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ARC Review: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra R. Clarke + Giveaway

Title: The Assassin's Curse
Story Arc: Duology, Book 1
Publication: October 2, 2012 by Strange Chemistry
Paperback: 416 pages
Genre: High Fantasy, Magic, Pirates
Age Group: Teen, Young Adult
Content: Nothing Worrisome or Notable
Source: Strange Chemistry via NetGalley | Quote(s): Yes

I ain't never been one to trust beautiful people, and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw.

Ananna of the Tanarau is the eldest daughter of a highly-ranked family in the loose assortment of cutthroats and thieves in the Pirate's Confederation. When she runs away from the marriage her parents have arranged for her, they hire Naji the assassin to murder her.

When a mysterious woman in a dress shop offers her magical assistance for dealing with the assassin, Ananna accepts. She never went in much for magic herself -- she lacks the talent for it -- but she's not quite ready to die yet, either. Unfortunately, the woman's magic fails.

Fortunately, Ananna inadvertently saves the assassin's life in the skirmish, thus activating a curse that had been placed on him a few years earlier. Now, whenever her life is in danger, he must protect her -- or else he experiences tremendous physical pain. Neither Ananna nor the assassin, Naji, are pleased about this development.

Follow Ananna and Naji as they sail across the globe, visiting such mysterious places as the Court of Salt and Waves, in their desperate effort to lift the curse. Soon they will discover that only by completing three impossible tasks will they be able to set themselves free.
What happens when you mess with pirates
In Ananna of the Tanarau’s world, beautiful people sure know how to make a fine mess.

Especially when said beautiful people include the progeny of dastardly greedy pirates, a river witch with a glossed over nasty streak, and evil entities in disguise from a place called Elsewhere, and… well, there I go, getting ahead of myself. Let me try again.

Ananna is the daughter of a pair of badass pirates, part of one of the higher up families in the Pirate Confederation. With the help of another pirate clan, Ananna’s family can sack a sweet hotspot ripe for pirate pickings by utilizing this clan’s stellar naval fleet. Impressive deviousness, no? The catch? An arranged marriage is involved—Ananna’s—to exactly the kind of boy she detests and distrusts—an unrepentantly beautiful one.

Because of this trashed marriage, all sorts of cool things await for the adventurous, loyal, and spirited Ananna! This is FANTASY, you guys. And one of the best ones I’ve read this year! Not only are there pirates in our midst but also shadow-dwelling assassins, insect-ship hybrid machines, mistlike entities from other worlds, witches, wizards, blood magic, and the list GOES ON. Naturalistic dialogue, organic, brilliant, mind-catching fantasy, and characters so flawed, mysterious, and huggable they are DRILLED into your heart, The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a story of BOUNDLESS possibilities, in which every situation or fantasy element you can cook up in your head has a chance to make it on the pages. It’s impossible to tell what Clarke will show us, design for us to visualize, next.

It’s SO easy to geek out over this book!

THIS is why I’m a character girl
Ananna is my kind of young woman. She’s bold, feisty, and fiercely loyal of her companion, Naji, the assassin sent to KILL her. How did that (their flipped relationship) happen? His tie to her is a result of her good-hearted tendencies, the ones that make her that much more of an astonishingly lovable person. She doesn’t think much of herself on the outside but she’s conscious and proud of her capabilities, which is why she doesn’t enjoy being rendered helpless, left to hand over the reins on her escape, and eventual quest into the unknown, to a certain grumbly, miserable assassin who can’t be up to any good in the first place. She’s not afraid to be who she is and she can lay it out like it is, blunt and open. I firmly believe there isn’t anything she CAN’T do—and, no, that’s not because of my insanely OBVS girl crush on her!

