Oh man, oh jeepers. I thought I liked the first one, but I loved, loved, loved this second installment!
Celaena grew so much over the month we were with her in this book. The story picks up just a small time after The Assassin and the Pirate Lord ended. We find out what happened to Celaena and Sam when they get back. As punishment, Celaena is sent to train in the Red Dessert with The Silent Assassins, but first both Celaena and Sam are punished in a far worse way. Celaena didn't see Sam before she left and is left to wonder if he is okay while she is in the desert. She needs a good recommendation letter from The Mute Master, but quickly learns it will be difficult to even get him to train her.
Once Celaena passes the first test, she is assigned a room with a roommate, Ansel. We learn Ansel's back-story about how she came to be with the Silent Assassins. She wears intricate wolf armor, has brilliant red hair, is very beautiful and has a boyfriend who is clearly besotted with her. Ansel is also working as the liaison between the Silent Assassins and their nemesis, the king of Xandria. Ansel takes Celaena with her to Xandria where Ansel meets privately with the king.
Celaena wanders the market in Xandria and runs into a merchant selling spidersilk. The merchant recognizes Celaena for the assassin that she is and asks her to help him by destroying the spider whom he bartered 20 years of his life away with for the 200 yards of priceless spidersilk. Celaena is obviously not available now but states he can find her in Rifthold at the Assassin's Keep at a later date. He provides her with a 6-inch square of spidersilk to remind her that everything comes at a price. I am left with the impression that we will see this merchant later in the series perhaps.
There is a traitor in the Silent Assassins of the Red Desert! It didn't come as a surprise as to who the traitor was. But that mattered very little. We got to see Celaena make her first real friend (Ansel), and grow so much. In the first book, Celaena comes across as spoiled and very quick to anger as well as conceited. She mentions how beautiful she is many times, but in this book Celaena experiences many things that make her more humble and gracious than she would have been otherwise. I am going to miss the master the most.
"When you give your master his letter, also give him this. And tell him that in the Red Desert, we do not beat our disciples." --The Mute Master