Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.
I really, really enjoyed the premise of The Assassin's Curse. Ananna, a young pirate, is on the run, avoiding an arranged marriage that would, more or less, make her her husband's property and effectively dash all her hopes and dreams of captaining her own ship and exploring the world on her own terms. Her husband-to-be's family doesn't take kindly to her escape and sends an assassin after her. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when Ananna saves Naji, the assassin, waking an impossible curse that ties the two together, making them unlikely, and unhappy, allies.
The novel follows the two characters as they traverse deserts, oceans, and islands in search of people that might be able to help them break the impossible curse. Along the way, the characters discover that neither is quite what they appear at first glance.
One of the most unique aspects of The Assassin's Curse was Ananna's speech. At first, her use of ain't and other obviously improper grammar and words stuck out like a sore thumb, but eventually my mind no longer stumbled and her speech patterns simply became a part of her character. I don't feel like I've seen this tactic used very often in YA fantasy lately and I appreciated the smaller details, like Ananna's language differences, that Cassandra Rose Clarke incorporated into the novel.
I also loved the epic feel to this rather short novel. Ananna and Naji travel great distances (across a desert and an ocean) in search of experts who can shed some light on breaking an impossible curse, which, as the name implies, is no small feat. I liked both characters had time to shine throughout the novel - Ananna knows the sea and Naji is of the desert, so both showed both strength and weakness during the journey. This definitely allowed me to appreciate both characters for their own strengths as well as illustrated their individual weaknesses.
The one aspect of the novel that I didn't completely enjoy was the romance. I really liked the idea of Ananna and Naji growing to respect and, eventually, develop feelings for one another, but I never felt that Naji was very deserving of Ananna's feelings. He seemed very shallow at times and I couldn't help but feel that Ananna deserved someone who respected and appreciated her more. After all, all this began because she was trying to escape an unfair marriage, why would she settle now?
I can't wait to read the second book in this trilogy, The Pirate's Wish. I'm really hoping Naji matures in this second book and am excited to see where their quest takes these two characters next!
Strange Chemistry, October 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9781908844019, 320 pgs.