So, It’s Monday again but let’s forget about that for a second. This weekend, The Wall Street Journal published an article, entitled Darkness Too Visible, that shook the YA world. It was met with with anger, with disbelief and a myriad of other emotions and something beautiful rose out of the chaos. A new hashtag was born on Twitter, called #YAsaves, and its purpose was to provide a place for people to share their positive experiences with YA novels, and not just those with “darker” themes.
As you all know I stick to the so-called fluffier YA reads because they are what I love but I’ve read darker books such as Ugly and come away from them with newly formed opinions and a broader perspective of the world. I’ve also read the lighter YA and come away with beautiful life lessons and all these books provided me with a safe haven when I was going through darker times in my teenage years. Thus I’ve grown into the twenty-year old that I am now with YA books to thank for a good few things that I wouldn’t have gained from the world around me. So when you pass the YA aisle in your bookstore and frown because a book doesn’t look like it quite belongs either because it’s “fluff” or because it’s too “deep, dark and depressing”, ask yourselves where the potential readers will be left without it.
Without further ado, I’m going to get back on track. Today’s review will be on the book ‘The Assassins of Tamurin’ by S. D. Tower. It is not a recent book, the first printing is recorded at having occurred in 2003 but it is an interesting book and it is indeed an educational book for both readers and writers. I’ve chosen to look at this book because it spans the space of at least ten years of its protagonist’s life
She was only eleven years old and an orphan, yet the people of Lale’s village hated her and drove her into the wilderness. Cast out, she followed her destiny to a place of dark and shadowy purposes, a school for foundling girls in the land of Tamurin. There Lale found affection, sisterhood and a home…and a profession that may cost her everything she loves. Driven by the darkest sorcery, she must conceal the truth of what she truly is…
(Picture and description compliments Goodreads)
So The Assassins of Tamurin… I came across this book in the one of the local bookstore when I was still pretty young, under fifteen but over twelve. I saw it and read the blurb and wanted it. The most surprising bit was that I actually got it, a little while later and it’s one of my most treasured books having come to me after my mother swore not to buy me any more books because I read them so quickly (I know, cruelty beyond measure but I still love her). From the very first time I read it, this book astounded me because it managed to do what other books failed to do. That is, it managed to tell a story over the course of several years of the protagonist’s life without letting the story become dry and boring. It also had an epilogue that I didn’t hate. It was a beautifully woven tale and it was a joy to read and reread.
The author uses the first person POV. Although it is not the same fast-paced sort of voice we’re used to in novels today I felt myself becoming intimately acquainted with Lale because of it. She was speaking to me and she was being perfectly frank. I felt like she used this voice perfectly.
Lale Navari, as she is known for most of the novel, is an eleven year old orphan when we first meet her. She’s grown up knowing that she’s not wanted and that her mistakes carry far worse reprisals. Because of this she’s learned to lie extremely well to survive but at the beginning of the book, her lies cannot save her and she ends up leaving her village. As the book progresses, we watch her get ‘adopted’ and taken into a school raised by the area’s leader, the Despotana of Tamurin, Makina Seval. She is educated to be a lady and we watch her blossom and make friends. While there a few odd things happen and she learns to keep possibly dangerous secrets. As the story goes on she is taken to the Despotana’s secret school for spies and is trained as both a spy and an assassin, her goal being to gather information for the Despotana in hopes that they might overthrow the Sun Lord. Over the course of the novel, Lale experiences things that make her question her ‘Mother’ and in the end, the love she harbours for the Sun Lord forms a crack in her once unbreakable loyalty. When she discovers Makina Seval’s ultimate betrayal, Lale must search herself for the person she has really become, the person she is without the Despotana, and she must make a decision that will change the world as she knows it. She was such a well-developed character, and we watch as each event shapes her in perfectly understandable ways over the course of about ten years. She is a truly well-written character.
Makina Seval, the Despotana of Tamurin, was another well-written character. She seems like the angel in disguise, Lale’s saviour and as the story goes on we begin to question her actions just as Lale questions them though we do not lose faith in her. How could we? What sort of soul takes in hundreds of orphaned girls who have seen different levels of misfortune? What sort of soul gives them a family name and feeds, clothes and educates them and then makes sure they have profitable professions or make sure they end up in good marriages? A kind soul, obviously. Unless of course she is the kind of person who has gone insane over the years and uses these girls for her own purposes without them being all the wiser? Yes, Makina Seval is a well-written character, and an intriguing one.
This was an intricately woven tale. The storyline was very well thought out and there were no holes or obvious gaps that I could detect. I loved the way the author connected the dots for us without us being aware of the sinister plot lying under the surface. I especially loved the way how Lale came to realise everything that happened and how it shook her to her core but did not destroy her. Throughout the story we saw how small and not-so-small events affected Lale and the way they culminated to bring this novel to its climax was indeed brilliant.
Cover/ Blurb (writer does not have control over these):
The cover is passable, it depicts a scene from the book, nothing to complain about or jump up and down over. Though if it was the cover for my book I’d be ecstatic because you know it would mean I would be published (*dreams lazily for a bit*). The blurb was a tad dramatic but I found it worked. Unfortunately, it could not quite cover the vast scope of the storyline but with so few words it did a better job than most.
I’m giving this book a rating of 3.5 out of 5. This is because I love it, it’s written reasonably well and the characters are reasonably developed. I didn’t feel like there were any loose threads, nothing triggered my writer senses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grab me and refuse to let go in the same way that other books might.
So there you go! I hope you all feel inspired and feel like you’ve learned something from this review. Also, please Check out Wall Street Journal’s article and check out the #YAsaves trend on twitter.
Remember the books!
K, the Popinjay.