Sarah J. Maas
Celaena (notorious assassin) is taken from her overseer in the mines by the Captain of the Royal Guard, Chaol Westfall and six other guards. They start to lead her in a round-about path to disorient her, but it really just helps her get to know the building they are leading her through. She tries to make small talk with the captain, but he isn’t interested in answering her questions. They end up at a set of glass doors. Celaena resists at first, but the captain threatens to send her back to the mines. She is pretty sure she is going to be executed. She is Brough in front of the Crown Prince of Adarlan, Dorian.
Chaol bows to the prince, but Celaena refuses. Duke Perrington forces her to the ground to make her bow, but Dorian points out the gesture is worthless if not done willingly. The prince introduces himself to Celaena and does the introduction for her as well. He is curious how she has survived the mines for a year when mostly make it a month. Chaol admits she did have an escape attempt where she killed her overseer and 23 other guards. She ran 363 feet to the wall before she was knocked unconscious. Most attempts only make it three feet before they are shot. The king ordered Celaena’s death be slow and painful. Dorian inspects her body, but isn’t happy she wasn’t cleaned first. He says he has a proposition for her. She recognizes that being out of the mines gives her a greater chance to escape and agrees to listen.
Dorian’s father is holding a competition to find his new assassin. He wants Celaena to compete. If she wins, she will work for the king for six years and then be granted her freedom. Dorian promises if she is his champion, he will let her go in five years. She negotiates down to four years. If she loses, she will return to the mines. Celaena will not be allowed to compete under her own name. After her trial, rumors were spread that Adarlan’s Assassin was older than a mere girl. Dorian explains it is required for her to compete to instill loyalty. She agrees his terms are fair. Captain Westfall leads her to her new room to get ready to leave for Rifthold.
Celaena tries to get comfortable in a bed, but is having trouble adjusting to her room and food. Chaol wakes her up from the floor in the morning and the sight and feel of the sun puts her in a good mood. She gets ready and is led outside. The prince’s dogs approach her and the prince finds it odd. She is put on a mare and then Chaol chains her hands to his own saddle. She contemplates escape, but stops whens he sees Chaol watching her. They leave Endovier and enter the Oakwald Forest. To the east are the civilized countries and to the west are uncharted legends of the dependents of the Witch Kingdom. Celaena tries to talk to Chaol about the King’s future plans, her history, and his life, but he only gives up that is is 22 and has been Captain since he was 20. They stop for lunch.
Chaol transfers Celaena’s restraints to her feet so she can eat. She notices the prince eating away from everyone else with the Duke Perrington, but he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the company. The forest reminds her of when her mentor, Arobynn Hamel, found her on the banks of a half frozen river between Adarlan and Terrasen. The guards start complaining about the forest hen they hear a noise and talk about how the King intends to burn it all like he has already started in other places. Celaena warns them the trees are listening, but refuses to give them any more information about the fey and other magical creatures living in the forest. The King banned all things magical. Celaena lost her own gifts long ago and thinks it might be for the best. When they stop again at night, Celaena sleeps in the tent shackled to a guard. When she wakes up there are flowers at the foot of her bed and tiny footprints. She puts the flowers in a satchel and wipes away the prints before anyone else can see. As they continue the trip, she looks at the guards, but none seemed to have experienced anything extraordinary.
The weather changes and Celaena isn’t happy to ride through cold rain. When the weather changes again, the prince takes Chaol and Celaena up a steep hill to see the glass castle. Celaena remembers her first time seeing it and the man she killed days before. She is ready to win and sever her years so she can be rid of it forever. Chaol asks how she was captured. She tells him she believes the other assassins were behind it so job opportunities would open up for them. He asks about her time in Endovier. She explains the guards paid her special attention and rubbed salt in the wounds they whipped into her back. A few prisoners from Eyllwe helped her keep them clean to avoid infection. That night she dreams she is buried alive in a mass grave in Endovier. She stares at the over extravagant castle and can’t wait to be done with the entire city. Dorian watches Celaena with longing and reminds himself she is only there for her freedom.
As they make their way through the city, Celaena notices the women flirting with Dorian and giving her jealous looks. She starts making fun of them, but Chaol tells her to stop. She sobers up when she sees slaves working and is embarrassed to be seen in the royal procession. When they reach the palace, Dorian tells her he has arranged for her to stay in a stone part of the castle. He leaves to go see his father and flirts with a girl on the way. In her new room, Celaena creates a crude weapon out of broken hair pins and string. She hides it in the canopy above her bed. She looks around her rooms for other potential weapons and thinks Chaol is stupid for leaving her with a billiards equipment. A Taylor comes and then servants to help her bathe and dress. Her personal servant, Philippa, comes in and introduces herself. Celaena is not impressed with her or the way she treats her like a child. Dorian goes to see his father who doesn’t approve of his choice of champion. The King thinks someone fighting for their second chance will help him with the war against Wendlyn. He worries his son is too idealistic politically and too lose with the women. He tells Dorian not to fraternize with Celaena and sends him away. Dorian is furious with his father.