Naji is no slouch, or piece of chopped liver. Naji and Ananna are amazingly well-paired main characters. They’re both used to leading, to doing things a certain way. DIFFICULT is a mild term for their attempts at compromise and trust. In fact, there’s so much distrust and discord fueling their adorably sarcastic banter that their relationship grows unawares to the two of them, until they’re forced to rely on each other even more than would be considered comfortable for both of them so that those two negative, intangible companions on their exquisite journey disappear altogether. Throw in Naji’s tortured soul motif under all the Jadorr’a badassery—you know, vulnerable and crushed heart over his facial disfigurement—and you couldn’t have two more surprisingly sweetly endearing characters, both of whom would probably scowl at the label, to fall in love with in The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke.

In terms of plot and shizz
THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON HERE. We’ve got Ananna doing her darnest to escape her dreadful future in-laws in hopes that she won’t have to marry their obnoxious, dull, wannabe pirate son, and her attempts to elude the assassin after her very clever butt. Then, once the assassin in question is forced to her side because of an underlying curse suddenly activated by Ananna’s generous move, we’ve got a GIANT and ENGAGING quest to remove said curse—one which binds these two irrevocably in moments of danger. This becomes the PERFECT opportunity to take us across hazardous deserts and creature-infested seas to the maddening Isles of Sky where the answers they seek are said to be. Meanwhile, they have to dodge beings of the mists who are out on account of a personal vendetta against are solemn and secretive Naji.

But nothing about The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke TRULY compares to Ananna and Naji and the bond that solidifies into something impervious and steely over the months into their dangerous journey. Something about the two of them sparks instantly, but is taking a while to really catch fire. Their friendship is a slow, painful process because their trust and respect for each other is built upon many hard lessons and trials. It’s amusing to experience their inevitable softening toward each other, but even more so is their fast and steady defense of one another. It’s warming to see Ananna jump to defend Naji’s honor or his already bruised feelings, and come to realize the true nature of her feelings. And Naji may be a solid wall of unreachable mystery, but, underneath it all, there really isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her.

How does it end?
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke is part of a duology, which is both lovely and saddening, because while our misery over the lack of romantic fodder won’t last overly long, I KNOW I’m going to miss them both, as well as the other characters and the extraordinary high fantasy in the storytelling, and the mess of adventures Ananna and Naji drop into.

Moments of frustratingly slow pacing aside, The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke gave me a fantastical story of epic levels, with grand fantasy that seems bigger than the story itself and characters that I’m ever-rooting for, and I’m ridiculously impressed! The story scores even more points for its unexpected awesomeness, which makes it into the sort of precious gem I treasure most. A definite favorite of the year!

PS: Doesn't Naji already remind you of Prince/Fire Lord Zuko? :-D Speaking of, check out my book boyfriend edition for June which features my favorite shadow-dwelling assassin!
"A river?" I said. "Water?"
"Water generally comprises a river, yes."
"Oh, thank Kaol and E'mko both!" I closed my eyes and all the dusty dryness fell away, and I imagined diving into clean hard river water, sloughing off all the grime and filth of travel, a proper bath and not a useless sandscrub-- "We're not there yet."
I opened my eyes. Naji was looking at me with little lines creasing the strip of his face, his own eyes bright and sparkling.
"Are you laughing at me?"
I lunged at him with an imaginary sword, and this time he really did laugh, all throaty and raspy, and I wondered what I could do to get him to laugh more. (35%)
Rating: Perfect Bed Partner

While at very few times in the novel I struggled with the sporadic too-slow pacing—I’m a fast-paced plot kind of gal—I was deeply immersed in the enchanting and more-than-merely-the-pages fantasy that very much has a life of its own. Throw in two fabulous main characters—one of whom is the amusing, honest, and realistic narrator of the story—and I was hooked. Daring and dire adventures, wicked, frightening foes, and characters I became viciously protective of by the end, The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke rapidly found its way to the top half of my favorites of the year pile!

Want to win your very own copy?
The awesome folk over at Strange Chemistry are providing one lucky winner the chance to read this FANTASTIC book ahead of schedule! Sign up so you don't miss out! Good luck!

Official Giveaway Info:
  • you do NOT have to be a follower
  • there are extra entries available
  • all entrants must be at least 13 years old or older
  • giveaway deadline is July 22, 2012
  • giveaway is open to US + INTL*
  • read my Contest | Giveaway page, as well as my Privacy Notice
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Don't be shy!


