The Assassin’s Blade, by Sarah J. Maas

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The prequels to this series are almost more intense than the series itself. The violence and sexual content makes this one 16 and up, despite how many of these are stocked in middle schools.

That said, these wonderful short stories cover all the referenced issues in the life of our heroine, a 16-year-old assassin, before Book 1. Almost uniformly bleak and/or disturbing, it sets up the tough world established in the core series.

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