Celaena spends all of her free time planning her escape. She has Chaol take her on a tour of the stone castle. She is not impressed with the clock tower in the courtyard that was built around the time Dorian was born. She notices one of the gargoyles pointing at her and looks down to find a symbol on the stone. She asks Chaol about it, but he doesn’t think it has any meaning. He takes her to the library and she is impressed with all the books. Chaol explains she will have to ask permission from the king or prince to borrow any. She writes a letter to Dorian asking about the books and he sends her back a letter and seven books asking her to read those he chose first. She falls asleep reading and wakes up at noon. She overhears a finely dressed woman complaining to her ladies-in-waiting about the girl Dorian searched all over for and brought back to the castle. When the woman passes under Celaena’s balcony, Celaena pushes a pot off the edge and almost hits her. She goes inside and tells the servants to put her in her best dress.
After her dress is on and her hair is done, Philippa won’t let Celaena sit until someone complements the servant on her work. She assures the assassin she will be old news within a week and the prince will be rumored to be with another woman. Chaol arrives to take Celaena to the king. He drags her along in a hurry. She remembers how terrifying the king was during her trial. Before they enter, Chaol gives her instructions. He sees her fear and explains meeting with the king is the start of the competition. If she shows the proper respect, she will be fine. He tells her she looks pretty before they enter.
Dorian joins Celaena and Chaol among the other competitors and their sponsors. The king explains that the 24 of them will compete and be tested once a week and then someone will be eliminated. After Yulemas, there will only be four of them left and they will duel each other. Celaena tries not to look the king in the eye, but can’t help it. She finds him looking at her specifically as he explains he will have people killed for trying anything against his rules. He makes the competitors thank him for the opportunity and them dismisses them to prepare for his departure. On the way back to her rooms, Dorian meets up with them to tell Celaena her new identity. She is Lillian Gordaina, daughter of a wealthy merchant. She became a jewel thief and her father moved to a small town near Endovier to keep her from that life. The girl from the garden, Lady Kaltain Rompier, arrives and tells Dorian his mother is looking for him. Dorian and Celaena have some fun at Lady Kaltain’s expense before parting ways. Celaena and Chaol have pleasant conversation on the way back to her rooms. He leaves her to arrange the king’s escort while he is out of town. He warns her she will actually start competing the next day.
Chaol wakes Celaena up the next day and has her dress in a shirt and pants because he doesn’t know what they will be doing that day. They end up in the ball room with the other competitors already sparring with their trainers. Chaol tells Celaena to pick a weapon. She chooses a rapier and they go to work. Chaol defeats her by tripping her and points out the others will not be following rules. She goes and picks a set of daggers next.
The weapons master, Brullo, has everyone stop to introduce themselves. Aside from Cain, Celaena notices a thief that keeps looking her over and an assassin named Grave. When it is her turn, she gives her fake name and occupation. She is infuriated with how she is quickly disregarded by the others. They are told they will run and be tested in five days. Once away from the group, Celaena tells Chaol her frustration. He tells her she will appear mediocre so she doesn’t attract attention from the others. She agrees it is a good strategy. Celaena stays in the middle of the pack as they run through the woods with Cain in the lead. After finishing, Celaena returns to the woods saying she dropped a ring, but goes into the bushes to vomit. Chaol sees her, but she doesn’t acknowledge him as she goes to rejoin the others to continue training.
After lunch, Brullo releases the competitors for the day. Chaol takes Celaena back to her room and she reads for the rest of the night. When he comes to get her in the morning, she has already been working out for an hour. One afternoon, Chaol allows Celaena to walk around the castle with him. They run into Lady Kaltain and the Eyllwe Princess, Nehemia. Celaena starts to talk with the Princess in her own language and finds out her father sent her to Adarlan to learn. Celaena dismisses Kaltain for the princess and Celaena and Chaol take her to meet with the king. Along the way, the girls talk about the King of Adarlan burning all their books, how uncomfortable their clothes are, and how Celaena came to learn the language. Afterwards Chaol eats lunch with Celaena and wonders when she will make her move to escape. He is ready for her.
