No other book lives and breathes the word "swashbuckling" like this one does. Daring pirate ship battles, sassy creatures of legend, elegant kingdoms in the jungle, breathtaking underwater civilizations, and the odd romance or two -- what more could you ask for in a book about the colliding worlds of a pirate and an assassin? All of this and more, brought to life by young pirate Ananna's delightfully irreverent point of view.
When we last left Ananna and Naji, they had just discovered the only way to break the curse was a trio of seemingly impossible tasks -- to create life out of violence, to hold a princess's deadly starstones against flesh, and to experience true love's kiss. None of these tasks unfold the way you might expect them to, which keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Ananna and Naji, whose relationship never exactly has gone smoothly, are in for even more of a shakeup this time around. Ananna is aware that she's in love with him, and that he doesn't love her back. This makes for an exciting rollercoaster of emotions as she ends up revealing more of her feelings than either of them are comfortable with. And in typical Ananna fashion, she becomes rather cranky about it, and the exchanges between them are often tumultuous and sweet at the same time. I'll admit to being mystified sometimes when Ananna would fly off the handle, though, but I suppose that's her nature. Naji is remarkably patient and obtuse at the same time, but my, if his surfacing devotion to her doesn't cause one to swoon a little in one's seat.
I would be remiss in reviewing this book if I never mentioned the sparkling side characters without whom this story would be incomplete: Marjani, the formidable pirate lady with the secret past, the delightful manticore, whose name may as well be considered an impossible task to pronounce, and Jeric the sneaky yet loyal turncoat. All of them have their roles to play in Ananna's story, and you can't come away from this book without feeling some admiration for them (yes, even Jeric, who's portrayed as a little weasel, has his redeeming moments).
I love that this book gives room for both Ananna and Naji's individual goals. Ananna's desire to captain her own ship and Naji's connection to his assassin brethren (however unwilling) are mutually incompatible elements they have to overcome, but both of them are enough their own people that they won't subsume their own separate lives for the other. It's achingly romantic and more than a little bittersweet, but I wouldn't have it any other way.