Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan's most famous and feared assassin, has spent the last year slaving in a deadly labor camp. Then the crown prince appears and offers her deal. If she can win a contest to become the king's champion, he will give her her freedom. All she has to do is work and kill for the man she hates most in the world.

Throne of Glass is like Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games meets Graceling. It's not a perfect book -- it features a semi love triangle (two guys like one girl, but she doesn't seem too torn) and one of the mini-villains is a jealous girl who wants to marry the prince -- but it has that ineffable quality that makes those problems easy to ignore. It is gripping and addictive. The romance has a bit of a fanfiction quality, but good fanfiction, the kind that you read late into the night. Not high art, but highly enjoyable.

And Celaena is an excellent protagonist. She's tough, skilled, scarred and untrusting. She's a reader, a bit of an adventurer, and endlessly brave, whether that's fighting for her life, exploring dark tunnels, or attending the ball she was explicitly banned from attending in disguise. She manages to be a badass female protagonist without falling into stereotype or implying that more "feminine" things are weak. She feels human. Meanwhile, her world is full of political intrigue, brutal kings, stirring rebellion, and forbidden magic. And romance. Because what is a YA novel without that?

Throne of Glass is a fun, addictive, highly enjoyable novel. I can't wait for the next in the series.