The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
A man cannot live on apocalyptic fiction alone so for a bit of a change of pace here is some young adult fiction of a more adventurous nature…
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 curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks – all the while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic… and the growing romantic tension.
I have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to all things piratical. The Crimson Pirate starring Burt Lancaster is one of my all-time favourite films. (Seriously, if you’ve never seen it you really need to check it out, it’s a classic). When I discovered that The Assassin’s Curse featured not only assassins but also magic, wizards and boat loads of pirates I was sold.
Ananna is everything a good pirate should be. Courageous, strong willed and fiercely independent. As far as her parents are concerned however, they don’t want her to be any of those things. They just want her to play the role of the dutiful daughter. She needs to cement a mutually beneficial deal with another pirate clan through an arranged marriage. Ananna, unsurprisingly, has other ideas and makes a run for it.
Naji, the assassin sent to dispatch Ananna, remains a bit of an enigma throughout. His chosen profession is obviously secretive in nature and this seems to have permeated into his character. Don’t get me wrong, I reckon this is exactly the right way to go. It feels right that he should carry an air of mystery, it leaves the reader wanting to learn more. One of the things that we do discover though is that he has some excellent assassiny (is that a word?) type skills. I kept picturing him like one of the characters from Assassin’s Creed. I was particularly impressed with his ability to become one with the shadows. I can imagine that being very useful in his line of work. I do hope that in future books we’ll get more insight into his history. Perhaps more details of his training? Maybe how he ended up an assassin? That would be cool.
At its heart, The Assassin’s Curse is all about the relationship developing between two young people. I rather like that, initially at least, there is a sense of antagonism in the air. Having grown up constantly on the move, travelling the high seas, Ananna is used to depending only on herself. Being forced into a partnership with someone proves at times to be difficult for her. Needless to say, as Ananna begins to learn more about the assassin’s way of life, her hard-hearted outlook starts to soften. Naji is not quite as aloof as he appears and there are the definite beginnings of a connection starting to form. Kudos to the author for not rushing this, Ananna’s realisation that she feels something for Naji occurs over a period of time, it doesn’t feel rushed and makes sense within the confines of the story.
Clarke’s writing is pretty evocative stuff, the heat of the desert sands is almost palpable. The sights and sounds of the crowded city bazaars jump off the page and come to life. I was rather swept up by the exotic grandeur of it all. I’m still fighting the urge to run away and become a pirate (or possibly an assassin) myself.
The Assassin’s Curse is a solidly written beginning that feels like a modern take on the classic fairytales of old. It offers boundless potential, and for a debut novel it has the perfect blend of action, adventure and just a little bit of romance. I’m looking forward to discovering where Ananna and Naji’s journey will take them next.
The Assassin’s Curse is published by Strange Chemistry and is available now.