Alright guys I’m motivated I’m going to ride this until I get too freaked out about doing Chinese historical research and disappear.
They’re arriving in the capital city. Maybe interesting things will happen here! Like escape attempts?
“Trumpeters signaled their arrival as they passed through the looming alabaster walls of Rifthold. Crimson flags depicting gold wyverns flapped in the wind above the capital city, the cobblestone streets were cleared of traffic, and Celaena, unchained, dressed, painted, and seated in front of Chaol, frowned as the odor of the city met her nose.“
In case you thought there was any chance this wouldn’t be a completely standard Fantasy Medieval Europe city.
Also, why the heck have they unchained her? This is probably a better chance for her to get away than in the middle of the mountains. She could probably pick up something to use as a weapon easily, and there’d be plenty of confusion for her to take advantage of. They’re trying to keep her identity and just what she’s there for a secret, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have chained her to the saddle underneath her skirt or something.
“Young women flocked to them, waving. Dorian winked and grinned. Celaena couldn’t help but notice the sharp stares from the same women when they beheld her in the prince’s retinue. She knew how she appeared, seated atop a horse like some prize lady being brought to the castle. So Celaena only smiled at them, tossed her hair, and batted her eyelashes at the prince’s back.“
Does anyone actually bat their eyelashes? I can’t remember ever seeing someone do this in real life, other than me when I was 7 and I decided to do it after seeing it in some book (I stopped).
The only saving grace of this is that Chaol points out she looks ridiculous. I continue to be okay with Chaol.
(Also did you know the prince and Celaena are hot because they’re totally hot.)
It’s only at this point, in order to be bratty to Chaol, that Celaena points out she could run now. Chaol says they’ll just kill her if she does that. Alas, the book is not ending that quickly.
Celaena just rides along enjoying looking at shop windows, until she gets a glimpse of the docks and sees the slaves there. She’s bothered by this.
“She wanted to leap from her horse and run to them, or to simply scream that she wasn’t a part of this prince’s court, that she had no hand in bringing them here, chained and starved and beaten, that she had worked and bled with them, with their families and friends—she was not like these monsters that destroyed everything. That she had done something, nearly two years ago, when she had freed almost two hundred slaves from the Pirate Lord. Even that, though, wasn’t enough.“
Now, this is really the first hint we’ve had of character development from Celaena. She’s still not acting on behalf of anyone besides herself, but she’s showing empathy and a desire to act, which is more than we’ve seen from her before. She starts finding it hard to breathe after this- she’s genuinely upset.
You’ll notice there a line about saving slaves from a pirate lord. Wow! That sounds cool! That sounds like a story in which Celaena actually does something and there may be fewer love interest distractions! That sounds like…something that is just going to be casually referenced here and not actually explored.
If you read a decent amount of YA, you’re probably aware of the current trend of novellas and short stories being added on to popular series. Sometimes these are put up for free by the author (but also available in certain print editions), sometimes they’re e-book exclusives, and sometimes they actually get collected as a separate book. I have mixed feelings about this trend as a whole. When a good author does it they can add a lot of depth to the characters and world from the main series, but it’s also pretty obvious that this is an attempt by traditional publishing to get even more money out of anything that proves remotely popular.
The part of this I do have a definite opinion on is the relationship these side stories should have with the main series- they should absolutely not be required reading. And I happen to know that that line about the pirate lord is referencing one of the tie-in novellas (imaginatively named “The Assassin and the Pirate Lord”) collected in the book The Assassin’s Blade.
You know, Rae Carson’s wonderful Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy has three connected novellas. One of them, “The Shadow Cats,” is told from the point of view of the main heroine’s sister, and is set before the first book. It features an intelligent and brave turn by the heroine of the main books. But these events are never mentioned in the main books, because they’re not immediately relevant to anything. “The Shadow Cats” is a fantastic story (I mean that, it’s excellently written), but in terms of the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, it tells the reader things they already know about the heroine, just more in-depth (and tells us a great deal about the side character that is the sister). I would absolutely recommend the novellas to someone who’s reading the trilogy, but they’re not necessary.
By mentioning the Pirate Lord incident in the context of Celaena’s character growth, and not actually explaining the episode, Maas is making the novella necessary. And I don’t appreciate being told “hey, be sure to buy this other story of mine too!” right in the middle of a story.
…there’s a chapter going on isn’t there, I’ll get back to that now.
So they reach the castle, and it’s all very full of glass and very fancy.
