Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Celaena is the central character and although young, (eighteen I believe), is already a much feared and deadly assassin. She has spent the past year rotting in salt mines as someone betrayed her to the King. Now I'd like to say he's a good and just King but sadly, alas I would be lying. He's a brutal despotic type and right now his need for power has him setting up a tournament to find his own personal assassin who of course will need to be the best. Yes, you've guessed, it Celaena is given a shot and if she survives to win, after four years she will finally be a free woman!
This had a lot to recommend it. Strong main character who initially is a bit arrogant but she learns a lot about herself as the story continues. Fabulous action scenes and I particularly enjoyed the climbing scene. Unfortunately, there's a love triangle of sorts but I just can't see that really continuing as I wouldn't be surprised if Ms Maas decides to add another love interest further down the line. I did like both male leads but if I had to pick between Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol, I suspect Chaol might just win by a whisker.
As the story progresses there's a whole lot revealed about the magic the kingdom no longer possesses and I can't help but notice those who claim to abhor magic have their own nefarious uses for it. There's a lot Ms Maas hasn't revealed, both about the true nature of what's going on and also about Celaena. That's the beauty of a series, you can tease and spread out the goodness and that's what I suspect is happening here