Snakes and Daggers

The Assassin's Curse - Cassandra Rose Clarke
”Well, look who’s on my front porch,” he said, speaking Empire with this odd hissing accent. “A murderer and a cross-dressing pirate.”

I’m still having a hard time figuring out how a book from this author, with this kind of premise, in my go-to genre could have failed me monumentally. A sassy seventeen year old pirate bride ditches her groom who in turn sends a deadly assassin after her to… well, kill her. By some brilliant turn of events, the pirate bride saves the assassin’s life, binding both of them in an impossible curse where her supposed killer is now compelled to protect her. 

”Two weeks in the desert all on account of some assassin who doesn’t know how to look out for snakes.”
“If you hadn’t killed that snake,” Naji said calmly, “I would have killed you.”
“Oh, shut up.”

Neither happy in their new situation, they become the unlikeliest allies searching for a way to break the curse, crossing mystic forests and treacherous seas in their search for the wizard who has the answers.

That plot breaks my heart from all the wasted opportunities to blow my mind but what hurts the most is seeing glimpses of the story I was expecting, in a messy tangle of dull and charmless characters and confusing plot progression and transition. There were stretches of scenes in this book that captured my fancy: I liked Naji and Ananna’s moments aboard the Ayel’s Revenge (a ship) and found excitement in their fight with the Hariri in the desert (when I thought this was taking the surreally awesome turn towards Arabian Steampunk)… everything that happened in between felt like gaping black holes in terms of plot and character logic. Holes I found myself filling out with assumptions and excuses to fashion some sense into what I am reading.

I’ve often complained about books that are all about the telling, neglecting the showing. This relied a little too heavily on certain presumptions. For example, this presumes that I will automatically like the not-so-attractive heroine for buckling against her father’s will to marry the attractive, arrogant and entitled asshole. Because, duh feminism. Except I never really got to like Ananna. For all her supposed independence and (barely) sassy (not so) smart-mouth, she came across bossy, bitter and naggy to me. It makes zero sense how she transitioned from sassy bitchy pirate to concerned companion to Naji to enamoured girl harbouring some serious unrequited love. 

But then again, her name has an unnecessary repetitive syllable in the end… so I suppose that explains everything.

I didn’t even feel Naji’s presence enough to comment on his character. He’s all about the brooding and the answers with double meanings and “woe is my pretty face if not for these scars, gimme my mask dammit!” I suppose much would be revealed in the second book about his past but here, up to the very end, I barely know why I should be concerned of what will happen to this character.

The paranormal fantasy aspect didn’t feel seamlessly incorporated to the story to me and hardly had any claws to pin my attention fixed. Details about this world and the characters get dropped in when it suits the plot, tailor-made for convenience’s sake. Something that doesn’t work for me. I found myself midway through the book with still very little backstory on Annana and Naji to pull emotion from towards the end. 

Which sucks because the ending of this one is certainly making promises that I’m seriously SERIOUSLY hoping it could keep.