I'm going to dive right in and say that this is the exact type of fantasy I've been waiting for since I read Poison Study a good four years ago. It has everything I wanted - pirates, assassins, adventure, quests and a couple that I completely and utterly wanted together so much it hurt. The description is clever, because while there is some romantic tension, there is actually no kissing. Yet?
The story just threw me right in, when Ananna (who I kept wanting to call Anarra) is about to get married off to some guy who's only interested in a new ship his father will give him. Being the most perfect main character ever, she quickly nicks a camel and ditches him. I mean you would right? She always seems to go from one bad situation to worse one and picks up a fair share of enemies along the way.
I really did love the romance or rather the lack of it. I mean, I didn't enjoy that there wasn't much of any but I like the slow burn romances rather than the seeing someone and declaring your undying love to them, which just isn't realistic. Ananna and Naji are two people thrown together which very different lives and they clash a lot because of this. But at the same time you can see how much they care about each other in their actions.
One thing I really liked about this was that although it's a fantasy novel, I had no trouble picturing the scorching deserts or islands or pirate ships, because they're all elements taken from our own world. I prefer these, much easier than trying to imagine a gigantic glass castle or something. Although the desert scenes made me uncomfortable thirsty.
My only regret with this story is that I didn't buy the sequel and spin off before I'd read it - I now have to wait over a week to find out what happens! The story did end on a seriously good cliffhanger and I desperately need to find out what happens next.