Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Dates Read: December 20-25, 2012
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 exhilarating. 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.
It was difficult for me not to give this novel 4 stars, because I did rather enjoy it. However there were just things that bothered me about the novel that I can’t entirely pin down, but I’ll try to explain. Even though she clearly has her flaws, I liked Celaena. It’s interesting to see a strong female assassin that had a very shallow side that had to adjust to having her life of luxury ripped away from her — the night when she lost her lover and when she lost her freedom to the salt mines. Then, suddenly, the luxury is dumped back in her lap but with a very big catch — she must fight for and serve the man that sentenced her to death in Endovier, that razed her homeland and destroyed her people. I liked Dorian, I liked Chaol, and love triangles don’t immediately turn me from the book. I love the idea of the protagonist being a female assassin, particularly since I had read that the Throne of Glass series is loosely inspired by what Cinderella would be like as an assassin instead of your typical female. There’s mystery, there’s intrigue, there are challenges for Celaena to prove herself, and dangers she must navigate to have a chance at her freedom. But I can’t help but feel that it’s all just somewhat shallow.
About halfway through the novel I was dying for some backstory. Maas kept throwing in loose references to Celaena’s life before Endovier, but these things were never fleshed out in Throne of Glass. So, I went and read the four prequel short stories, which ranged from enjoyable to ho-hum to how do you make such bad decisions if you’re “the best” Celaena? Those definitely helped me get a picture of our heroine. But then I had other questions for Celaena… How can you start liking the prince when you know his father took your life away? How can you start liking anyone if you really were so in love with Sam? I realize a year in a death camp would probably make emotional pains dull in comparison to the physical trials, but I would have thought that (A) Celaena would be so hardened by the experience that love would be out of the question for a much longer time or (B) she would have seethed over her betrayal and Sam’s murder for the year and come out wanting revenge, not warming up to the Prince and Chaol. Also, I wanted to know more about her feelings of betrayal. Does Celaena understand what actually happened the night she was caught? Does she understand who was responsible, and why? And how does this affect her? Maas seemed to entirely sidestep these questions in her narrative.
Overall though, there was enough about the story that I enjoyed that I will certainly have the next novel in the series on my to-read list. I’m curious to see how Celaena will handle being the King’s Champion, and what developments will come with her new relationships with the characters met in Throne of Glass. I also look forward to learning more about the magic that’s supposedly disappeared from the land, and what occurred and what’s to come with the dark powers that were uncovered.