June 26, 2014

Throne of Glass: A Close-Up Review

"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?
" (from Goodreads)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas


Celaena: I wasn't a big fan of Celaena at the beginning, but she grew on me. She has a lot of self-respect, to the point of (at least initially) coming off as full of herself. By the end of the book, though, we see that she can at times be rather brutally taken down. I think at least some of her cocky attitude is a cover so that she doesn't show her vulnerability. Her continual, lightning-fast flip-flopping with emotions and judgments of others irritated me, however — in some cases this led to behaviour that felt out of character, overall making Celaena's characterization feel somewhat inconsistent.

Also, I wish we'd seen flashbacks to when she'd done assassin-y sorts of things. We keep getting told she's a fantastic assassin, sure, but we don't see it. All we get is a lot of her either a) wearing fancy dresses, b) training, or c) competing. She does well in the competition, it's true, but so do many of the other criminals. Celaena's supposed to be Adarlan's GREATEST assassin, and I just didn't feel like I could fully believe it. Especially considering a decision she makes at one point in the story (spoilers): WHY does she pick a wooden staff over a sword when she knows her opponent will be wielding a sword? Unless it's a magical staff that does not break, you are screwed if you do that. Metal shears wood, case closed. Why didn't she choose Chaol's sword? (It was a romantic gesture, too!)

There's a sort-of love triangle here involving Celaena and two guys, and the way it was written did not endear me to Celaena. I dislike it when the heroine leads on two men, and I'm sorry to say that she does that a bit here. It's certainly not the worst case I've ever seen, but I wish she had made an effort to establish the boundaries of her relationships with Chaol and Dorian. As for how the love triangle turned out, here are my spoilery thoughts on that: I was pleased when she finally broke it off with Dorian, as I never felt a spark between them. 

Dorian: I found him rather bland and boring...truthfully, he seemed like a wuss with not much of a spine. It took him forever to stand up to his father about anything. Also, he was all talk and no action! He didn't back up his fine, fancy words. Case in point (spoilers): Dorian kept berating himself after the fact for not doing anything to help Celaena during the duel, and I was like, "Um, YEAH, dude, you sucked. You just stood there and watched her get beat up." Really, Dorian reminded me of nothing so much as an immature puppy dog.

Chaol: While I think I was predisposed to like Chaol because I'd seen readers raving about him, there is no question that he was by far superior to Dorian. He's the strong, silent, stoic, steadfast type (say that 10 times fast!). I think he and Celaena share more values than either of them cares to admit, and certainly more than Celaena and Dorian do.

Other characters: I liked the mystery surrounding what side Nehemia was on. Spoilers: it was interesting to make her out to be a potential villain for a while, and then have it turn out that she was actually one of the people saving Celaena a lot of the time. As for Kaltain, I thought her role wasn't fleshed out enough. Her character just seemed to be there for the convenience of the plotline.

Premise: I'd heard Throne of Glass previously described as the story of "Cinderella as an assassin." Now, they didn't market it that way on my physical copy of the book (rather, they claimed it was "hotter than the Hunger Games!" which I would dispute both metaphorically and, well, literally, considering the castle is made of glass), which was a smart choice since as far as I'm concerned it's a rather misleading comparison. Sure, there are a few similarities: Celaena's an orphan, her work in the mines could be seen as slaving away doing "chores," she attends a masked ball at one point (and dances with a prince), and she has anywhere from one to three potential "fairy godmothers." But thematically, I don't see Throne of Glass as capturing the heart of the Cinderella story. (Perhaps it started out as a retelling, and then expanded and changed in the writing of it?)

Plot: It takes a little while for anything to happen, but things pick up about halfway through (spoilers: once the Wyrdmarks come into effect and the Fae queen starts appearing to Celaena) which is when I started getting more into it. However, a lot of this book is just conversations interspersed with deaths (sometimes off-screen).

There were also a few plot points that confused me. I was never too sure on which cover story about "Lady Lilian" was being fed to whom, and who knew what about Celaena's participation in the competition. I was also left bemused by the Duke Perrington-Kaltain storyline (spoilers: I know he was using the black rings, but how exactly, and to what effect, was Duke Perrington exerting his influence on Kaltain?)

And the rules regarding a certain magic ritual seemed to get contradicted when put into action. Spoilers: I thought Cain needed the victim's blood to summon the Ridderach, but he does not stab Celaena before he calls the creature. Did I just misread this, or is there something I'm missing here? Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Writing style: Unfortunately, I found the writing less than spectacular. Throne of Glass is written by a debut author and it shows, with plenty of cliched metaphors and overly dramatic phrasing.

Caveat: To be perfectly fair to Throne of Glass, I should really mention the circumstances under which I was reading it. It was during my first term in a highly intense, stressful Master's degree program, and I was really tired all the time! It took me absolutely forever to get through this book because of that (although once I had some time to finish it, I did within a couple of days). Of course, this coloured my reading experience of the book, so take from that what you will.

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. It just didn't live up to all the hype and glowing reviews for me.

Note: there is some mature content (namely violence) in this book.


  1. I accidentally came across this series a few months back in my local library. Sometimes if I don't have anything to read (that doesn't happen much since I started blogging) I will just pick up a random book. I picked up Throne of Glass and I fell in love with it. I can see why you wouldn't like Dorian, I wasn't a fan either, too pretty boy. He made me think of the guy who plays Prince Charming in the newer Snow White movie with Julia Roberts. Anyway...and Chaol...I loved him, and I'm frustrated with that ENTIRE situation... Are you planning to read the others? I'm pumped for Heir of Fire in September.

  2. Although I ended up rating this one poorly because of my frustration with Celaena not being a very good assassin and not doing much assassinating as well as the love triangle, I liked the story - and Chaol - enough to want to give the sequel a try. I now just need to get around to doing so ...


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