Thursday, January 17, 2013
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Source: BEA in exchange for an honest review.
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 king's 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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
A must read for any Game of Thrones fan or for lovers of historical fantasy adventure novels. Throne of Glass has it all: a teenage assassin, a compelling love triangle, court intrigue, pretty dresses, grisly deaths, intense action - even puppies!
Celaena is a seventeen year old and the most feared assassin in the land. Even when half dead in prison, she easily killed 24 grown men in an escape attempt. Now she's been selected to be the king's "champion" in a twisted, fight-to-the-death game.
Celaena starts out as a mystery to the reader and other characters alike, but soon reveals herself to be a decent person despite the skill at killing. She comes off as a little arrogant, but it's more that she is very smart and talented and knows it. She also puts up a hard front to hide the scared girl inside of her. I loved seeing her Cinderella turn from filthy slave to beautiful court lady. But not to worry, Celaena is smart enough not to let gorgeous gowns distract her a fight.
Then there are our two love interests: Captain Chaol Westfall and Prince Dorian. Chaol is Celaena's guard and trainer. He is practical, no-nonsense, and keeps his emotions hidden away. Prince Dorian is confident, snide, and eager to distinguish himself from his jerk father. This is a love triangle done well. Each develops a strong, independent relationship with Celaena that is based in respect and friendship. There's no insta-love or even insta-chemistry. The characters go through the realistic process of getting to know one another. In what is my test for a good love triangle, I can't decide which guy I'd rather have Celaena end up with.
The championship is the adventure portion of the novel. It's set over 3 months, so there is plenty of time for Celaena to become familiar with the castle, court, and her opponents. The competition is more of a test of skills than a gladiator-type battle, although that shows up too. It should be simple until champions start dying. Not just dying, but being bludgeoned to death. Now the reader is glued to the pages not only to see how Celaena will do in her next test, but whether she can figure out who or what is killing her opponents. It turns out there's a magical/paranormal twist, one that will likely be more significant in future books.
Throne of Glass gives us a good basis for world-building, but it was incomplete. I know a little about the history, religion, and politics of Adarlan as well as the magical twist, but not enough. Similarly, I learn the basic about Celaena's early years and how she became an assassin, but it felt like a mere framework, not a story. I assume that the gaps in the world building will be filled in future books, but it could have been described more fully in this book without slowing the pacing too much.
Like many high fantasy novels, the pacing of Throne of Glass drags a bit. The pages turned slowly at times and I never lost myself in the book. However, the pages did keep turning. There was something intoxicating about the story that kept the book in my hand and eager to see who the killer was, who Celaena would end up with, and just generally discovering more about the Adarlan world.
Throne of Glass is well-written overall. I liked the use of multiple points of view. At first, it was confusing but seeing the world from different characters rounded out the story. I found Celaena's voice irritating though. I have trouble defining exactly what bothered me. I think it was how her thoughts were written into the prose. There was an overuse of the words "Oh," No," and "So." Like: "Oh, how she adored candy!" and "No, it hadn't been a dream." You could argue that it individualized her voice, but what it mostly did was invoke eye-rolls.
Throne of Glass was a thoroughly enjoyable novel. The story moved quickly, came to a solid conclusion, and left me excited to see what the next book holds. Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian enchanted me with the good natures, humor, and talents. The writing and pacing weren't perfect, but didn't drown out the exciting plot and characters.