The Assassin's Curse - Cassandra Rose Clarke This book sounded fascinating from its description, with words like "Pirates" and "Assassins" leaping out at me and pushing all the right buttons. And while Angry Robot's young adult imprint Strange Chemistry has only just celebrated their one year birthday, they've already made a name for themselves in my book with their wide variety of unique and interesting titles. So, I'll admit I was going into this with rather high expectations.

A strong point for this book is that it doesn't waste time getting started. Our protagonist and narrator Ananna of the Tanarau faces a difficult and undesirable situation on page one. Hailing from a family of pirates, she is being forced by her parents to marry a scion of another pirate clan. As handsome as he is, Ananna dislikes him right away and figuratively jumps ship on her impending nuptials, leading the jilted young man's family to send an assassin after her.

And yet, I found the story's momentum rapidly loses it steam, even after Ananna and her would-be assassin Naji faces off one night and their skirmish accidentally results in a curse binding them together. Their subsequent quest to break it involves a journey to far off lands, impossible magic, and encounters with strange characters and creatures. On the face of it, that might sound like a lot, but very little of it actually advances the plot.

In essence, I think there's a lot of potential for this series, but this first book read like one long introduction. I waited for it to pick up, but there was really no climax. Upon completing this, I got the impression that I won't get into the real meat of the story until the next installment. It just felt like a very risky way to manage the pacing and a strange place to end the book, with no cliffhanger or anything, just a straightforward promise of more to come.

To its credit, though, the novel does give you plenty of reasons to want to continue with the series. Seeing how Ananna and Naji manages to break the curse will be plenty motivation enough, but their relationship also grows with complexity and is rife with romantic tension throughout the entire book. Those who are interested in seeing what becomes of that will probably want to pick up the next one too.

Bottom line, I don't think a whole lot happened in this book, but it does a decent job setting up the situation and the players. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for book two.