This review is spoiler-free!
Year of Publication: 2014
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: ‘Celaena Sardothien owes her reputation to Arobynn Hamel. He gave her a home at the Assassins’ Guild and taught her the skills she needed to survive. Arobynn’s enemies stretch far and wide – from Adarlan’s rooftops and its filthy dens, to remote islands and hostile deserts. Celaena is duty bound to hunt them down. But behind her assignments lies a dark truth that will seal her fate – and cut her heart in two forever…’
As a massive fan of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, it is ridiculous that it has taken me so long to get around to reading the five prequel novellas that form The Assassin’s Blade collection. These are, essentially, five independent stories recounting Celaena’s life up until the point where she is taken to the Endovier salt mines, and where the first book in the series, Throne of Glass, begins. I feel like it’s probably important to mention that although you definitely could read these prequels before you read ToG, I would personally recommend reading the series in publication order, so reading The Assassin’s Blade after book two, Crown of Midnight. I feel like you just have a better background to the characters, especially Celaena, if you do it this way, but of course it’s entirely up to you.
I feel like I can never be particularly imaginative in my reviews of Sarah J. Maas’ works, because they are all virtually flawless and I feel like I say the same things over and over again. That being said, I’m going to try, yet again, to do justice to her work. There are two elements of The Assassin’s Blade, as with the novels in the main series, that stand out to me and place Sarah J. Maas firmly on my ‘favourite authors’ list. These are the world she builds and the characters she crafts. I was delighted that the first novella of the collection took us back to Skull’s Bay, a pirate/merchant port town, and one of my favourite locations in the whole of Erilea. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about pirates in books that I’m always drawn to! Her description of this location, alongside the equally transfixing descriptions of the Red Desert – a new location I also loved – contrasted perfectly with the stunning imagery of the elaborate dances that Celaena attends in the two later novellas. Each location is so clearly defined that each has a totally different atmosphere and character, yet blends together perfectly. In my opinion, I really don’t think there are many authors that I have read who can build a world with such depth and detail.
Secondly, I loved the chance The Assassin’s Blade gave to expand upon what I knew about some characters, and to introduce me to new characters that had a large impact on the person Celaena becomes. If you’ve read these novellas, you know I’m going to have to mention Sam Cortland. SAM. CORTLAND. I truly felt for him, and I loved how he became the first person that Celaena felt she could open up to. I didn’t realise just how much of an impact he had had on Celaena in the main series until learning more about him, and it helped so much to fill in some of the gaps in my mind about why Celaena makes certain decisions further down the line. Celaena herself was everything I wanted her to be yet again; she’s rapidly becoming one of (if not my favourite?) women in fantasy. Also, if we’re talking characters, I also have to add that Maas did a great job of creating one of the most hateful, despicable villains I’ve ever read!
Lastly, I think something I was initially slightly concerned about was whether the prequels would actually be necessary, or whether they would just be adding more content for the sake of it. I can assure you, there was not one point where I felt that there was a story being told that wasn’t relevant to the wider series. Every novella has some significance in the main plotline, and I felt like my experience of the series was just being made richer and more developed the further on I read. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m slightly in love with Throne of Glass.
The only fault I could find with this collection of novellas, if I’m being really picky, was the very quick resolution in The Assassin and the Pirate Lord. The plot of this novella was just as ambitious as the later three, yet it was considerably shorter and felt as though everything had been slightly rushed to reach a satisfying conclusion. Again, that’s only if I’m being really, really critical.
And so that’s another Sarah J. Maas book finished to add to my list of books read by her! She really is one of my favourite authors, and I’d urge you to check out the Throne of Glass series if you’re even the least bit interested in fantasy, beautiful prose or badass female characters.