The story centers around Celaena, an eighteen year old assassin. She is a convicted criminal, serving time in what amounts to something similar to a Nazi concentration camp. She’s given a choice: compete to become the King's Champion, and if she wins, earn back her freedom by being his assassin for four years. The concept of the book is intriguing. A competition isn’t anything new in fantasy or YA literature, but the stakes are definitely high.
The three main characters (Celaena, Chaol, Dorian) have the stereotypical love triangle element, which I feel is entirely overdone. This was one reason this book is 3 stars for me. Nothing new is added, and this takes up a large portion of the character development. We do however get good glimpses into motivations, and a bit of worldbuilding, through this element. The author took advantage of the trope to do a little more with it, so I appreciated it.
Celaena is a fascinating character. There were a couple things about her I felt didn’t fit all that well. She was much too quick to recover from her time in prison without any residual effects besides fear of returning. No PTSD besides an occasional dream, but really, that element came in more to do with her past and her parents than her stint in Endovier. Besides that, though, I really liked her. I’m super curious about her relationship with Arobynn, and I hope that comes out more in the following books. She was badass without being overdone, had elements of vanity that made her seem human, and just enough snark without being annoying. All in all, well written and likeable.
Dorian was bit boring to me, and Chaol was definitely my favorite side character, although he was a bit bland in my opinion, too. I hope the next books expand on their characters and make them more interesting. I liked that with Dorian there were hints of him wanting to man up and stop being a spoiled Prince, and Celaena seems to be part of that motivation. And with Chaol, I liked that his personality and temperament fit the fact that he is a soldier. Yet we saw softer sides to him, that make the reader want to cheer him on.
My favorite part of the book was seeing glimpses into the magic system and the In-between. This makes me think I’ll really enjoy the second book if this comes more into play.
This book was an easy read, more about introducing us to the characters than anything else. I will continue reading the series, since the hints of what’s to come are leading in a direction I usually like: darker, more magic, more political intrigue.