Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Assassin and the Desert by Sarah J. Maas

"You're just a spoiled, selfish bitch."

Celery's punishment saga continues as she finally makes her way into the Red Desert, a vaguely Middle Eastern land where the Silent Assassins live. The Silent Assassins seem to borrow very heavy from George R. R. Martin's Faceless Men, and it's almost funny how closely this story arc mirrors Arya's training under Jaqen H'ghar. But this is not the first thing in this series I've seen that really reminded me of Game of Thrones. The valg are pretty similar to the wights, Mannon and her wyvern is basically a knockoff Daenerys Targaryen (I mean, she's a dragon queen with white-blond hair), and QUEEN OF SHADOWS introduces something called "hellfire" that sounds a lot like wildfire. I'm not even a hardcore GoT fan, and even I noticed the similarities.

Long story shorts, Celery must study under the Silent Assassins and get a letter of recommendation from them. While there, she makes friends with a girl named Ansel, who has a tragic history of her own. After her initial distrust with anything female, Celery finally condescends to accept these overtures of friendship and actually find herself quite taken with the chatty red-haired girl. Of course, this being a Throne of Glass novella, this comes to nothing.

Okay, seriously, what is the deal with the way women are treated in this book. Good women are chaste and end up married and pregnant by their mates, whereas bad women are slutty or power-hungry and ambitious. Even Celery, who's supposed to be the best of the best, doesn't actually do much that's bad-ass. Considering how all of these novellas have the words "assassin" in the title, she doesn't do much assassinating. In fact, she balks from it at every opportunity, even if it's her damn job. And I'm sorry but how does killing people of adultery weigh more than killing people who are essentially selling people (including youths) into prostitution (per pirate lord)? She should have killed Rolfe, but she didn't. And when Ansel betrays her in this book, because of course she does, nobody can eclipse our shining star, Celery Saltine-thin, Queen of Every Fucking Thing, Celery doesn't even kill her. She lets her get away with betraying all the people who took her in. Because of course she does. She even manages to get herself drugged/poisoned by quaffing food that's put in front of her.

Best. Assassin. Ever.

Despite my complaints, this is easily the best of the three assassin prequel novellas I've read so far. The scenery descriptions are much better here, and all of the side characters are interesting (except for, you know, Celery). The way Ansel was treated in this book was basically Nehemia pt. 2 and I don't know why Maas seems so reluctant to portray healthy female friendships, but man, it's becoming a pattern and it's kind of upsetting. Nehemia was the best part about books one and two, and we all know how that went down. Ansel was a repeat of that. Don't be friends with women, I guess, or they'll either try to kill you or die for your sins. Oh, and Celery adds yet another conquest to her ever-growing man-harem, the ill-fated assassin, Ilias. Honestly, considering how cruelly these books treat sexually empowered women, Celery sure has a lot of admirers.

2 out of 5 stars

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