The day before the first test, Nox Owen, a young thief, approaches Celaena in the training room after both Chaol and Brullo don’t show up. Pelor, the youngest assassin there, tells them a contestant, Bill Chastain (murderer who eats eyes) was found dead. Celaena goes to the targets with a set of daggers and starts throwing them. Nox joins her at the next target and she gives him some advice. He admits he thinks she will win the competition. Chaol comes to visit Celaena when she is in her rooms reading. She asks him about his relationship with the prince. Chaol admits they grew up together in the castle, but his father eventually took him home to Anielle, a city that has a history of protecting Adarlan from invasions of the wild men from the White Fang Mountains (where Cain is from). He gave up all his titles and returned to Rifthold to become the Captain of the Guard’s apprentice. He asks about her past, but Celaena only gives him a quick overview: born in Terrasen, parents died, she became an assassin, went to Endovier, and now she is there at the castle. He asks about a scar on her right hand. She explains Arobynn Hamel had her break her right hand so she would be forced to learn swordplay with her left.
The next morning, Chaol takes Celaena to the training hall for the first test and finds them room divided by a black curtain. The sponsors watch them from above. Nox approaches her to see if she knows anything. She leaves him behind saying she hopes they have to fight a pack of wolves. Brullo unveils the test to show five targets, each one further away than the last. Chaol stops Celaena to warn her not to show off. She watches almost everyone else go before her. Cain is good, Nox is impressive, and Grave hits all five bullseyes, but not directly in the center. Pelor is so young he has trouble drawing back the bow, but he still isn’t the worst. Celaena keeps her arrows on the edge of the bullseye. When she hears someone snickering behind her, she hits the last one directly in the center. Chaol scowls at her, but Dorian smiles. Celaena is frustrated with not showing her true skill.
After vomiting her breakfast during their morning run, Chaol asks Celaena about the scars on her back. She was whipped 21 times upon arrival at Endovier just as an example. A woman gave her a salve the next morning, but Celaena never got to thank her because she was raped and killed by the four overseers. Celaena made sure she killed those men the day she snapped. Later during training, one of the champions, a former solider named Sven, knocks down guard and makes a run for it. He is dead before he reaches the door. Chaol and the other guards go to check on the dead guard. None of the other champions dare to move. Nox quietly expresses his surprise. His sponsor told him he wouldn’t go to prison if he lost. Celaena wonders to herself what would make Sven want to escape in such a large group during the day. She says a prayer for him and wishes him well.
Dorian is miserable while he attends court at his mother’s insistence. She spends the whole time trying to convince him to pick a bride. She reminds him if he doesn’t create an heir, his spoiled younger brother could become king. She gives him a list of names of eligible women. He leaves the room and starts wandering around to find Celaena in the Champion’s training room with Princess Nehemia. Knowing they aren’t supposed to be alone together (especially with Adarlan’s assassin armed) and goes to join them. Celaena explains the princess sought her out. Dorian makes a comment on how talkative Celaena has become and she scolds him for making presumptions about her without trying to get to know her at all. She then tells the princess that Dorian will spar with her. He tries to decline, but Celaena points out it is after than herself sparing with the princess. He agrees.
Celaena watches Dorian teach Nehemia basic swordplay and thinks about how handsome he is. Chaol comes and reprimands her for being alone and armed with the two royals. She tries to explain it would be pointless for her to attempt escape, but he sends her back to her rooms with guards.
Kaltain is surprised to see Duke Perrington at court. She steps in his path so he will allow her to join him as she leaves. She manipulates him into giving her some information about Lady Lillian and he tells her the prince cannot be in love with her. She is pleased the Duke doesn’t like Lillian either. Kaltain contemplates how to beat her competition to the prince before she has to follow through on her insinuations that she will sleep with Perrington. Dorian walks with Chaol to dinner. He doesn’t think Celaena will attempt to escape, but if she did, it would break the captain’s heart. Chaol tries to insist he doesn’t like her. Dorian changes the subject to Eye Eater’s death, but Chaol doesn’t have much information except that innards and his brain were missing.
Celaena is furious with Chaol. She sits at the piano and starts to think of her friend, Same, an assassin she grew up with. Hew as betrayed right before she was. She thinks how he would have gotten her out of the king’s dungeon. She starts to play the piano. Dorian comes to visit Celaena to embarrass her, but gets caught up in her music. He scares her when he sits next to her. He starts teasing her, but she scolds him saying she will not be known as his whore or be his source of adventure because he is bored. He jokingly asks if she has a secret lover and she get serious. Just before he leaves, she tells him Sam died. He gives his sympathies and wishes her luck at the second test, which is the next day.
The second test is to climb a stone wall and retrieve the flag at the top. One competitor doesn’t show up. Each contestant is allowed one tool. Most choose rope, but Celaena takes a jar of tar. While most contestants follow Cain and use their roots to climb from balconies and gargoyles on up, Celaena uses the tar on her fingers and feet to scale the wall. Grave has trouble lassoing a gargoyle while following Cain’s path. When Nox tries to pass him, the assassin shoves the thief so he falls and dangles from his rope. Celaena sees Grave pull out a knife and starts cutting the rope. She makes her way down to a gargoyle where another contestant already has his rope attached. She ties it around herself and runs across a few statues to leap after Nox as his rope snaps.
