You can’t do me any favours with short stories, novellas and other shorter fiction. It’s just not for me, too fleeting, if you will. I need time to invest in the story and characters, and shorter fiction just doesn’t allow me to do just that. That’s not to say I don’t read any shorts at all. On the contrary, in recent years I’ve read quite some short fiction, but always as a part of a greater series. See, I have this problem where I have to complete something. I can’t abandon a series or show when I’m not that into it – The 100 is a perfect example. I wasn’t too keen on season 1 and know I’m on S3 – and if I know that there are shor stories to fill the gaps, I’ll read them. Fast forward to this year and I was about to pick up Queen Of Shadows, the fourth instalment in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne Of Glass series, when I remembered I still had The Assassin’s Blade to read.
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…
I know that this blog must be getting rediculously repetitive, but I can’t but stress how Sarah J. Maas was a nice surprise for me after all the YA crap I’ve read in recent years. She knows how to decently write a story with engaging characters and has the aptitude to maintain, nay, raise her game the further she’s along in her series. With this collection of novellas she has surprised me as well. I have other collections by authors on my shelves – in fact, when I’m writing this, I’m reading the Dresden Files short stories – and they actually read as collections of shorter work. You jump along between the books in the series and nonessential gaps are being filled. The Assassin’s Blade is no such thing. While it comprises of five short novellas, they work as a whole and in doing so provide a welcome backstory to Celaena’s past. I felt more like reading a book titled The Assassin’s Blade, consisting of five big chapters, rather than five separate stories.
“pave the way for the showdown
Even though they might fit perfectly together into one grand narrative, the individual stories were kind of hit and miss. I think that the last two stories in particular, Underworld and Empire, were the strongest and contributed the most in terms of what’s to come in the actual series. The other stories were more there to pave the way for the showdown and setting up the relationship between Celaena and Sam. Although Desert was quite enjoyable as well, given the different location and the training Celaena received. These stories stand in stark contrast with the first two. I can’t be bothered with the first one and Healer was quite pointless to me. I just did not enjoy that one. These two just lack something deeper that I did find with the final two.
Another thing that Maas did very well with these novellas, is painting a clear picture of who Celaena was and how she became the girl we got to know in Throne Of Glass. Perhaps I am biased in the sense that I already knew Celaena for three books, so she was already quite formed in my mind, but The Assassin’s Blade showed another part of Celaena. The part that withered away in Endovier, the Celaena that actually dared to dream of pretty things and happiness.
“dream of pretty things and happiness
Next to Celaena, this book introduces the characters of Sam and Arobynn. If you’ve read Throne Of Glass, you know better than to care for Sam. Still I fell for it and couldn’t help it. He’s just so sweet, and endearing, and handsome. Funny how I pictured Sam in Pirate Lord as this random guy, bit chubby, but by Underworld I was smitten with this image of this kind of Greek god who would swoop Celaena up in his arms and carry her to bed. Like I said, I knew better than to care but still.. Someone I did not care for, was Arobynn. I don’t know why, but when I read the series I had this idea of him in my head as a sort of father to Celaena. Oh hell no! Sarah know how to write some good characters and she knows exactly how to make you feel certain stuff. She hit home with Arobynn there, the bastard. I hope he gets his dues and that Celaena might be the one to deliver them!
All this is put to paper with the easy-going writing of Sarah J. Maas. She is a great example of how writing improves over the course of the books, and while these stories aren’t perfect, they are great fun and tell a captivating story.
Books like this, where the different stories make one coherent narrative, might not be legion, but they well should be. I wanted to read these stories to fill the gaps – and because I’m a completist – but it was a really enjoyable read all the way throug.
★ ★ ★
Go with Celaena to Endovier, walk her path here.