I enjoyed Celaena’s personality, in spite of her insistence on being as tough as possible and putting on a front when she doesn’t even need to. Her experiences and her skills are appealing to me since I am always pulled into the stories of those who defy their natural instincts and train their minds and bodies at a level that surpasses most of humankind just to survive. I like spy movies and other kinds of training detail in any story, because it mimics my experience as an athlete, and it's inspiring. Celaena’s determination and subsequent success and rewards because of it made the story about her journey to freedom more real. There were a few inconsistencies (how does Dorian, the Crown Prince, manage to sneak up on her over and over again without her noticing?), but overall these aspects of the story add a rawness that isn’t always present in other stories with a female heroine.
Celaena's relationship with Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, and with Nehemia Ytger, the Princess of Ellywe, developed so naturally and beautifully it made me love them each as much as Celaena eventually does—especially her friendship with Nehemia. It is rare to see a well-depicted female friendship between two strong characters, but Maas achieved it in their relationship with the fragility that is always present in new friendships. The friendship that develops between Celaena and Captain Westfall felt more natural because of the guard Celaena keeps up with him throughout. His softness and loyalty grew and grew as much on on me as it did on her as the story progressed. Her relationship with Dorian, the Prince of Adarlan, progressed too quickly, and was, at times, predictable. I found myself annoyed at the thoughts and feelings he would have for Celaena and the same way with her fondness of him—because it was kind of typical. He definitely adds some excitement to her life, however, and is a critical character for the plot’s development; I just wished their relationship would have been more guarded and slow to develop--that kind of relationship would have been more in line with Celeana's assasin-esque qualites.
The storyline is well-developed, with its rich history of Erilea and complex legends and mythology that create a multi-layered and rich world as the backdrop to Celaena’s story. When Celaena makes a critical discovery about halfway through the book, it built upon the plot even more and added the exact amount of extra mystery to keep me reading. I was even actually truly scared, something that rarely happens anymore when I read about villains and monsters in books. This is a page-turner that fans of fantasy will not want to miss.
And is it just me, or does it seem like there were a lot more positive reviews after the paperback (and I think UK) cover came around?