Celaena saves Knox as Cain grabs the flag. Knox finishes last and Celaena finishes right before him. He only avoids elimination because someone fell to their death. Chaol is happy she is staying in the middle of the pack. He asks about her training with Arobynn Hamel, the king of the assassins. He trained her personally and paid extravagant amounts for others to train her as well. He charged her and she paid it all back. Philippa later brings news the champion that didn’t show up is dead, mauled and dismembered. Celaena passes the next two tests (stealth and tracking), but she isn’t positive she will make the final four.
Chaol wakes up Celaena from dreaming of being whipped back in Endovier. He tells her she is allowed to go to temple for Samhuinn, but is not invited to the feast that night. She declines saying she worships in her own way. He warns her there will be training later and a test the next day. After hours of his mother pointing out the eligible women in temple, Dorian rushes out. He runs into Celaena, Princess Nehemia, and Chaol. He notices Celaena’s dress is severely outdated and she points out she didn’t have servants to help her dress in something more modern. He asks if Nehemia is attending the feast and the princess looks to her friend. Celaena mentions she has other plans. Dorian is surprised she sounds offended she wasn’t invited. He wishes he could warn Nehemia that Perrington is planning an attack on her people’s rebel forces, but he cannot risk the king finding out he told her. He will continue to try to sway others against it. Nehemia asks Celaena to help teach her the language. Chaol is against it. As they approach the clock tower, they see Cain kneeling and cleaning off one of the symbols. Nehemia calls them Wyrdmarks and tells Celaena to leave them alone. She isn’t convinced Celaena doesn’t actually know about them and knows she is hiding something from the princess. They agree to help each other learn their languages better in secret each night before dinner.
Celaena is bored and unsure what to do with herself when she sees a tapestry moving in the wind despite the window being closed. She looks behind it and finds a stone door. She gathers a few items before starting down the dark dusty passage. She uses yarn to trace her path and eventually finds a sewer that would allow her to escape. She decides she will earn her freedom instead and starts going back. Another way calls to her and she finds herself looking down on the feast. When she sees the other champions are all in attendance (except Cain), she is angry. She watches Dorian’s graceful dancing. Chaol starts to leave, so she rushes back to her rooms in case that is where he is headed. Dorian goes to Celaena’s room at two in the morning to find her sleeping. Chaol finds him there and kicks him out. Chaol is surprised at his own anger at finding Dorian in Celaena’s room. He goes into the bedroom and Celaena wakes up. Favors were given out to the noble women and he took one to give to her. He hands her the ring and she puts it on. She thanks him and falls asleep. He puts a blanket over her and wonders how he will explain it all to Dorian the next day.
In her sleep Celaena dreams about the passageway. She follows the scent of roses until she comes to a door with a skull on it. She goes inside to find the earth carved into the ceiling and the starts on the floor. There are Wyrdmarks everywhere and two tombs in the middle. The first king of Adarlan, Gavin Havilliard, and his half face queen, Elena, have their tombs in the middle of the room. Celaena sees the legendary sword, Damaris, and can feel it still has power. Elena appears to tell Celaena she must win the competition. The eight guardians (gargoyles on the clock tower) won’t be distracted for long. Elena tells her Celaena is there to destroy an evil within the castle. She then sends the assassin away quickly. Celaena runs to her room and then everything goes dark. She wakes up still fully clothed and out of breath with the amulet in her hand. She sees her door is ajar and closes it before putting the necklace on. She wonders how to accomplish finding and destroying the evil in the castle. Eventually she is able to fall back asleep.
Chaol comes into Celaena’s room in the morning to ask where she was all night. She insists she was in her room. He tells her the tests and practices have been cancelled for the day because another champion, Xavier, was killed and half eaten. Celaena pretends she is going to go back to sleep until she is sure Chaol is gone. She grabs her makeshift weapons and heads back to the tomb. Celaena studies Elena’s sarcophagus and wonders why the first queen chose her. She decides she will first focus on becoming the king’s champion and then on the evil. Chaol leads Celaena past the body. Xavier has been cut open and his organs (including brain) have been removed. His blood was used to write Wyrdmarks that are not smeared. Celaena believes it was part of a ritual. Chaol pushes her past the scene and they pass Grave. Both assassins act like the murder is nothing to them. Dorian spars with Chaol and they discuss how it is inappropriate for each of them to be visiting Celaena in the night. Chaol has posted extra guards at her door to keep her safe, but he knows it won’t keep Dorian away. The prince allows Chaos to get back to work and goes to his lonely tower.
