Friday, June 19, 2020

Freeform Friday: The Assassin's Curse Series (Including The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish) - Cassandra Rose Clarke

This Freeform Friday, I have a duology review.  
Let's start with our review of the first book in the series -- 
The Assassin's Curse.  
Our thoughts on the second book, The Pirate's Wish, are posted just below.  

Summary:  Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan.  But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her.  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 spell, 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.  (Summary from back of book - Image from goodreads.com)

*NOTE*  Some of the second paragraph of the above summary doesn't actually happen in this book.  Not really.  Presumably, it happens in the second one.  I find it completely bizarre that they even have what amounts to spoilers on the back of the first book, but whatevs. Too late now.

My Review:  I picked up this book because I loved the cover art (so sue me!).  I was also enticed by the story and a Tamora Pierce recommendation, calling it 'unique, heart-wrenching, full of mysteries and twists!"  I hadn't heard of it the series before but figured, what the heck,  I'm in full-on quarantine right now (translation: mid-April 2020).  I'm not going anywhere in real life.  Might as well go on an adventure!

The Assassin's Curse is a fine adventure with plenty of action, a strong-willed heroine, and a host of interesting characters.  I blazed through it one lazy weekend with time to spare and it took very little effort on my part.  I enjoyed the premise -- hard-edged pirate girl meets mysterious assassin, both of whom get tangled up in a curse that will take them on a perilous journey --  but something about it just felt off.  Although the book is marketed towards an young adult audience, the writing itself felt more 'middle-grade,' stripped down, and lacking the complexity I would expect from a book written for older teens. 

The main character, Ananna, is a seventeen-year-old female pirate, raised on the sea surrounded by a bunch of other pirates and, as such, in possession of her own piratical parlance.  The author's approach to the main character's way of speaking seemed to be the zealous application of the word of  ain't and the occasional double negative or profanity.  It just didn't work for me. The ain'ts were annoying, but I could handle them.  The double negatives were arguably appropriate to convey a lack of formal education.  However, the author chose to use modern profanity, which not only felt jarring in a novel that seemed written for tweens (no matter how pirate-laden) but not even remotely right for the setting.

While I thoroughly enjoyed how Ananna and Naji came to become traveling companions, and much of their interaction, I didn't feel any of the hinted-at romantic chemistry between them.  There were definitely some one-sided feelings happening, but nothing reciprocal and, quite frankly, that's just no fun.  Ultimately, I wanted more from this book than it gave me.  More complexity, richness, and depth.  More nuanced characters, chemistry, and real honest-to-goodness romantic tension.  I wanted the story to come alive and it just, well...didn't.  

All. That. Having. Been. Said. 

This book ends without any real closure and I have the sequel, The Pirate's Wish sitting right here next to me.  It's staring at me, and its summary is tempting, and I can't help but wonder if things won't get better in book two.  I mean, it could happen, right?  RIGHT?  

*GAH*  What the heck.  It's quarantine.  I'll let you know.  (You guys are so spoiled.  You don't even have to wait.  See below)

My Rating:  3.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Around twenty (give or take) instances of profanity.  Some mild violence.  

________________________________________________________________

The Pirate's Wish is the second book in The Assassin's Curse duology.

Summary:  After setting out to break the curse that binds them, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island with nothing but a sword and their wits.  But Naji has unseen enemies, and Ananna must face the wrath of the Pirate Confederation.

Together, they must travel afar, defeat their foes and break the other of all curses.  With all this going on, falling in love would be such a bad idea... All of this and much, much more await in the swashbuckling sequel to The Assassin's Curse. (Summary from back of book - Image from goodreads.com)

My Review:  In The Pirate's Wish, Ananna and Naji embark on a journey to complete three impossible tasks and break the curse that binds them together.  Over the course of the book, they venture to unexpected places, pick up a few new traveling companions, and come to depend on each other more than ever.

Occasionally -- very very occasionally -- the second book in a series will make me like the first book a little bit more.  Such is the case with The Pirate's Wish.  The sequel still had much in common with its predecessor, both good and bad, but I definitely gained a greater appreciation for the first by reading the second.  There was still modern profanity and the liberal use of the word ain't, but the writing was significantly improved, I was more drawn into the plot, and there was a marked increase in chemistry and romantic tension between the two main characters.

The Pirate's Wish touches on some more adult themes which contributed to the book feeling a bit older than The Assassin's Curse.  I didn't love everything that brought to the story, but nothing was particularly graphic or drawn out.  It's hard to be critical of the magical elements of any story, seeing as magic has no real rules or boundaries; the author basically has carte blanche to do whatever they want.  However, there was one particular aspect of the story that tested my commitment to 'believe' the world the author created.  It wasn't the manticore either.  Sharks, I'm looking at you. Thankfully, that part was short lived and I felt this book ended on a good note.

Taken on its own, I don't think The Assassin's Curse is much to write home about but, combined with The Pirate's Wish and viewed as part of a larger story, I did come to appreciate the arc of it all and author's creative combination of old world adventure, mythology, elemental magic, and the mundane.  I actually think it would be much better if the two books were combined into one and ohmygosh would you look at that -------------------------------------------------> 

Magic of Blood and Sea is a combined edition of the two books.  I can't speak to whether it is an exact duplicate of the two books I just read, but I'm betting it's pretty darn close.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Swearing (about 20ish incidents of the H, A, S, F, D, and B variety). Mild violence.  Discussion of sexual matters.  Non-graphic sex between two characters.  Non-graphic kissing between two same gender characters.  

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