Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas (Spoiler-Free)

THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE4 stars

Sarah J. Maas//The Assassin's BladeSUMMARY

A bind-up of five different novellas in the Throne of Glass series, all set before the beginning of the first book (Throne of Glass), and following some of Celaena’s adventures as the greatest assassin in Adarlan, before her eventual capture. The five stories are as follows: The Assassin and the Pirate LordThe Assassin and the HealerThe Assassin and the DesertThe Assassin and the Underworld; and The Assassin and the Empire.

This review will be slightly different from other reviews I’ve done so far, as it’s of a collection of short stories, so instead of rating each aspect of the story (e.g. the plot, the characters, etc.), I’ll be breaking it up into sections about each story and rating them individually, and then as a whole.

THE ASSASSIN AND THE PIRATE LORD [3/5]

This was probably my least favourite of the stories, though it was still a fun look at one of the events that Celaena mentioned in Throne of Glass – when she went up against a Pirate Lord. It’s also the first time we really get to see Sam Cortland, her former lover (though at this point in the story he still despises her).

I only had two real problems with the story: first, Celaena’s immaturity, which was to be expected, but having read this immediately after reading Heir of Fire (where she grows so much as a character), I found myself a little annoyed by it; and secondly, that it was rather too disconnected from the rest of the Throne of Glass universe – it sets the scene for the rest of the novellas in the book, but has no real lasting effect on the main storyline.

THE ASSASSIN AND THE HEALER [3/5]

As a punishment for her actions in The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, Celaena is sent away from Adarlan, and while she’s waiting for a boat in a small port town, she meets an aspiring healer-turned-barmaid.

The Healer had much the same problem as the Pirate Lord, but I found that I enjoyed it slightly more, mainly due to the perspective change. The greater part of the story was told through the eyes of the healer Yrene, who was observing Celaena without knowing who she was, or what she was doing in Innish, and the outsider viewpoint was quite refreshing.

THE ASSASSIN AND THE DESERT [4/5]

In this story, Celaena arrives in the Deserted Lands, where she undergoes training with the Silent Assassins, the West’s answer to Adarlan’s Assassin’s Guild. The Silent Assassins are led by a man appropriately called the Mute Master, and he provides an interesting contrast to Arobynn, which is something that Celaena spends a lot of time thinking about while she’s training.

The other main aspect of this story, is Celaena’s friendship with Ansel, another girl who is training with the Silent Assassins, which was fun to read about. We also get, briefly, the story of how Celaena ended up stealing a horse from the Lord of Xandria, an event that she mentions in Crown of Midnight.

THE ASSASSIN AND THE UNDERWORLD [5/5]

By far my favourite of the five novellas, it tells the story of Celaena (with a little help from Sam) taking on a contract to kill a corrupt businessman who’s planning of selling out a group of slave sympathisers to the King of Adarlan. The contract is an extremely important one to Celaena, and it’s given to her by Arobynn as a way of buying her forgiveness for his actions at the end of the Pirate Lord.

The relationship between Celaena and Arobynn is really highlighted in this story, in all its creepy, manipulative and basically (physically and emotionally) abusive glory, and it sheds a great deal of light on how Celaena became who she is in Throne of Glass. Sam really comes into his own, too, and (to balance out Arobynn’s awfulness), it was really nice to read about their developing romance.

There’s also a hilarious cameo from Dorian and Chaol mixed in there, which made me laugh out loud.

THE ASSASSIN AND THE EMPIRE [5/5]

This final novella is the story of Sam and Celaena as they try to break away from Arobynn and the Assassin’s Guild, and take on the contract that led to Celaena’s capture. The most interesting part of the story, however (in my opinion, at least), was seeing the way Sam and Celaena interacted as a couple, often arguing but still trying to find a way to make things work between them – in fact,  it reminded me a great deal of her often contentious relationship with Chaol in the latter parts of Crown of Midnight, which gives me hope. 😉

Celaena’s capture itself, and the events that preceded it, were pretty hard-hitting emotionally, though, so there’s a lot more to this story than just romantic fluff.

OVERALL [4/5]

All five stories flowed together fairly well, making this feel less like a collection of short stories, and more like one longer (though slightly disjointed) one. The stories themselves were all very interesting – the last two in particular – and they explained a lot about how Celaena came to be the person that we meet in the beginning of Throne of Glass.

I wouldn’t say that reading this was essential to understanding the main series, but it definitely provides a distinct (and enjoyable) advantage.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Any fan of the Throne of Glass series, obviously… The series itself, I’d recommend to anyone who likes high fantasy with a strong female lead. In particular, fans of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series, or Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm trilogy.

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