Throne of Glass -- Sarah J. Maas
Book 1 of Throne of Glass
Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Mystery
Throne of Glass was one of the first e-books I bought when I first discovered the wonders of e-readers and how convenient and dangerously easy it can be to buy and access e-books. I bought the book mainly because I remember Throne of Glass as a free fictional work on fictionpress.com--something I had read a couple chapters from and found decently enjoyable with an interesting theme and premise.
I don’t remember why I hadn’t finished reading the story (whether during its fictionpress.com days or post traditional publication), but the story ended up being kind of “meh” for me and I put it on hold after the first four chapters three years ago and hadn’t touched it since.
Throne of Glass is a well-written and well-conceived young adult fantasy; it has a plot with massive potential, a creatively imagined world, and colorfully intriguing characters. But I couldn’t help but find it slightly monotonous, even as the story progression gave you events and twists to look forward to.
Yes, Throne of Glass has the kickass young teenage girl as masterful assassin premise going on. Yes, Throne of Glass had the big “King’s Champion” competition between several brutes, criminals, and murderers, and our young teenage girl assassin. And then we even throw in a mysterious magical entity, banished magic from ye’olden days, and several deaths (that were pretty gory for a YA) that catapulted a murder mystery.
All of this had the makings for a fabulous high fantasy.
The Official Story Blurb:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating [sic]. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
The Rest of My Thoughts:
Side tangent about the official blurb I copied and pasted above: some of the information is wrong as compared to the actual story. Though I might be wrong about that… I thought Celaena was seventeen years old, for one. Secondly, I thought the deal between her and the prince was to serve the kingdom for four years before she was free.
Detail… and I digress. But anyway. Back to my thoughts about the actual book.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Throne of Glass. I really DID find it entertaining, well written, imaginatively creative, and properly executed. All of this I already stated. It just didn’t really stand out; and with all the hype surrounding it, maybe I had been expecting a story much more fabulous. Maybe the book just wasn’t my cuppa. Maybe I put too much hype into it myself.
The story progression was smooth and straight-forward. I never found myself irritated with any tangent ramblings that may or may not have anything to do with the story itself. In fact, I was very much impressed with how everything tied together in the end, even though we DID sort of have at least three different plot points moving forward together, and several brief side scenes that maybe didn’t do much for the story aside from further emphasizing the triangular romance.
Throne of Glass is indeed a good book with good characters and an intriguing story line.
What I think DID bother me were a few random tidbits:
Celaena is known as Adarlan’s Assassin, the Queen of the Underworld. She is supposedly the most infamous killer in the lands; the best at what she does and unmatched in notoriety or skill.
But there were times throughout that I found it a little hard to believe she was some super assassin because of the way she acts. Okay, maybe it’s fine for the best assassin in the lands to throw temper tantrums and lose her emotional shit over petty things. No one says a great assassin always has to have it together--after all, she DID spend a lot of time in the slave mines of Endovier, slowly losing her sanity.
But one or two (or four, apparently) little details bugged me:
-- She was never able to detect when someone enters her room and sneaks up on her from behind. Both Dorian and Chaol do it multiple times and she’s always startled by it. As an assassin, I’d have thought she’d honed her sense of alertness to know when someone was about to approach her ten feet down the hall or something like that. Assassin’s don’t have the safest job in the world and probably need to watch their own backs just as much as their assigned targets need to watch theirs.
-- In keeping with her lack of alertness, she doesn’t really keep much security in her own rooms when she sleeps. There is a monster running around killing the Champions, but she falls into vulnerable sleep much too easily for a person who has spent so many years looking over her shoulder as an assassin. (I’m just saying, if you’ve always been a hired killer and lots of people know it, there’s no reason to believe that your life is safe from any kind of attack from anyone, monster or no monster.) Sure, she’s fixed all the doors so that they creak when someone comes in… but that just brings me back to the previous point: Why is she always startled by Dorian or Chaol when they sneak up on her in her own rooms?
-- She too readily confides personal information to everyone around. Okay, mainly to Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia. But a lifetime of being on your own and wary for your life shouldn’t make it easy to tell people anything about yourself. Nor would it make it less difficult to trust others with such intimate details of your life. It just made her seem kind of naive as an assassin. Personal information given freely can potentially be used against you if in the wrong hands... just sayin'.
