Released: August 7th, 2012 Pages: 416
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Source: Copy provided by publisher
Setting: ***** The setting was full of potential. You've got a world slowly being conquered by a so-called tyrant--a recipe for tension and awesome. Unfortunately, this potential wasn't used to the fullest, all because of telling. Instead of showing me how tyrannical the king was, the author just had one of her characters mention it every so often. Because of this, I had a hard time caring.
Characters: ***** The characters just barely made it into the four star range for me. (And if Amon Byrne didn't exist [fictionally, of course], they might not have, because Westfall reminded me immensely of Amon, and I love Amon.) Anyway...for me, these characters were not instantly likable. It took me a long while to grow to care about them. Celaena annoyed me for a good portion of the book, but I did manage to bring myself to care about her towards the end. While she's nowhere near the Katniss Everdeen/Holly Short league, she's got enough spunk to appeal to many readers (especially girls).
Dorian was interesting. He was well-developed, and thankfully didn't have Edward Cullen Complex (a condition in which the love interest is impossibly perfect and the reader is in great pain). Westfall...I liked him from the start, no matter what Celaena said. Apparently he was gruff and distant and unlikable for much of the book, but I wasn't getting that. To me, he seemed perfectly likable. *shrug* Literature is up to interpretation, I suppose.
Plot: ***** I counted ten sentences in the pitch. Eight of them talked about the competition, or the murders. Only two of them talked about how bored Celaena was and her relationship with Dorian. That's 80% competition and mystery, 20% love and boredom.
In reality, this book spends only around 25% of itself dedicated to the competition. About 75% was devoted to arguments, kissing, and other things related to Dorian, and also Celaena being bored. And getting dressed. The "tests" (elimination rounds) were few and far between.
Also, what was up with that whole spirit thing? It felt like an idea that wasn't thought of until the book was two-thirds written, and was thrown in. That's fine, and it does happen while writing. When it does happen, though, the writer shouldn't leave it like that. They should go back during their revisions and add this new element into the story towards the beginning, to make it feel more natural.
Uniqueness: ***** It had enough unique elements in order to stand out from the crowd in that respect.
Writing: ***** I spent more time I should have trying to figure out whose POV any given section was in. I liked hearing from other characters, but sometimes it was a bit jarring and the voices were hard to tell apart.
Also, the author used one of my writing pet peeves. Instead of writing "she" or "Celaena", the author would write "the assassin". While it's not quite as bad as "the girl", it's still annoying. At least it isn't condescending. *glares at certain other YA/MG authors who shall remain nameless (...for now)*
Likes: Nothing not already mentioned.
Not-so-great: What was the whole point of the puppy? Why was that even in the book?
Overall: This book bears the unfortunate title of First Book of Annie's School Year. This is unfortunate because, as happens every year, the return of school slams the brakes of my reading speed and, for the first few weeks, brings it nearly to a screeching halt. And the longer I take to read a book, the less I tend to like it. Maybe I should be a little lenient because of this, but...I can't bring myself to give this four stars right now. Maybe someday I'll go back and want to change my rating. This book had a cool premise, and the characters were decently likable. Unfortunately, too much of the plot was focused on things other than (and less exciting than) the whole competition thing. I'll read the sequel, and hopefully I'll be able to like it more.