Series: The Assassin's Curse #2
Published: 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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The Pirate’s Wish is the sequel to Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse. Naji is an assassin, and he’s under a curse to protect the pirate Ananna because she accidentally saved his life while he was trying to kill her. He feels pain any time that she’s in danger, which is pretty much all the time, because Ananna is free-spirited and her childhood on a pirate ship gave her a warped definition of danger.
The previous book ends with Ananna and Naji marooned on a magical island where reality doesn’t stay put and even something as simple as getting a drink of water can be an adventure. Naji tells Ananna to stay home while he’s out fishing, but instead she goes into the woods to visit the wizard and meets a manticore instead. The manticore is a prissy princess, and is quite vain. She’s also my favorite character in the book. Manticores eat people, but Ongraygeeomryn (try saying that three times fast) promises not to eat Ananna because she doesn’t like female flesh, and she can’t eat Naji either because his curse would make him taste terrible. Instead, she and Ananna forge an unlikely friendship, and Ananna agrees to help the manticore escape from the island and return to her home. Ananna and Naji return once again to the high seas, traveling to the ends of the earth to break their curse.
I wasn’t sure whether to put this discussion in my review of The Assassin’s Curse or here, but I love the way that Cassandra Rose Clarke deals with gender in this series. On one hand, there’s enough gender equality that women have satisfying careers, even as pirates. On the other hand, Ananna and her friend Marjani pretend that Naji is the captain of the pirate ship because they don’t think they’d get a good crew if they knew they were sailing under a female captain (of course, Marjani and Ananna are calling all the shots and Naji has no clue what he’s doing). And then the two lady pirates eventually realize that they thought that their gender was more of an obstacle than it really was, and that the crew will take orders from them because they’re competent. The idea of sexism is more powerful than any character’s overt action, which seems a lot like the modern workforce. It’s the entrenched attitudes and biases that we don’t even think about that get in the way of ambition, and as Ananna and Marjani demonstrate, those are not insurmountable obstacles.
Oh, and Marjani’s a lesbian. There’s a big backstory about how she used to be a noblewoman and ended up a pirate, and forbidden love is a major part of it. You don’t even realize that she’s a lesbian for a long time after you’ve seen her, because she’s busy working on her ship and it’s not all that important, it’s just who she is. She’s treated like a normal character. You don’t realize that straight characters are straight until they show romantic interest in someone or their past comes up. I love when authors treat characters of other sexualities the same way and focus on their strength as a person rather than reducing their entire character to one trait.
Both The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish are full of win. I highly recommend them.