-- For a masterful assassin, she’s lacking in strategy. But maybe one of her traits had been that she was just such a good assassin that she never needed to plan her kills. I mean, Westfall had to paint her the picture of how she would survive the competition by staying out of the limelight, thus pissing her off because she just wanted to show off how awesome she was at everything. I mean, it’s a good strategy--because she’s a smaller woman versus all the larger, brutish criminals, so long as she lays low, she won’t draw attention to herself and no one will bother ganging up against her to eliminate her immediately. It’s a pretty simple concept.
On an aside, however, Celaena is also presented as the most perfect character in the book. Not only is she a super assassin with all her skills intact, she’s also written as everyone’s ideal heroine. Aside from being headstrong, vulgar, and loud-mouthed, Celaena exhibits other traits that make you cringe at just how perfect she is.
Celaena can also dress to impress and look all young, innocent, and beautiful even though she’s half-starved and undernourished (as is with all YA female characters, the whole "beautiful, even at her worst part", I mean). She loves to read (which is a plus in my book, so no complaints there), but she’s shown briefly that she can also be a bit of a book snob. She’s also a musician, plays the pianoforte with excellence and with so much emotion that the prince falls in love with her because of it. And then she has grand ideals of a better world and a secretly altruistic personality (which gets Chaol to fall in love with her), even as a supposedly cold and calculating assassin.
I mean, it's like there's absolutely no reason NOT to fall in love with her, even in spite of her being an infamous assassin.
With all of this perfection, there’s very little you can ask for in the department of growth and development for Celaena. And with her ideals of world peace, her selective sympathizing with other people,
you almost forget that she’s an assassin at all. She could just be some random girl who was chosen to participate in combative competition due to having some special skill or whatnot.
And if not for the fact that she’s kind of non-standard as a main female character with a lot of well-thought out, unique character traits, she could very easily pass as a typical, standardized YA female lead wherein everything she does is ideal, and she is the ”special chosen girl” whom everyone falls in love with and who is destined to save the world. All you’d have to do is tweak a few character traits here and there and Celaena Sardothien would be the exact carbon-copy replica of every other YA female character ever written.
But she’s not, because she's still got some of her own refreshingly unique Celaena traits; so, thank goodness for little things like that.
Which brings me to the romance in this story:
The romance was the relationship that bugged me the most. First of all: Love Triangle Alert. Though in this case, I have to admit that the Triangle was presented pretty well. The only complaint I have is that feelings between Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol seemed to develop out of nowhere. One moment everyone hates each other because of their respective roles; the next minute we’re sharing intimate details of our lives and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside with deeper emotions being thrown around. Jealousies start stewing, male posturing happens, and we even get a few instances of romantic angst that gave me quite a bit of pause considering how quickly everyone fell in love with Celaena.
Though I have to give the romance a bit of credit since the word “love” was never actually tossed out there carelessly. For something as petty as that, I can live with the romance--even though the love interests care deeply for one another, they didn’t fall in love instantly.
The pacing of the developing romance, however, just didn’t really sit well with me, but it’s not like it’s the end of the world.
All of Celaena’s other relationships (her friendships with Nehemia, Nox, Phillipa…) those were winning. I especially loved that she developed such a strong bond with Nehemia, even if some of their friendship had been based around secrets and lies. I also admittedly loved the entire friendship-non-friendship thing going on between Celaena and some of her King’s Champion rivals.
I really DID enjoy Throne of Glass. I felt like the romance could have been done without, honestly. There were all these other important things going on and all our boys could think about was who gets to show up in Celaena’s rooms unannounced and be her soul mate. I mean, come on boys--people are dying and there’s evil in the castle. Priorities!
I can’t help but to think that after the first four chapters both Dorian and Chaol each respectively got lobotomies intended to turn them into Celaena’s potential love interests, because before the entourage returned to the castle, Chaol was cold and cruel to Celaena, and Dorian all but ignored her. But then they arrive at the palace in Adarlan and suddenly both of these guys are head over heels for her.
I even almost forgot about the whole “Evil King” background plot. And the murder mystery was quite promising even if it was pretty predictable. The entire magic and Fae tangent felt like it came out of nowhere even though the ideals were floating around in the backstory the entire book.
Lots of things to look forward to in the next few books, that’s for sure.
This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):