Out in the garden by the gargoyle statue surrounded by Wyrdmarks, Celaena tells Nehemia about the murder scene. Cain comes along to mock Celaena’s cover story. He knows who she really is. She knows she will be confined to her rooms if she fights him there, so she leaves with the princess. Chaol takes Dorian to watch Celaena train after dinner hoping it will show the prince how dangerous she really is. When Nox arrives to train with her, Dorian is curious and jealous. Chaol asks if he should stop her alliance with Nox, but Dorian says she needs the ally. A few days later Celaena is in the library researching Wyrdmarks. She tells Chaol about Wyrdgates that creatures used to travel to their world. He warns her to be careful what she says. She is surprised the books weren’t burned already. She ends up with one, The Walking Dead, that shows several monsters and other gruesome things. She hears scraping on the floor, but Chaol shows her it was him with a dagger. She takes a few books and leaves.
While teaching herself how to shoot pool, Dorian shows up in Celaena’s room. He ends up wrapping himself around her to show her how to shoot. They both get embarrassed and separate. They play until late and then stay up talking about books. Celaena falls asleep in her chair. Dorian takes her to bed and wonders if she will be the same after she earns her freedom. He collects a few books she points out to him and notices her necklace before leaving.
Celaena is paired with Cain’s sidekick, Verin, during their next test. He says something crude about her and Cain and then her and Nox (when he stands up for her). Celaena decided it is useless to keep pretending she is weak. She fights Verin without drawing her sword, easily disarms him, and knocks him out of the ring. She walk away and challenges Brullo to put her against someone that will make her try. Celaena studies a tapestry depicting Elena, the first queen. Like her, she will always have Terrasen as a part of her. Kaltain sits in pain next to the queen to watch acrobats. She suffers through it knowing that being a duchess isn’t good enough for her. The queen wants to know who Dorian is interested in, but Kaltain uses the opportunity to get the queens approval for herself.
Chaol has Celaena practicing archery when two guards run up to tell him there was another murder. He takes Celaena with him to the scene. She points out they were in a long hallway and the creature (which may have been summoned by a person) had time to sharpen its claws before attacking Verin. The muscles in his ankles were cut to keep him from running and his organs have been removed. There are also Wyrdmarks around him. Celaena wonders if Elena’s evil creatures is doing this. Later that night while searching through books, Dorian comes to visit Celaena. He asks her to play the piano, but she refuses. She allows him one question and he asks why she likes music. It reminds her of before she was an assassin and wanted to become a healer. She asks him why he isn’t married and he admits he is waiting for love. Celaena points out the impracticality, but he insists he will marry for love. He notices her ring and she changes the subject by suggesting billiards. Chaol watches the champions’ sponsors that night at dinner. He notices occasionally Duke Perrington’s expression would become black and his eyes dark. Chaol also notices Kaltain watches the Duke in a cold, calculating manner, but doesn’t seem to notice the change.
Celaena is woken up by a visit from Elena. She doesn’t have much information, but tells Celaena to keep an eye on her right. Celaena looks over to see the tapestry that hides the passage to the tomb. When she looks back, Elena is gone. The next morning is another test. The champions are to put goblets in order from least deadly to most based on the poison inside. Celaena looks to her right and see Pelor holding the same two glasses she is trying to decide between. He puts water as the most dangerous and wine as the least. He gives her a nod. She remembers Pelor saying he specializes in poisons and follows his lead. They are the only winners of the challenge.
Celaena isn’t sleeping well as more champions are murdered. She continues to teach Nehemia the common tongue, reading, and writing. While they are walking one day, Nehemia takes Celaena to the kennels where Dorian is playing with a litter of mutts. Celaena asks about one that stays off by itself. Dorian explains it will have to be killed because it doesn’t get along with humans or other dogs. Celaena is offended by this and the prince promises to find the puppy a home. As they leave Dorian behind, Nehemia comments on the connection Celaena seems to have with him. Celaena blows it off. After they separate, Cain comes up to Celaena holding his throat. He says nothing. He runs away down the hall looking over his shoulder at nothing. Celaena goes to her own room and sends messages to Nox and Pelor not to leave their own rooms that night or let anyone in.
Kaltain is caught off guard while smoking a pipe of opium when Duke Perrington arrives for a visit. He mentions the prince was with Celaena. Kaltain convinces him they must dig up dirt on her alias, Lillian, to prove she is not worthy. He agrees. Nehemia comes to Celaena’s room in tears. Five hundred Eyllwe rebels were captured. Some tried to escape during transport and all were killed. Celaena holds the princess and tries to comfort her.
Celaena experiences the effects of her monthly cycle returning as she is no longer malnourished. Chaol comes to ask her a question, but her nausea gets the better of her and she vomits all over the floor. She tells him what is going on and he leaves quickly without asking his question. Dorian comes by later because Chaol told him about her condition. He tells her to call him by his first name after she throws a book at him (meant in a teasing manner). He apologizes for the atrocities his father committed. He admits he is ashamed, but not yet brave enough to go against his father. Celaena promises she doesn’t hate the prince. He kisses her cheek before he leaves.
