Also by this author: Crown of Midnight, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3), Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2), Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5), A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1), The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-#0.5), Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons, #3)
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Also in this series: Crown of Midnight
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 7, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 454 •Format: Paperback •Source: Purchased
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
This may be more of a rant than a review. Not necessarily a bad one, but definitely an impassioned one. Because Throne of Glass and I have perhaps the most love-hate relationship I’ve had with a book all year.
So there were some high expectations I had for this going in, based on the plethora of rave reviews I’ve read:
A) A kick-butt, take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred, assassin protagonist
B) A well done love triangle
C) A creative fantasy world with good world-building
I can say after finishing the novel that b & c were pretty well accomplished, but part of me just can’t get over expectation A, which is what drew me to the novel in the first place.
Celaena. There are so many things to like about her. She’s sassy (SO much sass between her and Dorian especially). She’s intelligent. She refuses to be talked to as a second class citizen because she’s a female. She can be a feminist and still like feminine things (not all progressive women have to be tomboys!). I loved all these things about her, but the thing I could not reconcile with her character was that she was supposed to be an assassin (and not just any assassin, but the most dangerous assassin in the entire kingdom). There were multiple times when she gets startled or surprised, bumping into tables, jumping in the air, etc: “A door shut somewhere inside her rooms, and Celaena jumped, the book flying from her hands” (267). And OK, maybe she was just rusty on training from being in Endovier, but I just couldn’t forgive the scene during Yulemas (basically a Christmas-type celebration) when she wakes up in the morning and finds an UNMARKED bag filled with candy lying on her pillow, and then proceeds to stuff her face with it. Now I am all for stuffing one’s face with treats, but this is problematic for me as a reader because 1) How are people always sneaking into her chambers in the middle of the night without her noticing? and 2) If you are an assassin aren’t you supposed to be concerned about an UNMARKED, MYSTERIOUS bag of candy being potentially poisoned? (This was my first assumption when she discovered it! I was sure it was going to make her violently ill). I mean, not eating candy from strangers is like Halloween lesson 101 for little kids. Where are her assassin-y survival instincts?
So basically I really like Celaena in every aspect except the assassin bit. Which is problematic, because, you know, the plot.
Anyways, I think the love triangle was indeed well done, if subtle. The romance is much more in the background and less involved in the plot than most YA, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your preference (I prefer more predominant romances myself). Both love interests were equal contenders, and neither felt like they were “thrown in” just to create conflict for the “obvious” choice, and I can honestly say I don’t really have a preference for one over the other because I think Maas wrote Chaol and Dorian as equally strong contenders. Both men are intriguing with hints of deeper back stories, and there’s not so much of the good-guy-bad-guy dichotomy that’s often in love triangles. I loved Dorian’s sass, but I think there’s a lot more to see about Chaol beneath the surface that’s going to be really fascinating.
The world building was done well too, there wasn’t really any “info-dumping” and I felt like details about the geography, monarchy, class systems, etc were well-paced in the time that they were revealed. I will say I found a lot of influence from The Song of Ice and Fire series (especially with the structure of the geography and the monarchies). There’s a handy map at the beginning of the book which I loved looking at because it shows the depth to which Maas has gone to build her world, as it’s very detailed.
My love affair with this book really began in the last third of the novel, when magical and supernatural elements (some of my favorite things in YA) came into play. Not only did it give the novel a darker tone but it introduced a lot of interesting lore and I’m really curious to see how it fits in with the religion (which is really awesome-sounding and matriarchal-seeming, with a main Goddess who bore a lot of demi-gods/saints). There’s good magic and bad magic at play, and Celaena is trapped in between, and it’s hinted at that she herself has some connection to the supernatural (which was banned in the kingdom about a decade ago). The last 50 or so pages really sucked me in, as Celaena really started to show her assassin training and the pacing of the novel picked up with action-packed battles, shocking political revelations, and the promise of a much more nefarious plot and political intrigue in the next book.
I also feel like I need to again address that Maas, while writing a protagonist that hasn’t quite convinced me that she’s an assassin, does a really great job at writing strong female characters (Celaena included). Nehemia was a favorite of mine, a foreign princess with her own agenda and kingdom to look after who knows she’s Orientalized and uses it to her advantage. I also really liked Kaltain- I know she’s supposed to be Celaena’s antithesis, but whatever her behavior it’s driven by an ambitious will that has me really curious to learn more about her as a character, as she has that aura of a femme fatale. Maas just writes females in a way that convinces me that they’re as active agents in the storytelling as the plot itself. These women drive the plot, rather than letting the plot steer them.
“We all bear scars… Mine just happen to be more visible than most.”
Overall: Throne of Glass began as an over-hyped novel that struggled with slow pacing for the first half. Yet the many strong female characters coupled with an action-packed last few chapters reeled me in to the point where I will without a doubt be reading the sequel. If you’re a fan of fantasy and want female characters with agency and cunning this series may well be for you, but beware that Celaena may seem more like your spunky best friend rather than Ardalan’s most feared assassin.