Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. Ananna and the assassin set off to break the spell--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them."
Review: Note: I edited the summary of this book because I felt like it gave too much away. Read the full summary on Goodreads at your own risk. On to the review.
First off, can we all take a moment and gush over that beautiful cover?? I absolutely adore it. Fabulous work, cover artists.
The story inside this lovely cover image is zesty, exhilarating, dangerous, and pretty freaking entertaining. I haven't had so much fun reading fantasy in quite a while. Ananna is a fiery, courageous and charismatic pirate, and Naji is a smooth and cunning assassin. They're opposites in many ways, but play off of each other really well. Both have their strengths and their vulnerabilities, and were really full characters. Neither one of them has the strongest moral center, considering their respective occupations, and it was both funny and endearing to watch them learn to care for something outside of themselves.
There is a little bit of romance here, but it's not overpowering, and it never gets in the way of the plot. Which is to say, it was the perfect amount of romance for my taste. The plot itself was fantastic. Within the first few pages Ananna begins her escape on the back of a stolen camel, and her gutsy and sometimes rash adventure just keeps going from there. It never slows, which is good considering how short this book is. I finished it in one 24-hour period and already have its sequel on hold at the library.
The world-building was really well done. I liked the obvious Arab influences to this story (the markets, spices, clothing, etc.) and also liked how the Pirates came across almost like Outlaws from the American West in the way they spoke. It was an interesting conglomeration to put Pirate-Cowboys in a Middle Eastern setting, but it worked. It was different and interesting and appealing.
If there's one weakness it's the ending. There is hardly a climax at all to this book, and I felt very little closure when I finished the last page. It's a really short book, and I wish this and its sequel were just combined and released as one larger book. Oh well. I should also warn you that there are a few moments of strong language. It doesn't happen often (I think only twice) but it's there. If you're sensitive to language, though, take heed.
All in all I had a blast reading this book. Ananna reminds me a little bit of Flavia de Luce with her feisty but lovable disposition. It's a captivating and highly entertaining read, surprisingly short for a fantasy novel, and a thrilling and dazzling debut from an author I am really glad I found and will surely be reading again.
Bottom Line: Pirates. Assassins. Magic curses. Evil wizards. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Read it.