July 26, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Throne of Glass [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Sarah J. Maas [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First novel in a series, though there are four prequel novellas.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: August 7th, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via BEA.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge
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 kings 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. 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.
I won’t sugar coat it, I went into Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass predisposed to dislike it. You see, I’d already read two of the four prequel novellas and decided I didn’t love the writing, and really didn’t love Celaena Sardothien. I was worried that as in the novellas, I would struggle through the first half of Throne of Glass before being caught up in the story enough to sit back and enjoy the action a bit. But after standing in line for an hour to get this book at BEA (Sarah J. Maas was incredibly sweet and so surprised/grateful for all those who waited for this book), I was certainly going to give it a go. I am happy to report that while I never did come to love this book or the characters therein, I was caught up in the action from the beginning, and interested enough in the story not to stop reading. There are many aspects of Throne of Glass that readers will love, and I won’t be surprised to see this book on many favorites lists at the end of this year.
Before reading Throne of Glass, I bemoaned the US cover considering the UK one was so completely kick butt. Now, having read it, I have to say that the US one actually fits the book and the character of Celaena better. Aspects of Celaena’s character that irked me while reading the prequels–she was spoiled, selfish, vain–seem to have been ironed out quite a bit after a year spent in the death camp of Endovier. However, I still have an impossible time holding Celaena up and proclaiming her the next strong female lead in YA. She’s incredibly shallow, obsessed with clothing and good looks, pouts over things such as not getting invited to parties, and is completely incapacitated by her period giving sexist men credence to their ‘she must be on the rag’ thought process. I actually do appreciate that Sarah J. Maas has attempted to create a different type of strong heroine in Celaena. Most of them tend to be less feminine and more down to earth than Celaena, and I can see readers who do like things like parties and clothes falling in love with her. It simply didn’t work for me.
That said, it wasn’t just Celaena I found to be shallow, it was the writing as a whole. There are seemingly endless descriptions of clothing (I began just skipping any paragraph that described one’s outfit), character’s opinions of one another seemed to rest largely on their physical attributes, and the story in general was far less creative than one might hope. Take for example the holiday, Yulemas, so derivative of Christmas I actually beat my head against the chair I was sitting in out of sheer boredom.
I was excited by the prospect of a competition between assassins, but found the whole thing to be rather dull when played out as there were months where the plot chose to focus on the everyday rather than the action and most of the ‘tests’ were skipped entirely. I had sort of been hoping a competition to determine the best assassin would involve them all set loose in the castle to, you know, assassinate one another until there was a victor left standing. But no, Throne of Glass shied away from killing quite a bit considering it’s a book starring a supposed killer (I’ve now read 600 pages about Celaena and have yet to see her kill anyone). Character’s motivations seemed muddled, plot lines didn’t completely line up, and the changes of perspective were completely jarring and unnecessary, particularly those told from the male point of view which I feel were best left untouched as it was very clear Maas has not mastered the art of writing from the perspective of the opposite sex.
Which brings us to the aspect of this book I think everyone’s groaning about, the love triangle. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t mind a love triangle when it’s done well. This one is not. As stated, I felt the portions of the story told from Chaol and Dorian’s point of view were by far it’s weakest, particularly as they felt so lopsided and random. Neither of the characters are well developed, and Dorian’s interest in Celaena seems solely of the ‘oh look an attractive female I shouldn’t have feelings for’ variety. I found it impossible to care about the emotions of those involved as there seemed to be no base for them. Usually I can at least enjoy a good kissing scene, but Throne of Glass‘s romance fell so completely flat I was bored to tears (and a little uncomfortable) waiting for these scenes to be over. I did like Chaol and Nehemia (Celaena’s friend) as characters, and the fighting action was great, but sadly they were too small a portion of this story to keep me around.
Throne of Glass is one of those books that to me fits into Tatiana‘s “Fantasy-Lite” category. It dips its toes into too many puddles–action, political intrigue, magic, mythology, romance, war, revolution–failing to fully flush out any of them. I can forgive bad world building, bad characters, or lack of action when one of these others excels, but Throne of Glass failed on all fronts. I feel it could have been a much stronger book had it chosen to focus on something rather than everything, but as is it falls incredibly short of being deemed epic.
In the end, I feel like the success of Throne of Glass is weighed by what this book was actually trying to achieve. If the aim of Throne of Glass is to entertain, yes, great, it does so. If the aim is to be a memorable work that readers will be consuming and praising for generations, no, sorry, I don’t see it entering any annals or winning any awards. For me, Throne of Glass is to books like George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (and yes, I truly believe they titled this “Throne of Glass” because it is evocative of “Game of Thrones“) or Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series as a green apple flavored Sweet Tart is to Dutch apple pie. Sure, it has some of the same flavor, but I never crave it, it’s consumed quickly, doesn’t fill the stomach, and certainly isn’t something I’ll remember having eaten later in life.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Nope. While I found aspects of Throne of Glass very intriguing, and I would kind of like to know where it goes, I think I’ll just ask someone who reads it to give me the low down rather than take the time to read it myself.
Recommended for: Honestly I have a hard time recommending Throne of Glass when I could recommend books with similar themes that are much stronger. Go read Grave Mercy, Graceling, The Thief, or The False Prince instead. Or if you do want to try Throne of Glass, I recommend borrowing it from the library before purchasing.
Get a second opinion:
The Reclusive Reader – “Serviceable, but I’m ready to move onto something else.”
Novel Sounds – “GO FORTH AND READ THIS BOOK, EVERYONE.”
Chachic’s Book Nook – “I feel like Throne of Glass would work for readers who haven’t read the likes of Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner or Kristin Cashore. But if you’re like me and you’re aware of the awesomeness of other novels, I have a feeling you’ll just be disappointed.”
Alexa Loves Books – “Fantastic story, multi-dimensional characters, an intriguing lore, a love triangle well done – these elements have made THRONE OF GLASS such a success to me.”
I’ve also reviewed:
The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass .1)
The Assassin and the Desert (Throne of Glass .2)