Rating: 4 out of 5
Overall—I liked this! It’s good entertainment; a simple story of Celaena’s progression through this very unjust world which it’s easy to become invested in. Yet, some of the other characters have serious flaws which determine the way the story moves onwards. These aren’t world-breaking faults, but certainly things I had on my mind as I continued on.
The main one of these problems is Chaol Westfall’s inexperience. I don’t understand how the author figured that someone with no experience other than wielding a sword quite well is fit to be the Captain of the Guard for the all-powerful king. Yet, on this crux the entire story revolves—and every time we see Captain Westfall encounter another problem on his journey, this inexperience is revealed as a character-destroying blow.
Similar faults also plagued Celaena, though to a lesser degree. The most interesting one of these was her absolute impatience though she is meant to be the best assassin in the world. It doesn’t make sense for someone like that to flip out every now and then and go on an insane rampage. These moments are very clearly intended as a behaviour that she can “improve” to show development of character, but they were unbelievable to me to begin with.
The King is also a problem—what drives him, why he behaves as he does, and what he thinks about things are sides to his character that have been entirely erased (“because he is a murdering tyrant” doesn’t count as a good reason), leaving the reader with the shell of a villain. This sort of an enemy, even if powerful (and of course he is oh-so-very-powerful), doesn’t improve the plot as there is no one for the reader to try to understand on the “other” side.
This was a fantasy murder mystery… It takes far more time for the “good guys” to catch on to what is going on—and I’ll posit that if the Captain of the Guard was even mildly competent, it would have happened much quicker—but they get there, and it’s a relatively interesting plot (even if you, the reader, have been 95% confident in who the killer is since the first murder) because it’s not just the murder that’s going on.