Throne Of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas - Book Review

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Title: Throne Of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: 2nd August 2012
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★

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?

In a nutshell: A female assassin with lots of sass, a tournament and duel, mysterious evil mutilating and killing competitors, unexpected bonds, friendship and romance! 

From a book focusing on an assassin, one might expect a story filled with assassinations and assassin action; however this is not what Throne of Glass delivers. There are no actual assassinations and little action until the latter half of the book, so if you’re expecting a wealth of violence and action, you may be a little disappointed. Rather, Throne of Glass offers the story of a typical eighteen year old girl, who just so happens to be an assassin.

Between training and solving magical mysteries, Celaena manages to spend a generous amount of time fawning over extravagant dresses and her appearance, to the point where she even asks herself, 'How had she gone from the most feared prisoner in Endovier to this sappy mess?' However, I found the inclusion of such femininity quite refreshing; Celaena is both physical strong and a more than capable assassin whilst retaining her femininity and emotions, breaking the mold of strong female characters being either one or the other. Celaena is strong, confident and determined to win her freedom, her perseverance is both inspiring and compelling. Although at time she is terribly vain and arrogant, I found this quite excusable as she is the most notorious assassin in Adarlan and with a wealth of sassy quotes such as 'My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name's Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I'd still beat you, no matter what you call me' it is hard to dislike her.

Alongside encapsulating a uniquely strong female protagonist, Maas writing is enjoyable and easy to read. The descriptive passages are neither lacking nor too heavy, allowing the reader to easily imagine the world. The world building is not extravagant but it is just enough to complement the story and Maas throws in some pretty interesting and captivating scenery - glass castle, wow!

Third person narration works well in Throne of Glass, allowing an insight into the motivations and mind-set of not only Celaena, but a whole cast of characters - who may have been misunderstood by Celaena had the book been written using first person narrative. This makes Throne of Glass fun to read, and while the plot is a little slow and somewhat predictable (what are the chances of the protagonist failing the tournament?) unexpected mysteries, relationships and strong character dynamics keeps the book both captivating and entertaining.

On the topic of character dynamics, the supporting characters are interesting and well layered; Chaola and Nehemia stand out particularly. Chaol is Captain of the Guard, stoic and guarded, he keeps his emotions buried deep down; his true feelings are only implied through gestures and hinted at through subtleties. His relationship with Celaena develops from one of cold disregard to warmth as he gradually begins treat her with more acceptance and respect, despite her assassin status; he even manages to smile in her presence! The contrast between Celaena’s and Chaol’s differing personalities is very entertaining, amusing, and definitely one of the highlights of the novel! Chaol undergoes a slightly foreseeable but nonetheless interesting character development which makes him a joy to read about and I highly anticipate discovering more of backstory in the next book!

Additionally, the inclusion of Nehemia, depicted as both a person of colour and female friend to Celaena who has a greater purpose in the story other than simply being another female friend to gossip and discuss boys with, is both commendable and refreshing! Unfortunately, Prince Dorian lets the side down; although nice, his character comes across as quite dull. His only major flaw is his failure to stand up to his father - he begrudgingly carries out his father’s orders but never makes any significant objections, which was irritating. Dorian comes across as quite entitled and despite his inner turmoil he disappointingly fails to make any major changes. Here’s to hoping he shows some development in the next book.

On a similar note, I found the romance sections of the novel quite boring.  A love triangle is implied and I found the relationship which does develop to be quite awkward and flat. The relationship seems to be built on lust and mutual good looks, which makes it hard to believe that one specific character (avoiding spoilers) could harbor such strong feelings - only supported by the flimsy notion that ‘she's not like all the other girls, she reads books and knows about mythology’ (cue the eye roll) The romance might be to some reader’s tastes but in my opinion, there just seemed to be a lack of chemistry and substance to the relationship.  

Overall, if you can get over the lack of assassin action and a bit of a bland romance, Throne of Glass offers a fun read with a well-rounded female heroine and interesting cast of supporting characters. Although Throne of Glass has some minor flaws, Maas’s sets the foundations for a series with lots of potential and upcoming action; I would definitely recommend a read!

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