Heidi said...

Gah! As you know, I am SO excited for this one, it's kind of crazy. The idea of anyone forcing me into an arranged marriage is laughable. I honestly can't even comprehend it, largely because that is so NOT part of my culture or who my parents raised me to be. And of course I would run away from it. I'm going to skip practical things like money and passports and actual survival stuff and say that I'd probably bring either my cat or my kindle. Or both. Which actually makes me think of Moonrise Kingdom, because when the girl in that runs away she takes a suitcase of books and her kitten. :P

Liz @ Planet Print said...

I LOVED this. Ananna was awesome, and Naji...I got Zuko vibes from him as well! And the ENDING. Why. I need the next book. So badly. I need to know more. I have no idea how I'll write my review, I'm sort of speechless :P.

Lili said...

If I were to escape an arranged marriage the one thing that I would bring with me is the man that would have made me believe that I am so much better than the arranged marriage and I should be with him. lol Otherwise, unfortunately, I'd stay in the marriage because it's an obligation and I wouldn't have anyone worth fighting for.

Faiza M said...

Wow this book sounds so good, I would bring the someone I really loved.
But wow I really want to read this book now, thanks for the giveaway.

Bookworm1858 said...

I only skimmed your review because I absolutely positively want to avoid spoilers as this is one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year-I can't wait to dive into it!

AnimeJune said...

I've never heard of this book before - but it looks AMAZING! Gorgeous cover, setting and story! Want want want! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, I would never have heard of it otherwise!

Len D. said...

I would definitely runaway from it!

rogier said...

i would runaway

Caitlin said...

Don't think I could go through with it...would depend on a lot of things though (like is he Adrian Ivashkov) if I ran away, would totes take my kindle! Thanks for the amazing review and chance to win...hadn't heard of this before but now I'm intrigued!


Sam @ Realm of Fiction said...

I am peeing my pants with excitement because I will be reading this SOON. Honestly, you have me crazy excited for this book. I think your Book Boyfriend post was what really convinced me

Sam @ Realm of Fiction said...

Also, just a duology? NOOO!

laceyblossom said...

I don't think I'd be able to go through it! I would bring the person that I love that made me not go through with the marriage.

Mimi Valentine said...

You had me at: "Ananna is the daughter of a pair of badass pirates." Part because her name reminds me of banana which honest rocks my socks off, but mostly because I LOVE badass pirates -- they're my favourite kind! x) It's kind of funny that you mention this now because I've been looking for an amazing pirate read since I first started blogging, and I'm so happy to have finally found one!! *dances happily*

Amazing review, Asher! Definitely adding this book to my Goodreads TBR pile! ;) <3

Candace's Book Blog said...

I have this on my wishlist already. All it took was 'pirates' to have me sold. But knowing that her character is so awesome has me REALLY wanting this book cause I am SO a character person! It seems like most fantasy has some slower parts, so I'm not TOO concerned about that. I think this is one that I will consider EPIC as well and now I went from wanting to read it, to DYING to read it! Such an AWESOME review Asher!

Oh, and NO I would never go through with an arranged marriage! I would say that I would just bring what I had to to survive. Of course this would include some books and my kindle (cause you know there's never ending books there).

Lauren M said...

Aw yeah, good characters for the win! Ananna sounds like my kind of leading lady, too. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Asher! Thanks for putting it on my radar. :)

Brandy Dull said...

I don't think I could go through with an arranged marriage because I have to have strong feeling in order to spend my whole life with someone. My husband is my best friend, and it makes our relationship even stronger.

Mindful Musings said...

I have this one from NetGalley, so I'm not entering the giveaway, but I'm SOOOOO glad to hear you liked it! From the synopsis, it sounded right up my alley, but I honestly haven't seen that many reviews yet, so I was waffling between requesting it or not. Obviously I caved. Can't wait to read it! :)

Lynn K said...

Never! My whole lot of books maybe? Realistically it would be money though..

rachelcotterill said...

I got this from NetGalley and I loved it so much! :)