“‘Six hundred rooms, military and servant’s quarters, three gardens, a game park, and stables on either side,’ said Dorian, staring at his home. ‘Who could ever need so much space?’“
Celaena comments that she doesn’t know how anyone could sleep knowing they’re in a glass room (especially one high up). The prince laughs and says he and Celaena have rooms in the original stone castle.
By the way, the Assassin Hunger Games begins tomorrow. Man, it’s going to be exciting to see Celaena have to work hard to rise up through the ranks as she gets back into condition and deals with ruthless competitors!
Hahaha who am I kidding we all know she’ll be The Best with no effort at all.
Celaena turns out to have a fancy suite with a “bathing chamber,” a game room, and a balcony. This, at least, is noted to be a security hazard. As soon as Chaol leaves (and why isn’t he or someone else staying directly with her?), she evaluates her guards. She figures she could get the drop on them, take their weapons, deal with them and get out through the game park. Hey, Celaena, why didn’t you try thinking about escaping before you were in the center of government where at least part of the army is housed?
They’ve been careful not to leave anything that could be used as a weapon in the room, at least (no fire pokers, etc.), but Celaena finds some bone hairpins that she breaks and ties together, figuring it can do some damage. Hey, Celaena, why didn’t you show some of this ingenuity to find something you could have used as a lockpick back when you could have lost everyone in the woods?
Nitpicking aside, an escape-related thing is happening! Yay!
She hides the pins, and goes to check out the game room, where the billiards cues have stupidly been left. Also, a contestant in the Assassin Hunger Games has a spare room with a billiards table. Why.
She sleeps, is bitchy to a tailor who comes to make her court-appropriate gowns (she obviously knows so much more about fashion), has a bath, and preens at how good she looks all clean and with a fancy dress on. (To be fair, the prince earlier mentioned that she gained back some weight, so her being so thin due to starving may not enter into this image.) But the satisfaction doesn’t last long, because she remembers that she’s here because she’s going to be doing the bidding of the evil king. Um, what about that whole escape plan?
“Her corset—the stupid, cursed thing—pushed on her ribs so hard that the breath was sucked from her. This was why she mostly preferred tunics and pants.”
Celaena’s girly, but don’t worry she’s not too girly.
Celaena, super-assassin, is surprised by the appearance of a woman. Wow, assassins really pay attention to their surroundings.The newcomer is described as “large but well contained within the gown” she’s wearing. Ah yes, good thing she has her weight contained. We couldn’t have someone with a different body type walking around uncontained.
This is Phillipa Spindlehead, who undoubtedly deserves both a better job and a better name.
Phillipa conveniently knows who Celaena actually is. The court is expected to just dismiss her as one of the contestants or one of the prince’s girls. I’m so shocked that the prince is a ladies’ man, I never saw that coming. Phillipa also tells Celaena to stop making bratty faces because it’ll ruin her skin, and as a good girl she shouldn’t want that. Maybe Phillipa doesn’t deserve better.
“‘You understand what my occupation entails, don’t you?’
‘No disrespect, but this sort of finery is worth far more than seeing my head roll on the ground.’“
Or maybe she does.
We switch to Dorian, who is meeting with his Evil King of a dad. Dorian reflects on how much hotter he is than his dad. The actual phrasing talks about how “tall, toned, and elegant” Dorian is, unlike his “broad” and round-faced father and younger brother, which is a long way of saying “Dorian remembered that he’s the hot one.”
“And then there was the matter of Dorian’s sapphire eyes—not even his mother had his eyes. No one knew where they came from.“
Oh look the prince has some sort of magic secret going on too.
“‘She has arrived?’ his father asked. His voice was hard, edged with the clash of shields and the scream of arrows.“
Holy overwriting Batman.
The king isn’t pleased that a super-assassin who hates him is in the palace, which rather makes sense. Dorian claims she’s just going to roll over the competition and become Champion. In fact, they can probably get rid of the whole contest, because she’s just going to win. The king’s having none of it. His money is on Duke Perrington’s guy, Cain. Hmm, I wonder if Cain is evil?
The prince and the king snipe at each other, with the Prince making smart remarks about how he won’t be as much of an evil conqueror when he’s king. There’s a comment about the king playing at being god, whereupon he replies that he isn’t playing. Is this just because he’s a serious conqueror, or is he trying to set himself up as a god?
The king warns Dorian not to “associate” with Celaena (who he apparently knows used to have magic? how would he know that?). Dorian continues to be a smart-ass, so the king hits him and sends him away.
Is there going to be a decently written character at some point?