The Assassin’s Blade is a compilation of five interrelated novellas that take place about a year before the first book in this series, Throne of Glass. Each one can be read separately, but work best together, showing how the infamous assassin Celaena Sardothien went from being rich, spoiled and deadly, to being a slave in the salt mines of Endovier.
These five novellas go a long way towards rectifying one of the main complaints I had with that first book, namely that we were shown almost no proof of Celaena’s supposed assassin talents. Maas kept telling us how badass and assassinatrixy she was, and meanwhile we saw almost no evidence of it. And when she was in tough circumstances, a lot of the time she doesn’t behave like a trained assassin, just a dumb, oblivious teenager. There was still a bit of that in this book, actually, but we can probably also chalk that up to the other thing I have a problem with in Maas’s writing, which is still a problem even after this book, and that’s her predictable plotting skills. Celaena is dumb and oblivious because Maas needs her to be unaware of practically everything that goes on around her, otherwise it would reveal the “surprise” of Maas’s plots. But: they aren’t surprises. I called every single thing that happened, and that just ended up making Celaena look incompetent. She is not subtle, and I hope going forward she’ll lay off the “plot twists” and focus on her strengths, which is feeeeelings.
These aren’t like most YA novellas on the market these days, which are mostly fun extras that fans can skip if they like. These novellas seem pretty crucial, and though I don’t have proof of it yet, I’m fairly certain a lot of the events in all five novellas will become relevant later in the series. It was a good call to publish them all in hard copy form to emphasize their importance.
Will probably pick up book two later this month.