So much potential. Wasted. Ruined by a poorly constructed insta-love triangle.
The Love Triangle
Heroine: 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien. She’s young, fairly inexperienced in the politics of love. Physically and mentally bouncing back from her time as a slave in the salt mines surprisingly quickly with rapidly diminishing bitterness (view spoiler) as she keeps her feelings for both men on the down low until she can’t deny how close she’s become to the Prince from their actions. She doesn’t appear to pick up on Chaol’s gestures of understanding and affection, believing he’s yet to trust her not to kill someone or escape at any moment, so she doesn’t play the men off against each other.
Suitor #1: 19-year-old Prince Dorian. Seducer of all women and professes he will only ever marry for love. Spoilt but not cruel, he hates his father for his unending crimes against humanity in the name of conquering the entire world. Surrounded by the weak and brainless women of court he’s eager to escape he almost forces himself to become besotted by Celaena’s strong-willed, feisty and intelligent nature, so very different from what he’s used to. His interest is part defiance of his father and his best friend Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, after they warn him away from her. Celaena herself seems dazzled by his handsomeness and wishes to have a little fun by indulging his attentions. In the blink of an eye we have insta-love. Oh, the fawning they did over each other, argh. For him, this would be a great match. Celaena has the power to transform him from a boy to a man, a man fit to be king. But I don’t think Celaena would get much from such a union.
Suitor #2: 22-year-old Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, and Celaena’s trainer. The more natural of the two pairings when you think of the considerable amout of time they’ve spent together training. Skilled and strong, Chaol secretly grows to like her, against his will, more and more, without letting his feelings be known to anyone. Both he and Dorian experience jealously over her, while Celaena remains practically oblivious of Chaol’s interest. It’s a deep, slow burn from afar. Celaena was interested in Chaol to begin with but his brusque responses, with only a hint of playfulness, gave her the impression he didn’t like her despite him blowing hot and cold throughout the rest of the book. Perhaps he was too subtle. While Dorian stumbles about a bit (odd for a womanizer), Chaol is the brooding, cautious and trusty rock you can always count on.
The Winner: Inconclusive. Celaena drops the Prince like a hot potato once she’s finally named Champion in a way that presented her as a cold-hearted, manipulative bitch. I actually felt sorry for the guy despite finding him to be too spoilt, immature and weak to be a worthy partner. Chaol appears to be happy Celaena is on the market again as the book closes but all I could think was, “Run away! Before she breaks your heart too.”
An Inconsistent Heroine
As the book opens, Celaena is smart, strong-willed, fiesty and bloodthirsty. She used her quick wit and smart-mouth to embarrass and infuriate. Basically, she was badass. Trouble is, that didn’t last.
Most of the trials, training and associated fighting were offstage while Celaena turned into a vain Barbie doll going to a ball and seducing the prince. I don’t begrudge her femininity or the chance to be pretty again after the ugliness she’d suffered but this is not what I signed up for. It was too much.
Then she turns her hand to investigating the mysterious deaths, sleuthing, unsuccessfully I might add.
Finally, the last hurdle, the duel takes place. And it’s action, action, action. (Honestly, I was so fed up by now I didn’t pay much attention.) Followed by, “You’re dumped!” with no thought to the Prince’s feelings. For all her agonzing over the fate of slaves and the harsh treatment she’d received I thought she’d know what “tact” was. She came off as the bad guy, the assassin without a heart, exactly what they’d all thought of her in the beginning. It made me wonder if she really is playing a game of politics, calculating every move.
The mystery behind the deaths of the would-be champions was insanely obvious. We knew early on who’s responsible, who’s pulling the strings (view spoiler), and I had a vague idea of the how. Not so mysterious. Perhaps because the reader gets the advantage of seeing things from multiple points of view I’m being too harsh on Celaena’s ability to figure this all out (view spoiler)
I itched to DNF this, and to award 1 star, for the absurd (and painful to read about) love triangle, but I recognised the potential of the beginning and that of the world-building, as under-developed as it was. I wanted more action, politics and mystery, and much, much less romance. No romance at all would be fine. It’s not a requirement for every single book.
*Thank you to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.