Chaol watches Dorian walking with Celaena and wonders how he has grown to trust her enough to leave her alone with the prince. Dorian notices Celaena’s amulet and says it looks like the Eye of Elena (first queen wore for protection against the Dark Lord). Later while reading in her room, Celaena drops her book in surprise when Philippa enters the room. The assassin reaches under her bed to retrieve her book and finds a spiral of Wyrdmarks written in chalk. She washes them off the floor and heads to the library. She finds Nehemia there reading an advanced book. When Celaena questions her about it, Nehemia tells her not to assume things and leaves. Celaena finds a piece of paper with a Wyrdmark on it and wonders if Nehemia is the one killing champions.
Over the next few weeks more tests occur and there are only five champions left. Celaena spends all her spare time studying Wyrdmarks. She wakes up on Yulemas to find a bag of candy on her pillow and makes a mess eating it. Philippa comes in and scolds her as she helps the assassin prepare for ceremony. Dorian arrives and gives her the troubled puppy as a gift. Celaena insists she is trained while she is also training during the day, but will stay with her at night. Celaena starts to think Nehemia will attack during the ball and decides she must go in disguise to protect Chaol and Dorian. Chaol comes to escort her to the ceremony. She wonders what he will do to punish her when he recognizes her through his mask.
Celaena stands up in the pew to get a better look at the people gathered. Chaol has her sit down. When the priestess starts the ceremony, Celaena falls asleep. Chaol wakes her. Up after all the readings, prayers, and songs are complete. Children blindfolded and dressed as gods wonder the aisles to hand out gifts that represent each gods’ blessing. Duke Perrington gets the god of War’s gift. Celaena receives the goddess of hunt and maidens. She offers the solid gold arrow to Chaol knowing she is not allowed to have it. He refuses saying he doesn’t want to upset the gods by taking it away from her.
Philippa helps Celaena get ready for the ball and the assassin promises to take all of the blame. One of the guards, Ress, walks her down to the ball. She enters through the main entrance and everyone stares. Dorian wants to go to her, but is shocked by her arrival. Chaol meets her at the bottom of the stairs and leads her to a private alcove. He scolds her for showing up and she points out she can’t be the king’s champion if she can’t be trusted. He allows her to stay and she watches Nehemia as the princess sits next to the king. Nehemia leaves early and briefly talks to Celaena in a fake, heavy accent before departing. Chaol notices their odd behavior. Celaena asks him to dance, but Chaol doesn’t want to draw attention to her. Dorian, who has been doing his best to ignore her all night, finally approaches and asks her to dance. Chaol repeats his concern, but they both blow him off. Celaena forgets about Chaol as she dances with Dorian. She wants the prince.
A man named Otho comes up to Chaos to get information about Celaena. Chaol only gives him her alias. Otho says it looks like the prince is in love. Kaltain hates Celaena as she continues to plot her way to the crown. She knows Celaena will have to be removed. Late that night, Celaena slips away from the ball when Dorian goes to get a drink. Ress uses back hallways to escort her back to her room. Dorian is there waiting for her. They go inside and he starts kissing her. She suddenly remembers who they both are and tells him she has to go to bed alone. He kisses her again before leaving. As he walks back to his own room, Dorian swears he will make it work for them. Celaena goes out to her balcony, but never sees Chaol watching her from below. He knows she isn’t thinking of him.
Celaena sleeps in until one in the afternoon. Her puppy wakes her up and Dorian is there soon after. He acts nonchalant about the previous night. She names the dog Fleetfoot and then goes to change while Dorian waits on her bed. Kaltain walks with Duke Perrington. He tells her all about Celaena’s true identity. He suggests Kaltain represent the goddess during the ceremony the champions will attend and serve Celaena wine with enough bloodline to make her a bit crazy and show how dangerous she really is. His black ring seems to pulse with her headache. She focuses on how the prince will be hers if Celaena is out of the way.
That night Celaena can’t sleep and continues to study the Wyrdmarks. She finds a note written in a book next to the symbols found by the bodies of murdered champions. The symbols are to sacrifice to ridderak so the person gains the strength of the one killed. Celaena decides Nehemia might be keeping the beast in the secret passageways and goes to investigate. She eventually hears a man speaking in a language she doesn’t recognize. She looks into the room to find Cain.
