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Summary: "After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.
Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction."
Review: **NOTE: This review does not contain spoilers for this book, but there are some spoilers for its prequel, The Assassin's Curse. Be ye warned.**
If I rated books based purely on enjoyment (or on the awesome-factor of their covers) both books in this series would hands down have five stars. Seriously, if you want to read a fast, funny, and immensely entertaining adventure (so... everyone, right?) this series is for you.
Ananna is a hoot, pure and simple. She's a courageous, energetic, rough-around-the-edges, clever, foul-mouthed pirate. In other words, she makes a fantastic heroine. Her adventures are as exciting as they are unexpected, and always over too soon.
And can we just take a moment and talk about the manticore? Seriously, that manticore is one of the greatest characters I have ever read. I adored every single scene she was in, and missed her sorely when she left. The world Clarke created is original and so well developed. I loved all of it.
The story's main plot centers around Ananna and Naji's attempt to break the impossible curse by performing three impossible tasks:
1) experience true love's kiss
2) hold the princess' starstones, skin on stone
3) create life out of violence
The first one's pretty straightforward and fairly predictable from a reader's perspective, but the other two were puzzles that the reader must decipher along with Ananna and Naji. I like puzzles. I was happily surprised that one task was completed within the first few chapters of the book. Usually these big plot-things take a while to get going, but we just jumped right in. Go Clarke. The second task was sufficiently built up and executed, but the third task's completion, while pleasantly surprising, was a little too out of left field. (Also, not sufficiently explained.)
I have mixed feelings about the climax of all the subplots (the manticore's delivery home; the conflict with the Hariris; Naji's obligation to The Order; Ananna's pirate captain ambitions; Ananna's relationship with her parents; Marjani and Saida's reunion; the final battle with The Mists). They all happened, which was good, but I wished for a little more closure with some of them. Particularly with The Mists. I'm still not totally sure what happened, or how it's at all different from what happened multiple times with Echo. I'm kind of confused as to whether The Mists were actually defeated, or just delayed again. It would be a better ending if they were actually defeated, but if they just lost the battle and not the war then I have hope of another book in the series being released. But I don't know which it is, and this confusion is worse than either ending.
I didn't mind the romance in the book, because it never got in the way of the plot. But I could have done without the sexy-times. They were not frequent or graphic, and I was happy that those involved were happy, but I just didn't feel like it fit in this story. For me, for this particular story, I didn't love it.
I did love the ending, if for no other reason than because it defied my expectations. It was happy, but not sappy, and definitely not predictable. Such a fun and original story. I'm so glad I read it.
Bottom Line: Phenomenal read! This book will surprise you and will make you laugh. You'll enjoy having your expectations repeatedly punched in the face, and when you're through reading you'll want to join me on my hunt for a pet manticore.