I enjoyed the first thirty percent and the final twenty percent of this book. The opening was fun intriguing, with a great hook. Celaena, an assassin, is removed from the death camp where she was sentenced to fight for the right to become the King's Champion—for a king she despises. A young prince is the one who gets her out of the camp, and the captain of the guard is assigned to watch her. Immediately, we see the beginning of a romance with one or both of these men.
I was enthusiastic about the story through the journey to the castle and when introduced to the other champion candidates. Sadly, the competitions between the champion candidates were not as exciting as I'd hoped. We're not talking about fights to death here; instead, the candidates have to perform physical tests and least successful candidates are eliminated from the competition. This was a bit of a disappointment for me. Some of the candidates are murdered, and I appreciated that twist.
Because the competition proved less exciting than I'd hoped, and because even the murder investigation fell flat, I skimmed a large portion of middle fifty percent of the book. Additionally, during this slow middle, other problems presented themselves: (1) The extent of Celaena's abilities was unbelievable and overemphasized. (2) Her girlishness seemed at odds with her killer instinct. (3) The writing style didn't appeal to me.
Too often, Celaena thinks about how easily she could kill people. I'm paraphrasing, but it sounded something like this: "I could smash his head into the floor, and he'd be dead in seconds." "I could wrap this chain around his neck and he'd be dead in seconds." "I wondered why he wasn't more afraid of me." Sometimes, she thinks these things about very large, very capable men. The impression I got was, instead of showing us Celaena's capabilities, the author chose to tell us over and over again. I found it unbelievable because I never saw Celaena's abilities reach the level of skill that Celaena seemed to think she had.
Despite being a hardened killer, as she'd like us to believe, Celaena was quick to swoon when the prince or the captain of the guard entered the room. I'm not saying a woman can't be both hard and soft, but Celaena was too extreme on both counts. For an assassin fighting for her life (because losing would mean she'd be sent back to the death camp), she made poor choices with respect to her priorities. She was just as interested in kissing boys and wearing pretty dresses as she was in training. I couldn't believe it.
She cried in the middle of a fight. And I'm not talking about about a couple of tears; I got the impression this was more like full-out bawling. Granted, she was under influence of a drug, but she was simultaneously fighting and crying. Way to go, tough chick. I'm so scared of you.
Lastly, the writing style fell flat for me. I found it a bit unsophisticated, with not many strong, active verbs. It was difficult for me to visualize any scene. The words didn't move me, didn't excite me.
I'm sorry to say that I will not read the next book in this series.