Cain Detects Celaena and is easily able to disarm her. He leaves her in the room with the summoned ridderak. It leaps for her, but Celaena is prepared and is able to maneuver away. She heads back into the secret passageway and races to the tomb. The ridderak passes the entrance at first which gives Celaena the chance to grab Gavin’s sword, Damaris. She thrusts the sword at the creature’s face as it leaps at her. She kills it, but has to remove the teeth from around her hand. She replaces the sword and makes her way back to her rooms where she collapses on the floor. Nehemia finds her and takes her to the bathtub to clean her up. Celaena’s hand is freezing and the cold is spreading through her body. She sees Wyrdmarks on her skin and hears Nehemia speak in a language she doesn’t recognize.
Celaena wakes up three hours later with Nehemia still watching over her. She tells the princess almost everything, but leaves out Cain and the ridderak. She admits she is troubled about killing for the king that took everything from her. Nehemia gives her a new name: Elentiya, the spirit that could not be broken. Chaol notices how quiet Celaena is and asks if it is because of Dorian. She admits she hasn’t seen him since the previous morning. He warns her to be smart about her interactions with the prince. After training for a while, Chaol and Celaena joke with each other as they walk through the halls. They end up running into the king.
Celaena can feel the weight of the king’s stare as he studies her and then quickly moves on. Chaol notices how small she becomes when the king is present. She stays quiet through lunch while Chaol studies the king’s report. The captain is disturbed by the lack of detail in the report since the king returned alone. The rest of his party died on the journey. His mind shifts back to Celaena, who he knows won’t survive another year in Endovier. Still he worries about being the one to retrain the world’s greatest assassin and then letting her loose on Andover.
During training, Celaena gives Nox a few hints about who she really is. He puts them together easily and she tells him it would be best if he left since there is no horrible consequence to him losing the competition. He leaves that night. As Kaltain makes her way to the Great Hall to meet Duke Perrington for dinner, she passes Cain. She hears wings, but decides she probably smoked too much opium and continues on her way. The prince comes to play chess with Celaena in her room. She hesitates before kissing him. They kiss for hours and she contemplates asking him to stay knowing Cain won’t hurt Dorian. She lets him go not wanting him to be there in case Cain or another beast shows up. In the little sleep she gets, Celaena dreams of being chased through the woods by a demon on horseback. In the morning she learns the last test is cancelled due to Nox’s departure. Cain, Graves, Renault and she will fight the next day.
Dorian goes out hunting to clear his head. He comes to the realization he doesn’t want anyone else but Celaena. The assassin has her guards send away any visitors as she thinks she will face Cain and doesn’t know if it would be the most honorable: to die in battle, return to Endovier or win. She realizes she wants to stay at the castle because of the friends she has made, but worries what the king will make her do.
Kaltain uses her red cloud and Duke Perrington’s kiss on her hand to hid the poisoning of Celaena’s wine glass. Everyone is surprised the duels will take place outside in the cold by the clocktower. Chaol tells her it was a last minute decision. The king announces Cain and Renault will fight first. Cain defeats Renault in less than three minutes and the mercenary leaves. Chaol offers Celaena his own sword to fight Grave. Nehemia offers the assassin her staff. Celaena likes the idea of defeating the Ardarlan’s using the iron-tipped Eyllwe weapon and accepts it. She meets Grave in the ring.
Celaena is easily able to maneuver around Grave and defeat him with the iron tip of the staff at his throat. The king has Kaltain server the two winners wine and then has them face each other immediately after. It isn’t long before Celaena feels nauseous and weak. Both Dorian and Chaol can see something isn’t right. Celaena tries to continue to fight even after her staff is broken. She knows Can is toying with her. He slams her against the clocktower and the darkness comes. She kicks and screams at the winged creatures that attack her. She is able to get out of the hallucination briefly and hits Cain. He reaches for her throat, but instead tears off the amulet. He drops it and the monsters come for her.
Dorian wants to help Celaena, but knows he can’t stop the massacre; only his father can. He sees Chaol is struggling with Celaena’s defeat as well. Nehemia steps to the outside of the ring and starts moving her arm drawing something in the air. Celaena sees the demons and Cain coming after her and she knows she is going to die. Suddenly, Elena is there and fights off the creatures. She tells Celaena that she cannot save her, but she can take the poison away. She has the assassin reach for the staff and when she grabs it, the worlds slowly starts coming back to her. Elena tells her that once the poison is gone, she will not be able to see her anymore. Elena draws something on her forehead while telling Celaena to stand as she slowly fades away. Celaena ends up working through the pain to stand on her feet.
