Published: 2nd October 2012 by Strange Chemistry
Format: eARC, 320 pages
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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.
Ananna doesn’t trust pretty people, and her parents have picked the clueless but extremely handsome heir of the Hariri clan, Tarrin, for her to marry. Decidedly unhappy at the prospect, Ananna runs away from her parents, her life as a pirate, and everything she knows and holds dear. But she incurs the wrath of the Hariri clan, who waste no time in sending an assassin after her! What follows is a wonderfully engaging adventure with lots of action, magic, and a little bit of colourful language. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am eager to read more.
I knew I’d like Ananna from the very first sentence, and she did not disappoint. She’s resilient and brave, good qualities in the hardened daughter of a pirate, but she often speaks without thinking, which gets her into trouble. I think she played off well against the assassin Naji, a guarded man who doesn’t have an impulsive bone in his body. I was surprised that Naji needed a lot of help from Ananna – she has to run all sorts of errands for him and I wondered how he got along without her. Then I realised that since he is bound to her, Naji’s movements would be restricted to relying on more upstanding methods of getting magical supplies than the usual, requiring Ananna’s help. It seems unlikely that any romance would blossom between the two, with them stuck together because of a curse, but it happens anyway. The romance is peripheral to the story but drives a lot of the interaction between the two, which is cute.
Although the book isn’t broken up into sections, I got the sense that there are three distinct parts: the first one where we are on land where Naji is familiar with everything and Ananna is a little lost, the second where the action is on a pirate ship and Ananna is comfortable but Naji isn’t, and the third in a setting where they are both out of their depths, but having learnt one another’s talents and skills, the pair are able to work successfully together. While this is a simplistic way to tell the story, Clarke pulls it off with mastery and I appreciate the balance she gave to both her protagonists. One of the things I dislike about the book, however, is Ananna’s voice. I appreciate that the syntax and grammar used to tell the story were authentic to Ananna’s upbringing as a pirate, but it jarred me because the accent would come and go. I have a finished copy of the book, but don’t have access to it at the moment, and I hope this was fixed in the final version because my ARC was frustrating to read because of this. I don’t mind the accent but would have greatly appreciated consistency.
A wonderful debut novel, The Assassin’s Curse is another great accomplishment for Strange Chemistry and a pleasure to read. Fans of fantasy are sure to love it and it is suitable for both YA and adult audiences. I can’t wait to see how the Ananna and Naji;s adventures in breaking their curse turns out, and am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Pirate’s Wish.