Title: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
Author: Sarah J Maas
May Contain Spoilers
On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes – and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.
I was disappointed with this Throne of Glass prequel novella. While the first chapter set a hard-edged tone for protagonist Celaena, the rest of the story failed to deliver on a tough, ruthless heroine. I found it hard to believe that Celaena could ever possibly be strong enough to take over the leadership of the assassins guild. She is a complete bad a$$ in the opening pages, threatening to take out a fellow assassin for failing to retrieve the corpse of her weapons master, and then she vows to get it herself, come hell or high water. I loved that about her. She oozed confidence in her skills and wasn’t afraid to tackle a dangerous, almost impossible task. Right after that chapter, though, her character softens up, and she loses that ruthless streak that I found so intriguing.
Sent to negotiate with the pirate lord, Celaena is dismayed to learn that she and fellow assassin Sam are not there to collect payment for the untimely demise of some assassins, rumored to have been killed by pirates. No, they are there to bring back a ship full of slaves. Prior to discovering the real reason for their trip to the pirates’ island, Celaena comes across as an arrogant, pompous jerk. Worse, she enjoys coming across as an arrogant, pompous jerk. She likes the thought of people being afraid of her, with her mask and concealing garb, and this only made her seem like a bully to me. She hasn’t earned the respect that would have made her truly intimidating.
Appalled at the thought of transporting her new charges into a life of slavery, she decides that she isn’t going to go along with the plan. She is going to abort the mission. She is going to free the slaves, because most of them are spoils of war; they aren’t soldiers or warriors, they are just innocent people who are the victims of terrible circumstances. Now, being a compassionate person myself, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to rescue a ship full of innocent people. What I didn’t get was that Celaena would actually set a plan into motion to do this. She is supposed to be a harden killer, soon to be the leader of a group of hardened killers. It is also her duty to carry out her mission. Will she not complete a hit because she feels sorry for the target of the contract? I must have been missing something with this storyline, because it didn’t make sense to me, in the context of Celaena’s profession. Remember, she likes being frightening and intimidating. Why would she act so out of character and save a bunch of strangers?
At one point during her covert operation to rescue the slaves, Celaena points out that she is not a murderer. This struck me as an odd opinion for her to have, as money is accepted on her behalf for her to assassinate people, and she has ambitions to be the leader of the assassin’s guild. When she meets the pirate lord, she wonders which of them has killed more people. There is no moral high ground for her here. Someone who accepts payment to kill another person is a murderer, plain and simple. That’s what attracted me to the story in the first place. I wanted Celaena to be cold and ruthless, to have no qualms about herself or what she does. In the first chapter, this is exactly how she is presented. She is unrepentant in her thoughts and a hair-trigger’s step away from exploding into violence. She seems to enjoy what she does. It’s only when we move on to her mission with Sam that the waters are muddied, and she makes the distinction between what is murder and what is not. I didn’t like that. I wanted to see a character that I haven’t read about before, one who almost revels in her ability to commit chaos, fear, and mayhem. That is not the character in this book.
While this novella did not work for me, I did like premise. I still am intrigued by the thought of Celaena being a cold-blooded assassin. I wonder if she will find redemption from her life as a murderer for hire in later installments. But for any kind of repentance to have any impact, she has to actually deserve forgiveness for the terrible things she has done. So far, she hasn’t come across as a criminal. She just came across as young and naïve, with a huge dose of overinflated self-importance.
Review copy purchased from Amazon