Pushing aside the pain, Celaena stands before Cain, who can see the mark on her forehead. He attacks her, but she is able to dodge and puts the staff into his side. She takes him down and puts the sharp end to his throat. She holds it there until the king announces she is the winner. She starts making her way towards Nehemia, who collapses. Celaena doesn’t make it there before her body gives out from the pain. Dorian runs to her and she starts laughing through her tears. Dorian curses himself for not speaking up sooner when Celaena was clearly drugged. He calls for a healer. He looks at Duke Perrington and Kaltain, who were the obvious suspects on who poisoned his champion. The king and Cain exchange a nod and Cain pulls out a dagger. Chaol sees this and stabs him in the heart. He is shocked at what he has done and is taken inside. Dorian listens to Celaena’s incoherent ramblings before picking her up and taking her inside with the physician following. He promises he will tear the world apart if he has to in order to be with her. Kaltain looses her temper and is furious that Cain lost. She asks Perrington about it, but he speaks of her poisoning the assassin loud enough for the entire council to hear. He pretends that he knows nothing about it and she is taken away.
Dorian confronts his father for the first time. He first sees what the king’s plan is for dealing with Chaol. The king says it is not worth him losing a very capable captain over an assassin, though he does not approve of his actions. Dorian then asks his father’s plan for Celaena. The king is still not convinced that she will make a worthy champion. Dorian slips up and gives away that he cares about her. He then tells his father that using Nehemia as a hostage might lead to full on rebellion. He suggests it might be better to make her into a friend and use that friendship to take over Eyllwe. The king agrees to have Duke Perrington stop his plans. Nehemia comes to visit Celaena in her room while she recovers from the fight. The princess explains that her family completely understand the Wyrdmarks and only use them in dire emergencies. Unfortunately, those who have used them in the past have mostly chosen evil over good, so they keep their ability secret. She was the one drawing the symbols under Celaena’s bed to protect her from the creatures Cain was summoning. She is surprised that Cain was able to summon them and wonders where he learned the ability. Nehemia spent a lot of time sending his summoned creatures back to where they came from because Cain didn’t have the ability to control the beasts in order to send them back. She was surprised when Celaena was able to see the Otherworld creatures because of the bloodbane and explains that Elena was the one that answered her call for help. She has seen the Wyrdmark that appeared on Celaena’s head, but isn’t sure what it means. However, she doesn’t think the king is concerned about it or he would have asked her about it already. Nehemia admits she is there to learn about the king’s plans for Eyllwe and will risk anything to help her country. She promises not to drag Celaena into the middle of it, but knows their paths are most likely intertwined. They agree not to keep secrets and Celaena promises to tell the rest of her story when she is better. Nehemia gives Celaena her amulet before leaving.
Celaena sleeps until the next day. Dorian comes to visit and apologizes for not being the one to save her. He hasn’t been able to sleep knowing that he should have stopped the duel as soon as he realized she was poisoned. She points out she would have been disqualified if she had, so she is glad he didn’t. He lays down with her and they intertwine themselves. He says the competition was frivolous but is glad it brought her into his life. The king lets Duke Perrington wait on him while he contemplates the meaning of the Wyrdmark that appeared on the assassin’s head. He is well versed in the language, but has never seen that particular one before. He wonders if it is a prophecy, which will mean he will have to hang her. He discusses the use of the black rings with Perrington. They used Kaltain to experiment with the mind and emotions and Cain the body. Perrington did have to hold back some on his use of the ring when Kaltain started showing symptoms (headaches). The king promises she won’t be kept in the dungeons forever. They agree they will have to use the newfound power on more subjects. He tells the duke to stop pushing his plan to use Nehemia as a hostage because it is arousing suspicion.
Over the next week, Dorian and Nehemia come to visit Celaena often. She is reading in her nightgown when Chaol comes in for the first time since the duel. She walks up to him and thanks him for saving her life multiple times. She reminds him that she also had a first kill once and it was hard for her. He tells her he is more worried at how easy it was. As he starts to leave, she hugs him. When he hugs her back, she wishes they could stay like that. Dorian arrives and Chaol takes off quickly. Dorian tells her the king finally has her contract ready. She tells the prince she can’t be with him not only because of the position, but because she plans to leave after her four years of service. He agrees to remain friends with her before leaving. Celaena stares out the window and contemplates her freedom.
Chaol searches for Dorian in order to explain the hug between him and Celaena. He goes to her room and she tells him she ended it with the prince. He wonders if his soul will survive after killing a person as her seems to. He sits with her for dinner and asks how Cain know about her parents’ death. She tells him how she crawled into bed and awoke to find them dead in the morning. Arobynn Hamel found her shortly after. Celaena dreams of Elena in the tomb. The first queen tells her she has the ability to be great and she is right where she needs to be for now. Celaena thanks her for saving her life. Elena says, “blood ties can’t be broken.”
Celaena goes in front of the king to sign her contract. He warns her that if she is caught, she is to deny any connection to him. She understands. He also tells her that if she fails to complete or return from a mission, he will kill Chaol. If it continues, he will kill Nehemia and then the princess’ entire family. Celaena signs the contract and is dismissed. Chaol has her first mission, but she tells him to tell her the next day.