3.5 stars. Not quite sure what to make of this book yet. There were aspects of it that I enjoyed immensely, and then there were parts that just kind of...didn't impress.
Celaena was both engaging and annoying, and I liked her well enough after we got past her schizophrenic/psychopathic mentality at the beginning of the novel, where she thought more like a serial killer than an assassin (seriously, what assassin fantasizes about killing every single person
they lay eyes on?). After that, she was kind of normal, if totally arrogant and narcissistic and way too girly for the bloodthirsty assassin we were given to expect... It was like the only reason I ever would have thought of her as an assassin is because the author (and Celaena) kept saying it was so. We certainly never saw her actually *being* an assassin (and she's clumsy enough and unobservant enough that I sometimes questioned her reputation, which....why would an assassin have a name and a reputation, anyway? The best assassins are the ones whose names you never hear).
I will say I very much enjoyed the dialogue -- it was the strongest aspect of the writing -- though there were times when I wished they would stop with the banter and be honest for once...just once! But there were moments where I laughed, which always makes me happy. And I did like Chaol. Cool character. Didn't care for the love triangle, or the constant obsessing over appearances which seems to be the common trope these days, but I did like Chaol. Nehemia was an interesting character as well. I never did figure out the antagonist's motives, which kind of bothers me.
Other reasons for the not-quite-4-stars? The premise of the story didn't make much sense. Why would anyone pick their Champion from the ranks of the people most likely to hate them, to kill them? Also, what sort of culture was this, anyway? At the beginning I was thinking medieval, then we have shops with ready-made dresses in them so I was thinking post-Renaissance, then there were balls with waltzes, and pianos with white and black keys, which suggested Romantic era.....not to mention the ubiquitous presence of novels. But then all of a sudden we have Fae and magic and people from other worlds/realms? Yes, yes, it's fantasy. No, it doesn't have to mirror a specific period of Earth's history. But there was no reason for the inconsistency. Why not give her a harpsichord or clavichord to play on? For some reason the piano really bothered me, because it's just such a distinctly modern instrument.
Still, despite uneven pacing and way too much angsting over pretty dresses and pretty princes, and a Hunger Games-esque competition where the heroine doesn't have to actually defeat 95% of her opponents, it was an entertaining read. I might look into the other books.
Lastly...I may just be the only person who doesn't really like the cover. Yeah, pretty girl, dagger, swirly blue stuff. But all I can think of is when I used to ask my nephew (when he was about 3) to "get his game face on." And he would clench his fist and make his best attempt at a scowl. Yeah, it looked kind of exactly like this girl. =D