Tuesday, 12 June 2012

'The Assassin's Curse' - Cassandra Rose Clarke (Strange Chemistry)

Back in the day, when the blog was all new and fresh, I used to review a little YA here and there. As time went on though I found myself moving away from YA altogether and concentrating on regular genre stuff instead, just because there was so much of it that I wanted to read first. Nothing against the YA stuff you understand, well... maybe a little bit. I might have just been picking the wrong books up but it really wasn't grabbing me at all and sometimes life is just far too short for that kind of reading.
Fast forward a few years and YA has become more and more of a big deal across the boundless domains of the internet. You may love YA books, you may not be able to stand them but there's no doubt now there's a lot going on here that's worthy of discussion. I wanted some of that action and I was a little curious to see what I'd been missing out on in the meantime (if anything...)

Where better place to start then with one of Strange Chemistry's debut titles? No, I can't think of anywhere more suitable either. We're looking at a brand new publisher headed up by an editor (Amanda Rutter) who was a real champion for YA books back when she was blogging over at 'Floor To Ceiling Books'. I miss that blog by the way and not only because I could search my name and see lots of nice things said about me :o)
'Assassin's Curse' was the first book to head my way from Strange Chemistry then and while it wasn't a perfect read there was more than enough there to leave me looking forward to future instalments in this series (trilogy).

Blurb copied and pasted today as I'm kind of run off my feet with other things as well...

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying 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.

(Note: I think this is a blurb for the whole series. I can't remember seeing a single manticore, haughty or otherwise...)

‘Assassin’s Curse’ has an intriguing premise but it turned out to be one that failed to grip me in the way that I’d hoped for. Luckily for the book, and me, I found myself reading for other reasons entirely and I’m pretty much on board until the story reaches its end. I’m perhaps hoping for a little more from the next book but ‘Assassin’s Curse’ did the job that it set out to.

The reason I’m on board (no pun intended) is Ananna, a girl who was raised to be a pirate perhaps a little too well by her parents. Instead of behaving herself and settling into a political marriage Ananna basically decides to do what she was raised to do i.e. exactly what she wants. I loved Ananna’s forthright honesty about her situation and how this is all littered with swear words and ‘pirate talk’. Clarke may be telling the story but it’s all about Ananna and that’s the way it should be.

Or should it?

You see, it’s not just about Ananna; not really. There’s also a story going on here and a world that it’s set against. Clarke gives us a look into Ananna’s head that had me completely engaged and wanting to find out more. Books about romantic tension generally don’t do a thing for me but this time round I couldn’t help but feel for Ananna as her life becomes clearer yet more confused all at the same time. You can see the end, of the series, coming a mile off but I’m rooting for Ananna anyway, I reckon you just might as well.

The problem is that all of this comes at the expense of the world building and, to an extent, the plot itself. The reader can spend so long inside Ananna’s head that stuff happens almost without you realising it. I found myself having to go back and retrace my steps, just to get an idea of what was going on while Ananna was agonising over something. Great character then but not a story that flows well. This is a real shame as, like I said, the premise is a good one and Clarke also shows that she can really ramp up the action and suspense when she wants to (as well as develop Ananna and Naji’s relationship in a plausible manner). Hopefully the balance will sort itself out over the next few books.

I also found myself wanting to see Ananna’s world in more detail and being disappointed when I couldn’t. In a way this is a good thing but it was frustrating as well. We’re talking desert cities where assassins prowl the shadows (literally) and magic islands where anything could happen to you. This is a world brimming with possibility but a world that Ananna is too familiar with to let us really get to see. Again, I really hope that this resolves itself over the next few books.

Having said all that though, the measure of ‘The Assassin’s Curse’ lies in the fact that I’ll be back to see how it all pans out, make no mistake about it. The book feels unbalanced but all the ingredients are there for something really special to happen and I can’t see myself passing up on that.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten


Unknown said...

Wonderful :) I've picked up this and Poltergeeks as my first proper YA review titles, a little nervous, but this has made me feel a lot better :)

Liesel K. Hill said...

Thanks for the review! I'm the same way in that I'm picky about YA books because many of them fail to pull me in. I hear what you say about lack of world-building (that's always frustrating) but you saying that you'll be back for more makes me want to try it out. Thanks for sharing it! :D


Unknown said...

Thanks for the review :) I'm similarly hesitant about YA fiction, but I've noticed as well that it's definitely on the rise. I suppose the only way to test the water is to jump in :)

shaneo52 said...

I won this off a blog a few weeks ago, so you like it huh?