The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

(6.7/10) For all the fun I had reading the ending left me with a really bad taste.

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 fiancé  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.

I think I have gone way past YA binge and into the realms of YA deluge with book #6 from Strange Chemistry - The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. Of all the Strange Chemistry books I've read so far, Assassin's Curse had the best beginning, but one of the most confusing and unsatisfying endings so far. This is a bitter-sweet review - I really wanted to love this book because of how much fun I had at the start, I do think this book is worth reading because of that strength in the beginning, but I just can't get past an ending that almost ruined my entire experience.

The Assassin's Curse tells the story of Ananna, a pirate girl of the Tanarau clan who runs away after parents try marrying her off to a dolt from a rival pirate clan. With their pride in tatters, the rival clan sends an assassin, Naji, after Ananna, only for Ananna to accidentally save Naji's life and initiate a curse that bonds the two of them together with magic. Thus begins a quest that sees Ananna and Naji reluctantly team up in an attempt to break the curse and continue their lives again. For me, this is an interesting premise backed up with some solid writing. The idea of enemies being forced to work together and then becoming friends is not a new idea, but Clarke really executes it well by giving our heroes ever increasing challenges that require both of them to work together just to survive. But, as I mentioned before, the story runs out of steam after the three quarter mark and spends the last quarter doing everything it can to set up more plot points for the second book without resolving a single plot line from this book. It was just disappointing, unfulfilling, boring, and really undermined all the excellent work Clarke did at the start of the book. The ending hasn't seemed to affect all readers of The Assassin's Curse in the same way as it has affected me, and there's a good chance you will like the ending, but for me it just felt like the book was cut-off unnecessarily for the benefit of the second book.

Moving on, one of the elements of this story I really liked was the duet between Naji and Ananna. I'm not sure I would be a big fan of these two characters on their own given their annoying flaws, but when you balance these flaws out with the others strengths, they both become much more compelling. Ananna, as the precocious, arrogant, and outlandish teenage pirate provides a great contrast to Naji, the calm, quiet, and self-effacing assassin. There are some other supporting characters in this story, but they weren't given enough stage time for me to really invest in them. Hopefully in the second book, with Naji and Ananna already established, we will get to meet some great new characters.

The Assassin's Curse is a story that offers a lot of good material and should really have established itself as one of the débuts of the year, but it was let down by the last 50 - 75 pages. For all the fun I had reading this at the start, the ending left me with a really bad taste in my mouth and I knew I needed to just step away from this book for a couple of weeks before attempting to write this review. I know I will be back for the second book in the series, and I will definitely be reading Clarke's latest offering from Angry Robot Book, but I don't know if I will be able to shake this experience unless Clarke really delivers with both of those offerings.

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