Ansel of Briarcliff is the Queen of the Western Wastes and a former Silent Assassin.
Aelin claims that Ansel is one of the most stunning people she had ever beheld. She is slightly taller than Aelin and has medium-length, wine-red hair, red-brown eyes, highlighted by a splattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheeks and a fiendish grin.
She is often seen wearing ornate armour featuring engraved wolves, even in the heat of the Red Desert. The right shoulder is fashioned into a snarling wolf's head, and her helmet into a wolf hunched over the nose guard; similar to the wolf's head molded into the pommel of her broadsword. On anyone else, the armour might have looked flamboyant and ridiculous, but on Ansel it made her look striking.
Outwardly, Ansel is funny, talkative and charming, possessing a sort of innocence about her. She is the type of a woman that can easily make friends. She is a brave and arrogant woman who has once laughed at death. Aelin had never met someone who grinned as much as Ansel or had such a lack of concern over other's personal space. However, Ansel reveals a darker side: cunning and extremely ruthless, she is ready to betray anyone for the sake of reclaiming her homeland and avenging her family, although she seems to regret having killed Mikhail.
Born and raised in the Flatlands along the coast of the Western Wastes in what was once the Witch Kingdom, Ansel's father was the Lord of Briarcliff. Granted freedoms as the lord's daughter, Ansel often played with her older sister and her friend, Maddy.
At the age of eight, the three girls had visited a ruined watchtower on the advice of a stable-boy who had heard that one could see into another world by peering through the archway on the Summer Solstice. Frightened by the ominous nature of the tower, Ansel hid behind a rock while her sister and Maddy crept closer, only to hear screams shortly afterward. Fleeing back to Briarcliff, her sister tearfully explained that Maddy had been pulled into the tower by an old woman with iron teeth. Only her bones remained the following morning when the watchtower was searched.
When Ansel was twelve years old, a lord seized several territories around Briarcliff and demanded her father yield Briarcliff to him, to bow to him as the High King of the Flatlands. The Lord of Briarcliff refused to do so, saying that there was one tyrant already conquering everything east of the mountains—he didn't want one in the west, too. Two weeks later the lord stormed Briarcliff, seizing the villages and people. A terrified Ansel hid in a kitchen cupboard and witnessed the deaths of her older sister and father.
After the lord had left Briarcliff, Ansel took her father's sword from his corpse and ran towards the foothills of the White Fang Mountains, collapsing at the campfire of an Ironteeth witch. The witch told Ansel that it was not her fate to die there. She fed her, and mended her wounds before encouraging her to train with The Silent Assassins, saying that was where she would discover her fate. Once Ansel was healed, the witch gave her gold and sent her on her way. Ansel later used that gold to commission her armour.
Ansel arrived at the Silent Assassins' fortress shortly after her thirteenth birthday. On her first oasis run in the Red Desert, she collapsed and lost consciousness within the second mile. Ilias, who was already returning from the oasis, found her and carried her the entire way back to the fortress. At age fifteen Ansel began dating her fellow acolyte, Mikhail—despite the eight-year age difference—in the hopes of gaining extra attention during training as the Mute Master would not teach her.
Ansel is one of the Silent Assassins who Aelin Galathynius meets when Arobynn Hamel sends her to the Red Desert as punishment for destroying his deal with the Pirate Lord Rolfe. Aelin quickly becomes friends with Ansel and the girls travel to Xandria on a mission from the Mute Master. The two of them steal an Asterion mare each from Lord Berick and flee back to the fortress, leaping over the Desert Cleaver. However, Ansel turns out to be a double agent working for Berick, helping his men slaughter the Silent Assassins. Ansel poisons Aelin and leaves her in the Red Desert with a sealed empty recommendation letter from the Master. Ansel intended to keep Aelin away from Berick's attack on the fortress and prevent her being injured, but Aelin finds out and returns in time, eventually saving the Silent Assassins and defeating Ansel. Instead of killing Ansel, Aelin granted her mercy and allowed her twenty minutes to leave before she would fire an arrow from the fortress's watchtower at her neck. Ansel was still within the vicinity after twenty minutes, but Aelin fired her arrow after twenty-one.
After Ansel was defeated in her attempt to wipe out the Silent Assassins she returned to the Flatlands where she banded together with a group of lords and fought Lord Loch for the throne of the Western Wastes. Once she had killed Loch, she stayed to defend her throne and make it right for her people, but she heard that Aelin had been sent to Endovier. Ansel set out to rescue her friend. Ansel he reached the Ruhnn Mountains when she received word that Aelin was gone, taken to Rifthold by Dorian Havilliard and Chaol Westfall. Ansel couldn't go to Rifthold as it was too far, and she had been gone from her lands too long. She turned back and went home.
Aelin and her court were nearing the coast of the Stone Marshes when Lysandra spotted a figure standing on the white sandy beaches. They see a hundred grey sails stretching towards the western horizon. Standing on the beach before them is a party of twenty armed warriors, led by a grey-cloaked woman.
As they approach the court members, the cloaked woman removes her hood, and Aelin recognises her as the now twenty-year-old Ansel of Briarcliff, Queen of the Western Wastes.
During the events of Queen of Shadows, Aelin had used Ansel's name in the fighting pits of Rifthold in order to message Ansel. Ansel had understood and begun to move her army to the edge of the Anascaul Mountains. Then Ansel received a letter, telling her who Aelin was and that she would gut Ansel if she didn't assist in her cause. The letter told Ansel to go to the Gulf of Oro, meet Aelin there, and follow a specific set of instructions.
Half of Ansel's army continued to the Anascaul Mountains to offer aid to Terrasen while the other half of the army veered down south, and hiked through the White Fangs and into Melisande. Melisande assumed they arrived to offer aid and let the army of the Wastes right in the front gates only to be sacked and pillaged. With Melisande's troops spread so thin from Morath, the Queen of Melisande had no choice but to yield. Ansel took her out of her dungeon to reveal that Terrasen's flag now flew alongside Ansel's wolf at her own house.
Taking Melisande's fleet for her own, Ansel arrived at the Gulf of Oro and presented the fleet to Aelin as her own. Ansel fought alongside Aelin and her court against Maeve's armada. Ansel could think of no greater gift than to repay her friend.
Mikhail and Ansel had been engaged romantically since Ansel was fifteen, despite the eight-year age gap between them. Towards the later parts of The Assassin and the Desert, it is revealed that Ansel had entered a relationship with Mikhail only to receive private tutoring from him (as the Master would not teach her) as well as to get closer to the Mute Master of the Red Desert. Mikhail is one of the first men she slays. It is later implied that she regrets killing him.
Ansel and Aelin were good friends until Ansel betrayed her by poisoning her and leaving her in the Red Desert with a sealed empty recommendation letter from the Mute Master. Ansel intended to keep Aelin away from Lord Berick's attack on the Silent Assassins and prevent her from being injured, but Aelin found out and returned to the fortress in time, eventually saving the Silent Assassins and defeating Ansel. Instead of killing Ansel, Aelin granted her mercy and allowed her twenty minutes to leave before she would fire an arrow from the fortress at her neck. Ansel was still within the vicinity after twenty minutes, but Aelin only fired her arrow after twenty-one.
- Ansel is a contracted form of French "Anselme", meaning "divine helmet".
- Ansel once swore to be silent for a month before giving up after two days.
- Her birthday is on Midsummer's Eve.
- ↑ The Assassin's Blade: The Assassin and the Desert by Sarah J. Maas, pg. 143