(Throne of Glass #1)
by Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I've been reading rave reviews of this book and its sequels for the past year or so. When I found a discounted copy of Throne of Glass, I put it in my TBR pile. It promptly got buried. I thought I should probably get around to reading it so I could see what all the fuss was about. I'm a bit baffled, to be honest. While Throne of Glass wasn't the worst young adult fantasy I've ever read, it had some huge weaknesses. I started off enjoying it, but by the end I was bored, unsatisfied, and a bit annoyed.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
There were a few things that I did like. The basic premise itself, while not all that original, was decent. The action scenes were exciting and well-paced. I liked the idea of an assassin as a main character, and the fact that said assassin was an eighteen-year-old girl piqued my interest even more. The world-building was average, and somewhat derivative, though Maas did a good enough job of describing the locales that I could easily envision them; just the idea of a castle built of glass is pretty cool. And I always like to see maps in fantasy novels, especially when they take place in (or refer to) more than one location, so the map of Erilea at the beginning of the book was a nice bonus.
It's all a matter of taste...
For a book that's supposed to be about an assassin competing in a contest against twenty-three others to become the King's Champion, it was actually pretty slow. Imagine The Hunger Games if Katniss had never made it out of the Capitol and had instead played dress-up with Cinna for two-thirds of the book. So many of Celaena's Tests in the competition were glossed over with just a sentence or two; that was a shame, because the ones we did see (like scaling the castle to reach a flag or determining which poison was most deadly) were actually pretty engaging. But no sooner had something interesting happened than we were back to Celaena dressing up in yet another pretty gown.
The characters in this book didn't thrill me. Though they're fairly distinct, none of them really made me care about them. Unfortunately, I just didn't like Celaena, nor did I buy her as an assassin. So much of the book is spent with her dressing up in meticulously described gowns and vomiting (do I dare count the number of times that girl threw up?) that we never even get to see her do anything remotely assassin-like. We're told she's an assassin, and I guess that's supposed to be good enough. (I realize there are prequels to Throne of Glass, and I would hope they would give us a little more information about Celaena. As it is, we know very little about her. Since this is the first actual novel in the series, I was expecting better character development. There were lots of hints -- her parents, Sam, the assassin who trained her, etc. -- but what we actually know about the main character from this book probably wouldn't even fill one page.)
So we've got ourselves a bit of a blank slate in Celaena. Okay, so she's an assassin. Problem is, in real life, she would be ridiculously easy to take out. The girl is just not that bright, even though those around her seem to think she's some sort of cunning genius. For example, she finds a bag of candy on her pillow on Yulemas morning, with no idea where it might have come from. If you're the world's most notorious assassin who's in the middle of a cutthroat competition, do you a) set the candy aside until you can figure out where it came from; b) trash it because it's probably poisoned; or c) squeal like a little girl and eat half the bag before you even get out of bed? Guess what Celaena does. If only her opponents had known about her sweet tooth, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.
On top of everything else, I just couldn't figure Celaena out. She missed all the clues that the author so heavy-handedly dropped about the evil goings-on in the castle... and yet the way she ended up treating one of the love interests made it seem like she was some master manipulator who used people for her own gain. It wasn't very consistent.
And that brings me to my biggest complaint with the book. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, other than that I thought the plot was utterly predictable. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I felt like I, as a reader, had been manipulated... and not very skillfully at that.
Looking back, it was almost as if the author was lurking there behind the scenes, like a puppeteer with her marionettes. The only problem was, you could see her working back there, and knew which puppet she was going to reach for next; I was so busy watching that that I wasn't watching (and didn't believe) what was playing out on the stage.
Let's get technical...
The writing itself isn't that bad. It's mostly technically correct (aside from a few typos, one or two instances of people grinning their speech, and the continual reference to the "duel" between four people... which really should have been clarified earlier). There were a few passages that I highlighted as being particularly lovely.
But... there was something really weird with the way this author used the third-person point of view. I've never had this much confusion when reading in the third person before. Part of the problem may have been the fact that the narrative jumps between characters quite a bit. But the issue may just be with sloppy writing. I was tripped up many, many times because of the use of pronouns. This happened especially in scenes when more than one person of the same gender was present. It wasn't always easy to tell which "he" or "she" the narrative was referring to. That may have come as a result of not enough paragraph breaks. For example, Nehemia might say something, then Celaena would perform an action or two and think about some things, and then Nehemia would say something else... all in the space of one paragraph. And if the pronoun "she" was thrown in there... well, let's just say I was confused for much of this book.
While it's not terrible and will probably appeal to fans of fantasy and romance, I just didn't find Throne of Glass as exciting or swoon-worthy as I'd been led to believe.
The late afternoon sun, trapped beneath a wall of pewter, stained the clouds a yellowish gray, making the sky unusually bright. It felt surreal, as if the horizon had disappeared beyond the hills. She was stranded in a world of glass.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs