The Pirate’s Wish. Assassin’s Curse Book 2. by Cassandra Rose Clarke.
In the first book in this duology, our heroine and would-be pirate queen Ananna accidentally both enraged another pirate clan and magically bound the man they hired to assassinate to her, Naji. They managed to find out the three impossible tasks that it would take to break the unbreakable curse, but were trapped on a magical island with unpleasant and powerful magical beings trying to get to Naji. As this story opens, they are still stranded on the island. Ananna is repressing her unrequited romantic feelings towards Naji in favor of mutual friendship, and they are both hoping against hope for rescue. If the ship captain Ananna befriended earlier, Marjani, comes back, they can actually try to break the curse. But before Marjani arrives, Ananna runs into a manticore, a social, talking manticore princess who has been raised to view humans as prey. And the only way to keep the manticore from eating them is to promise to bring her along when they’re rescued. But rescued they are, and off they set. It was clear at the end of the first book that one of the three supposedly impossible tasks – a kiss from a true love – was not going to be impossible at all, so I was very curious about how Clarke would handle this. I was pleased with the treatment, which took care of the obvious early on in the story but yet created complications that took a good portion of the book to resolve. In the search for starstones, the next most accessible task, it’s discovered that Marjani, now a fierce sea captain, was once a high-ranking noble banished from her kingdom for the crime of falling in love with the princess. But the princess is now queen, and queen of a kingdom that at least at one time had starstones in its treasury. The third task, creating life out of destruction, seems truly impossible, and so keeps getting put off while other things come up.
The whole book is somewhat episodic because of the nature of the quests, but this isn’t usually something that bothers me and it didn’t here. I wanted a couple of things from this book. First, I wanted the adventure to keep up the pace from the last book, which could have been tricky because the major problem had been solved in the first book. Secondly, our beautifully strong-willed and independent heroine was at the end of the last book stuck in love with a man who didn’t return her feelings. Could Clarke bring the romance to a happy conclusion (me being a romantic at heart) without selling Ananna out? She’s already gotten rid of one perfectly acceptable fiancé because he wouldn’t let her captain her own ship – how on earth could she find a future with a sworn assassin, member of secretive and possessive organization? Happily for me as well as for Ananna, Clarke handles this aspect extremely well. Ananna is realistically hurt by rejection, believably unwilling to talk things out with Naji, but also refuses to mope and makes attempts to move on with her life. Both the romance and the quest are wrapped up in delightfully original ways, with the romance especially refreshing. Though I’d certainly be happy to read more about Ananna and Naji, as of right now, this is just a two-book series, making it perfect for those who don’t like committing to long series. If “Pirate-assassin adventure-romance” sounds appealing to you, this short series is a lot of carefully crafted fun.