Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

8:24:00 PM

Genre: YA, fantasy
Published: August 7th, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children's
Rating:  4/5 stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads): When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the King's Champion and be released from prison.

Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her.

And a princess from a foreign land will become the one thing Celaena never thought she'd have again: a friend.

But something evil dwells in the castle—and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying, horribly, one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival—and a desperate quest to root out the source of the evil before it destroys her world.

I have known about this series for a few years now, and it’s been on my TBR list for forever and a day. I simply finally got around to reading it at the end of August, and now I don’t know why I waited so long. As soon as I picked up this book, I knew I was hooked. Sarah J. Maas wastes no time in establishing characters and jumping straight into the story. Right off the bat, I knew Celaena Sardothien was going to be a force to be reckoned with, headstrong and self-assured in everything she does. The assassin, once the most feared trained killer in her land and known by the moniker of Adarlan’s Assassin, has been captured and imprisoned in a slave encampment for almost a year when she is sought out to become the prince’s champion to compete for her freedom. The story kicks off with Celaena being led through a maze of corridors (in an effort to confuse her in the case she attempts to escape) by captain of the royal guard, Chaol Westfall. We as the audience immediately learn that Celaena has a broad range of physical abilities and is incredibly sharp and quick-witted, and is unapologetic for who she is. Chaol meanwhile may be gruff and have a thick skin, though this hard exterior has an intuitive, caring interior. The third main character is the Crown Prince of Adarlan, Dorian Havilliard. He is arrogant and handsome, but desires something more than his royal title. The King had decided to hold a contest to see who will win the title of his personal champion. Dorian seeks out Celaena in the hopes of gaining his father, the King’s approval.
This book appealed to me mainly because it wasn’t your cookie-cutter fantasy story involving princesses and princes, fairies and other magical folk, and a curse of some sort falling over the land. I had never before heard of a YA novel whose main character was a teenage assassin who lived in a land where magic was banned – that to me was simply turning the YA heroine schema on its head. I would describe this book to other fantasy fans as the fifth game from the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim, meets Game of Thrones, with a dash of Tolkien. It doesn’t go overboard in its lore and mythology, so it remains believable while not becoming overcomplicated. The action and tension is reminiscent of Game of Thrones, each fight scene or task in the competition crafted like a well-choreographed dance, translated into writing. Celaena is a very well-defined character who has weaknesses that equal her strengths, and becomes a very relatable character – well, you know, aside from the whole occupational thing where she kills people for hire... She was orphaned at a young age and in turn raised and trained by a master assassin, and can be narcissistic and downright spiteful. But the duality of her character lends to a side of her that loves fine clothes, parties, food, and a good book.
Sarah J. Maas has a very particular voice to her writing, one that is easily distinguishable and fits the narrative perfectly. The story is told in third-person omniscient point of view (thank you, middle school literature class) divided among the three main characters. We mainly get to follow Celaena and take a peek inside her brain, but every so often Chaol and Dorian’s third person point of view will come into play. This was very easy to follow, and I actually preferred it to first person in this instance.
A secondary character I unexpectedly grew to love was Nehemia. The princess of a neighboring country, she and Celaena become fast friends and her kind but regal nature and natural elegance, as well as her intelligence and slight air of mystery made me feel like I could easily be her friend, too. She quickly became one of my favorite characters in the book.
As far as the romance plot goes, this book is described as Celaena having two men love her. In all honesty, I did not catch that vibe at all, though I knew who the second man was supposed to be. Without revealing who the two men are (though it can be quite obvious once you start reading the novel), I will say that I was not satisfied with one of them. I did not think the two were a good fit for one another, and their romance did not really further the plot for me. I don’t mind having a strong female lead who has a romantic interest, I just felt like it became the focus more often than not when I expected the focus to be more so on Celaena’s trials in the competition and her backstory. But in the end, the competition did take precedence and I found myself growing indifferent toward the man in question.

All in all, this book received 4 out of 5 stars for me because it was a gripping story chock-full of action and intrigue, with a compelling and unique cast of characters. However, there were moments from time to time where the story seemed to lag and lose its pacing. As a huge fan of the fantasy genre, from movies to books to video games, I loved this book. I feel like it did its genre justice and then some. I can’t wait to continue the series and see what comes next for Adarlan’s Assassin!

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