YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: March 4th 2014
Number of Pages: 435 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Romance

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Conclusion:

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

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of of Instagram account: @darkfaerietales_

This series is about a young assassin named Calaena Sardothien, who’s been trapped at a concentration camp for over a year before she’s hand selected by the crown prince, Dorian Havilliard, to be his champion in a tournament in order to be the king’s royal assassin and eventually gain her freedom. Without giving too much away for those that haven’t read it yet, SO much more happens in this series, and we’re introduced to a lot of memorable characters:

My review of book #1 –Throne of Glass – Click here!

My review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click here!

My review of The prequel – The Assassin’s Blade -Click here!

My review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click here!

My review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click here!

My review of Book #5 – Empire of Storms – Click here!

My review of book #6 – Tower of Dawn – Click here!

My review of book #7 – Kingdom of Ash – Click here!

~~~

Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

~~~

Calaena Sardothien: Amber Heard, or Samara Weaving

Amber Heard, credit to owner
Samara Weaving, image courtesy of celebmafia.com

Both these blonde bombshells have that little fire in their eyes that perfectly encompass our main protagonist, Calaena! Amber Heard has been in Pineapple Express and Aquaman, and Samara was in the Netflix Halloween flick, The Babysitter. Amber was my original choice when I read the series over the years since while they were published, but I discovered Samara recently and thought she’d also make an excellent Aelin!

Dorian Havilliard: Chace Crawford, or Karl Kugelmann

Chace Crawford, image courtesy of stars-arena.com

So ever since I watched him be pretty boy Nate Archibald in the CW’s Gossip Girl back in the day, Chace has been a favorite of mine! he’s got the charm, he’s got the smile, and to help further my justification, it was the image of him below that had me sold on him being my Dorian!

Karl (below) is a model/Tik-Tok creator/influencer (I also can’t believe that’s a thing), and he is so stunning that I actually tear up a little if I look at him for too long! He’s like if Ian Somerhalder and Matthew Bomer had a baby together, and a lot of people are also fancasting him as Rhysand from SJM’s other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I see that, but personally, I think he encompasses our dashing Dorian Havilliard just a tad more.

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

Chaol Westfall: Steve Boyd

Credit to owner

The guys no actor; he’s a model I found on Instagram, but he’s my version of the proud and stoic Chaol Westfall. You don’t see it in the first image I selected, but Steve has that smoldering gaze that made it easy for me to select him as another one of my favorite male SJM characters. To further prove my point, here are some more images below to enjoy for your own eyes, and maybe see where I’m coming from…you can thank me later 😉

For all images: Credit to owners

Nehemia Ytger: Antoinette Robertson

Image courtesy of actress’s Instagram account

I love her portrayal of Coco Connors in Netflix’s TV show Dear White People, so I know she’s not afraid to play a strong woman of color. She’s absolutely gorgeous, and has such a glamorous presence on screen; she’d be perfect to to play Princess Nehemia!

Kaltain Rompier: Camilla Luddington

Image courtesy of gotceleb.com

She’s tough and spunky Jo Wilson on the later seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, but I feel like she’d also be able to play the catty and brash Kaltain. Her character starts off as the basic, interchangeable mean girl trope, but becomes much more compelling as you read Queen of Shadows, and that is where I think Camilla will excel at this role.

The King of Adarlan: Alan Van Sprang

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

He’s played a brutal king on the CW’s Reign, plus other titles too, so I know he’d be great at playing the sadistic King of Adarlan! Not the most original casting, I know, but the guy plays corrupt men on the thrown so well, I felt like some of us would be disappointed if he didn’t get the role!

Nox Owen: Bernardo Velasco

Image courtesy of the model’s Facebook page

I’d hoped Nox would play a bigger role in the whole series because I really liked the time we had with him, short and brief as it was, but I could totally see this handsome model play the part of Nox.

