Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars
This book was simply supposed to be a distraction to keep readers/fans of the series busy while we waited (barely) patiently for the release of the next book in the Throne of Glass Series, Heir of Fire. What we weren’t expecting was to have our hearts completely ripped out from our chests, torn in half, and then shoved back down our throats to keep us moving forward like nothing actually happened, but we know…we know, and we remember and will never forget, and it still causes us to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. That is how I felt after reading this book!
Instead of a single story like most books, this title is actually a collection of five novellas, or short stories, that act as prequels towards the first original book. These were initially only available as e-books, but with the growing popularity of the series, Bloomsbury threw us a bone and gave us this gorgeous printed edition of all the titles in one collection.
Some people like to pass off prequels, myself included, because let’s be honest…prequels are so limited from the get go: you already know what’s going to eventually happen, and they’re sometimes just used as cash cows from the publishers that have little to do with the actual story, and could even possibly damage the quality of the whole franchise. This book is not like that though; it actually contains material that becomes incredibly important to the overall story of Calaena Sardothien and her redemption arc. Key players to the game get snuck in and are seen for the very first time, and like anything written by Sarah J. Maas, it leaves a lasting impression.
Also, what deserves its own note is Sam Cortland.
Yes, I repeat, we physically meet Sam Cortland in these stories!
What It’s About:
Like I said earlier, it’s a collection of five novellas so I’ll briefly explain all of them below by their titles:
The Assassin and the Pirate Lord:
Under the orders of their master known as the King of Assassins, Arobynn Hamel, a younger Calaena and her companion, Sam Cortland, are sent to Pirates Bay in order to secure a deal he’s made with the Pirate Lord, Captain Rolfe. When they arrive, they find out that Rolfe is actually becoming involved with a slave ring, and Calaena is absolutely furious about it. Never one to support slavery in any form, she has to make a decision that will go against her master’s orders for the first (and possibly last) time ever.
The Assassin and the Healer:
Yrene Towers is a young tavern girl who’s family used to be known as healers, but the king banished any form of magic in the land with deadly consequences. Her family is gone, and she must save up to be able to leave Erilea and find a new home, but one night after closing the tavern, she comes face to face with another young girl, a beaten and battered Calaena Sardothien.
The Assassin and the Desert:
Sent/banished to train with the silent assassins of the desert, Calaena secretly must obtain an enclosed letter from the master assassin in order to return to her own, Arobynn Hamel. The task, she learns, is much more difficult than she anticipated, and while meeting a new friend in Ansel of Briarcliff, she loses herself along the way.
The Assassin and the Underworld:
Accepted back into Arobynn’s good graces, Calaena finds herself now wary of him and his methods. She’s ordered to carry out mission’s that go against everything she stands for, and can’t do it any longer and seeks to find a way out of Arobynn, and the grip of the Assassin’s Guild. The higher points of this story is that you’re introduced to Lysandra for the first time ever, and Sam and Calaena are reunited in the best way!
The Assassin and the Empire:
Sam and Calaena, now together, both try to find a way out in order to run away from Rifthold and their master’s influence in order to start over somewhere else; all they need to do is one last mission, but things are never quite that easy, and both learn how deep a knife in the back can really go…this one is a tear-jerker that makes you think that nothing will be okay, there’s no hope, and you’ll be on your couch with a box of tissues, never able to fully recover.
My name is Calaena Sardothien,” she whispered. “And I will not be afraid.”– Sarah J. Maas, “The Assassin’s Blade”
What I Liked:
- Sam Cortland and Other Characters! A huge highlight of these books is meeting Sam Cortland face to face. There’s a sad reality behind every appearance of his, especially with his relationship with Calaena, because of how his fate’s been revealed in the first two books of the series. It only makes the inevitable more painful as we experience the grief that Calaena has to go through before her eventual imprisonment in the Endovier Salt Mines. There are plenty of other characters that you meet that also play a huge role in how the story progresses: Lady Lysandra, Yrene Towers, Captain Rolfe, Ilias of the Silent Assassins, and Ansel of Briarcliff. All these characters seem minor through the book, but know that all of them become super important as the story moves forward! There’s a reason you meet them all. It’s also worth noting that there is a little cameo of a big character in a certain ballroom scene that is never mentioned by name, but if you think about it, it’s super obvious, and will make you squeal in delight!
- The Emotional Impact! With prequels, there’s that awareness that you have as a reader by knowing the fates of characters before they ever do. It’s a cruel kind of power to have, and these stories only add to Calaena’s tragic backstory as you experience it firsthand. What it also does is gives you a deeper understanding towards her character overall and why she is the way she is, the softer/more vulnerable side of her that is seen is few times, and her slow descent into becoming a shell of her former self when she loses everything, and is taken prisoner to Endovier. Sure, its emotionally traumatizing like I’ve mentioned, but for someone who’s read the other books before this, I had to know that it was inevitable.
What I Didn’t Like:
- What Happens Next?…The one thing I absolutely despise about sequels is how you can feel like you’d experienced so much, been through the emotional wringer, and have this deeper understanding of the characters and the fictional world they belong in, but when you take a step back and think about it, not all that much has happened further into the story. Sure, there’s a deeper, stronger base to go off now with so much more depth to understanding them and their motives, but it still doesn’t answer the question of what happens next? What happens after the events of Crown of Midnight (the 2nd book)? We still don’t know; it feels somewhat like going one step forward, but two steps back.
- The Importance of These Stories in Question…Some of these short stories are more fun to read than others, simple as that. Part of me wondered what was the point of some of them: are they important, or are they just filler? I remember I questioned this when I initially read the book way back when it first came out, but after reading the whole series later on, I can say that, YES, ALL these stories carry importance into the overall story and how it ends up. Each play a small component, but it requires years of patience with later titles in order to see it all come through, and by then I bet quite a few readers forgot all about them.
While it was technically published after Crown of Midnight, this book gives you no answers as to what happens next in the story, which is so frustrating after THAT HUGE REVEAL AT THE END THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING MOVING FORWARD WITH THE WHOLE SERIES…but what this title does give us is more depth to the story, of Calaena and everything she’s experienced as a 16-year-old up-and-coming assassin in Rifthold. It causes the base of the whole world to become much more prominent and gives you a larger emotional attachment towards the books from then on, because c’mon, if you don’t get emotional reading that final story, I have no words for you or your black heart!
For those wondering when you should read this, I’d say you could do it chronologically, so this one could be read before the first book, but I felt like it was also fine if you read if afterwards or even after Crown of Midnight. It’s honestly your choice based on your own reading preference.
You meet so many characters that WILL play a huge role later on in these stories, even if it doesn’t feel like it after reading, plus a fun little cameo from an already established character; this title only adds to the whole experience that is reading the Throne of Glass series!
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell