celaena fears the murders may be tied to dark rituals, but no one else will believe her. As she investigates further, she finds herself caught deeper in a web that would keep her from running away. As romance blooms between Celaena and the prince, she begins to realize she doesn’t want to run. She might have a chance at freedom and the possibility of a life wholly her own. But only if she can win the contest and stop the killer before she becomes his next victim.
This is the first novel by Sarah J. Maas that I’ve read. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novel. I like the idea of a young girl as a famous assassin in a country where almost no one really believes it. She’s so young and it’s so unexpected. I guess I had a hard time really buying into the idea that she’s that good and yet the king welcomes her to the palace, totally within reach of everyone who has made the last year of her life completely miserable. It seemed like a really big risk. But I was willing to overlook that because other parts of the story sounded really intriguing.
I liked Celaena’s friendships with the Princess Nehemia and with the captain of the guard, Chaol Westfall. I think he actually might have been my favorite character. Prince Dorian was hit and miss with me, though. Sometimes I liked him a lot, and other times he felt inconsistent to me. One moment, he acted sort of the cliché misunderstood prince. In other scenes, he seemed confident, comfortable in his role, so I couldn’t always reconcile those differences.
The competition itself felt a little bit choppy, though sometimes that’s because other more important parts of the story overshadowed the competition. I guess I wanted that part to feel more like those scenes from The Hunger Games when the tributes are practicing and then performing for the game makers, and this didn’t have that same power. But in fairness, it also didn’t have the same weight to the story as the larger conflict emerged and becoming the champion became a less important goal.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. There are more than enough potential conflicts introduced throughout the entire novel to interest readers in subsequent books. Readers who liked The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch will probably also like this book.
An oppressive king rules multiple peoples, and some struggle to organize a revolution. The cultural or racial differences between each group are vague, but the story world does give the indication that each group have cultures and customs. Celaena respects others, and often wonders what it’s like for people like Nehemia and Chaol, who have loyalty to family and homes oppressed by the king.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.
Captain Westfall worries that Prince Dorian will attempt to seduce Celaena. He references the prince’s reputation for such behavior, and Dorian himself makes a couple of vague comments. A young woman has come to the court by promising an unappealing older man that she’ll marry him. She secretly hopes to secure Prince Dorian’s affections instead, and dreads and worries about the man she promised herself to making romantic advances. A man and woman kiss several times, once lying in her bed, clothed.
The king outlawed magic and its use long ago. Celaena discovers evidence of dark rituals and demonic creatures. The spirit of a queen long dead offers aid and protection to a warrior.
A young woman smokes opium. A team of warriors must identify wine laced with poisons.