Sam Cortland: Sam Claflin, or Cameron Cuffe

Sam Claflin, credit to owner
Cameron Cuffe, image courtesy of gettyimages.com

Both actors just fit the description I had pegged for the one character who everyone loves but only a few actually meet (At least those who read The Assassin’s Blade), and both actors have the ability to teach me love, teach me patience, and teach me pain with Sam’s terrible fate.

Archer Finn: Armie Hammer

Image courtesy of thefashionisto.com

Archer is a total pretty boy, plain and simple. He’s a male escort in Rifthold, and Armie is just so delicious to look at, and he’s surprisingly not as old as he actually looks! I’ve seen him in The Social Network, The Lone Ranger, and Call Me By Your Name.

Queen Elena: Amanda Seyfried

Image courtesy of thesharenator.com

A lot of people have fancasted her as Calaena and/or Aelin, but I always thought she seemed too old for that part. With her being put into the list of possible names, I just came up with the idea of the actress from Mean Girls, In Time, Mamma Mia, Jennifer’s Body, and Red Riding Hood would be better suited to play the first queen of Adarlan!

Duke Perrington: Stellan Skarsgård

Image courtesy of hollywoodpicture.net

Stellan is a terrific actor, even if he’s never been an actor who I seek out whenever finding a movie to watch. I imagine Duke Perrington to be this more portly nobleman who just has foot soldiers do all his dirty work, but actually has SO MUCH GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE, I”M NOT SPOILING IT BUT OH MY GOD, please appreciate the meaning of that sentence!

Sorscha: Kelsey Asbille

Image courtesy of ign.com

I loved her as Gigi in One Tree Hill, and immediately thought of her as the healer we meet in Heir of Fire who also becomes a love interest to our favorite Prince, Dorian.

Rowan Whitethorn: Chris Hemsworth

Credit to owner

Watching him play the god of thunder, Thor, in the MCU movies was what really gave this idea to me. I mean, he had such gorgeous long locks of hair that were so similar to Rowan’s when we initially met him in Heir of Fire, and I’d hoped he’d have kept it a little longer than he did, but nonetheless, he’s beautiful no matter what length it is! But since everyone is so NOT for this choice, here’s a visual of Thor’s hair both long like Rowan’s in Heir of Fire, and shorter like it is in Queen of Shadows and further on:

Credit to owner

Aedion Ashryver: Josh Upshaw, or Christopher Mason

Josh Upshaw, credit to Owner
Christopher Mason, credit to owner

Both highly agreeable options to play Aedion, I feel no need to further justify!

Lysandra Ennar: Megan Fox, or Phoebe Tonkin

Megan Fox, image courtesy of cosmopolitan.com
Phoebe Tonkin, credit to owner

Despite people not seeming to be big of fans of Megan Fox, I’ve always liked her in whatever film I’ve seen her in. She’s type-casted as the bitchy hot girl, and Lysandra definitely starts off as that, but it’d be a great bridge for Megan, who has more ability than just being the same role! Phoebe is another great choice; catch her in the CW’s The Vampire Diaries and its spinoff, The Originals.

Manon Blackbeak: Catherine Joy Perry

Image courtesy of the WWE Superstar/model’s Instagram profile

So I follow SJMaas on Pinterest, and she’d pinned images of caucasian girls playing Manon, and not east asian actresses like others are casting her as. I won’t knock anyone who chooses their own fancasts, but I’m just personally going with the author based on her own visual cues.

Asterin Blackbeak: Teresa Palmer

Image courtesy of ranker.com

Another fancast option that’s been mentioned for Calaena and Aelin, so I had her included in my casting as the Second-in-Command for the Thirteen in the Blackbeak clan.

Lorcan Salvaterre: Henry Cavill

Credit to owner

I love this man…with his Netflix show, The Witcher, showing him in his white wig as the main character, Geralt, and EVERYONE was instantly like “IT’S ROWAN!!!!“… Not me, I’d already had him casted as my Lorcan!

Fenrys Moonbeam: Jason Momoa

Image courtesy of usmagazine.com

Fenrys was by far the hardest character to cast! First, not enough artists have commissioned fanart of him, and no one else has given me satisfying fancast options of him either! Jason Momoa came up because he’s a person of color, he’s can show the cockiness to match, and Aquaman here is also just plain gorgeous! I like him being my Fenrys; give me a better actor’s name, I dare you!

Gavriel: Charlie Hunnam

Image courtesy of moviestillsdb.com

He’s been in the show Sons of Anarchy and the Guy Ritchie directed flick, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He’s got a more mature look, so I thought he was an actor of proper age to play our calmer member of the Cadre, Gavriel.

Blackbeak Patron: Jessica Lange

Image courtesy of gala.de

She’s an icon, plain and simple. Jessica usually plays homophobic old women in her roles, but I can look past that for the sake of having her play an ancient, but powerful Ironteeth Witch and patron of the Blackbeak Clan. I’m literally getting chills just thinking about it!

Elide Lochan: Nina Dobrev

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Everyone knows her as Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce on The Vampire Diaries, but now you can also picture her as the resourceful and courageous Elide Lochan! Both characters know they aren’t the strongest players in the game, but that doesn’t stop them from sticking it to the big male alphaholes who continuously underestimate them.

Nesryn Faliq: Liza Soberano

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Liza has beautiful Filipino features, and she was someone who I thought of to play the master archer, Nesryn. It’s up for debate what ethnicity she technically falls under, but I’ve always pictured her having more eastern Asian features in her appearance, plus there’s plenty of fanart to back me up, so I’m sticking with my choice!

Ren Allsbrook: Alex Libby

Image courtesy of selectmodels.com

Ren isn’t described a whole lot in the books, so I feel like it can be pretty up in the air with whoever would portray him. I had a major crush on this model around the time we met this character in the books, so I just put a face to the name at that time. This choice could really be anyone!

Ansel of Briarcliff: Rose Leslie

Image courtesy of vk.com

If not Sophie Turner, I believe the role of Ansel should go to the other fiery redhead in Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie! I loved her portrayal of Ygritte in the hit HBO series, and even though Ansel is a little more refined and less rough around the edges, their spunk and confidence is what made this choice for me!

Queen Maeve: Kate Beckinsale

Credit to owner

When her most famous roles include movies like the Underworld films and the Van Helsing flick with Hugh Jackman, It’s no surprise that this gorgeous, British bombshell should play the High Queen, and one of Aelin’s biggest enemies!

Erawan: Alexander Skarsgård

Image courtesy of the actor’s official Facebook page

This is more for when we physically meet (one of) the King of the Valg, and big villain of the series, in Empire of Storms. I believe the host he took over was described as statuesque and blond and beautiful…um, so basically Alexander Skarsgård then! I find it funny that I have two Skarsgård brothers to play the big boss villain!

Captain Rolfe: Theo Theodoridis

Credit to owner

Theo is a model I found on Pinterest of all places, plus I do believe digital artist @morgana0anagrom kind of based her commission the character off him too, so he’s a choice for me to play the Pirate Lord who we first meet in both The Assassin’s Blade, and then later on in Empire of Storms!

King Gavin Havilliard: Wes Brown

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

This was just kind of random choice to be completely honest, I believe I was watching Private Practice on Netflix around the time I met him in the books, as Wes was a guest star on it, and he had similar features to Dorian, so that’s how I made the choice!

King Brannon: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Image courtesy of randomhotguy.blog

Love, Love, Love him as Jaime Lannister! I think by the time we get a surprise appearance of this character in the series, I was just looking for any character I could have Nikolaj play. If not King Brannon, he could also play a good Gavriel too I think!

Galan Ashryver: Jay Byars

Image courtesy of smgmodels.com

Another character who really anyone could play I feel like…Jay was another model I discovered on Instagram around the time I met Galan in Heir of Fire, so that’s how I made this choice!

Ilias of the Silent Assassins: Kendrick Sampson

Credit to owner

I wish Ilias was around more in the whole series! I really liked the whole Silent Assassins thread when you meet them in The Assassin’s Blade!

Yrene Towers: Kat Graham, or Tina Kunakey

Kat Graham, image courtesy of instyle.com
Tina Tunakey, credit to owner

Yrene Towers is one of the harder characters to fancast, just below Fenrys to be honest! There are so many different names thrown out there as to who everyone believes should play the healer that escapes to the Southern Continent, and becomes such a huge role in how the whole series wraps up! Kat Graham is a choice for me so long as she has her hair longer and lighter like in the image above, but someone on Tumblr mentioned Tina as their choice, and with her long curly hair, I do see her as a choice too!

Prince Arghun: Godfrey Gao, or Alex Landi

Godfrey Gao, image courtesy of showpo.com
Alex Landi, image courtesy of mattsimpkinsphotography.com

Godfrey Gao, who was in the Mortal Instruments movie, was my first choice to play the pompous high prince of the Southern Continent, but I was so sad to hear about his unfortunate death…the story behind it is just so tragic too! He died way too early. I have to include him, but Alex Landi is a newer choice, and you can see him on the most recent seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Prince Sartaq: Sam Asghari

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s Instagram profile

Mr. Britney Spears is my choice for Sartaq, who is by far the best new character to come out of Tower of Dawn (You meet Yrene in The Assassin’s Blade first!) Obviously, put a wig on top of Sam’s head, but wouldn’t you swoon if you saw him flying by on the back of his noble steed, Kadara? Can Ruk’s (Giant Eagles) be referred to as noble steeds?…

Princess Hasar: Constance Wu

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly Magazine

I first saw Constance star in Crazy, Rich Asians, and crazy enough, I also pictured her playing the exact opposite of a character as the the vicious, sharp-tongued princess and eldest daughter to Khagan, Urus. Some other fans see Hasar as more Middle Eastern, Egyptian, or Indian, but Constance really resembles how I pictured this character.

Prince Kashin: Sean Sarrantos

Credit to owner

The handsome middle son of the Khagan, I’d found this Greek/Korean fitness model on Pinterest and it was love at first sight! Someone said he looked like an asian Ryan Reynolds, so do with what you wish with that information…I hope that’s not offensive to anyone!

Borte: Naomi Scott

Image courtesy of the actress’s Instagram account

Borte is one of the Ruk riders alongside Sartaq and his clan, and is described as having golden-brown skin and onyx hair, and I know Naomi is a credible actress, so I thought she’d make a great addition to my stacked cast!

Yeren: Ariel Ben Attar

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

In my opinion, Yeren could really be casted as anyone…for anyone who needs a reminder, he’s engaged to be married to Borte despite the fact that they can hardly stand each other, even though they’re both in the same clan of Ruk riders in Tower of Dawn.

Falkan: Aiden Gillen

Image courtesy of latimes.com

We meet him in Tower of Dawn, and he’s incredibly worth mentioning based off what you learn about him later on in that book–not that I’m spoiling it in this post for anyone who possibly hasn’t read that far–and I want Aiden to play a role where I don’t hate the character too!

Bronwen: Elizabeth Blackmore

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB profile

Katherine played Heretic Valerie Tulle in the seventh season of The Vampire Diaries, and I think she’d play this role very well. Not much was told about this character’s appearance, so I think it’s a little more up in the air, but since she played a notable role in Kingdom of Ash, I thought “why not?” and included her.

Arobynn Hamel: Tom Hiddleston

Image courtesy of popsugar.com

I had to end this fancast on a high note, and why not have the Master of the Assassins–and Aelin’s former mentor–to end it with? My first choice was originally Michael Fassbender, who’s also a lot of other fans’ choice, but I believe Tom as Loki in the MCU movies changed my mind, as Arobynn and Loki are very similar in personality and demeanor, at least in my opinion!

~~~

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell