Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #1) / My rating: ★ 1/2 ☆☆☆
One sentence summary: Celaena Sardothian, alleged world class assassin, attracts the attentions of the Prince of Adarlan and his Royal Captain of the Guard while competing to be the King of Adarlan’s Champion assassin and solving a murder mystery.
“As my friend, you should either bring me along, or keep me company.”
“Friend?” he asked.
She blushed. “Well, ‘scowling escort’ is a better description. Or ‘reluctant acquaintance’, if you prefer.”
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
This book gave me 500 different kinds of trouble. While Throne of Glass is marketed as a thrilling fantasy about criminals and killers coming together to compete to be the King of Adarlin’s Champion assassin, all I really got from it was an extensively dragged out love triangle. I was expecting some sort of Hunger Games-eque Triwizard Tournament in the king’s quest to find the world’s best assassin, but most of this book consisted of Celeana Sardothien, “deadliest assassin,” hanging out in her room while the royal prince and Captain of the Royal Guard barged in unannounced. Over, and over, and over. By the time I got to the halfway point, I had to put it down for a few days and then slugged through the rest.
This book has a fantastic premise and had so much potential, but I think it shines the spotlight on all the wrong parts. Most of the “Tests” designed to weed out the best assassin are glossed over and mentioned in passing, and when they are written out they’re extremely unimpressive. Meanwhile, there are mysterious murders taking place within the castle and eliminating most of the competing criminals. The majority of these also get glossed over and shoved aside, and the book gave me no reason to care about these criminals’ deaths. There is little detail, most of the dead are nameless, and most of the time I was unaware of just how many had been killed and how many were left in the competition, we saw so little of it. