A friend gave me this book as a birthday present in the summer. The beginning was a bit slow and didn't grab my interest immediately, so it took some time to get into it, but at some point, it got more exciting, so I read most of this book in a couple of days.
The main character of the book is Celaena - an 18-year-old girl who's already managed to become an infamous assassin and spend a year in a labour camp for it. She's brought out by prince Dorian whose father, a warlike and tyrannic king, has decided to organise a competition to find his champion. Celaena is offered a deal - if she participates in the competition as Dorian's candidate, in case of winning she has to serve the king for a couple of years and is then free. In case of refusal or loss, she's sent back to the camp. Of course, Celaena accepts.
The story is mostly about this competition, where Celaena, a frail (but of course very capable) girl, has to best her co-competitors (soldiers as well as other criminals) in different tests. Tension is added by the fact that competitors are starting to get killed - their bodies are found horribly disfigured and strange markings (Wyrdmarks) are found near them. Of course, finding the perpetrator becomes one of Celaena's interests. In addition to physical fighting, there's a supernatural element in the story, but for now mostly in the background.
Of course, like in most young adult books, there's a love triangle - the main character's attention is drawn by both the handsome and intellectual prince Dorian and Chaol, captain of the guard. Chaol is Dorian's best friend and in addition to his normal duties, he's Celaena's trainer and guardian. Since both characters are rather likable, it was difficult for me as the reader to pick a side - but to find out whom Celaena chooses, you'll have to read the book. ;) Celaena gains one more friend in the castle - the princess of a neighbouring country currently under Dorian's father's power.
As the reader of this review probably notices, the story is not too original. Still, it's quite fun to read, and I was especially happy that the main character usually got herself out of different troubles and didn't need saving. It was a bit illogical that Celaena, despite such a practical profession, got great pleasure from wearing pretty dresses in the castle - but on the other hand, why not? And, to make her more likable to us all, she loves to read. For me, the most annoying part was the love triangle, but at least Celaena didn't concentrate on romance - it was more of a sidestory.
I'll probably read the next parts sometime, and I recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult fantasy - or to regular fantasy fans who don't mind a story that's a bit more simplistic than "Wheel of Time" or "Game of Thrones". I think the best comparison among books I have read would be Poison Study.
PS. This review has also been published in Estonian on the blog http://hirveloss.blogspot.com.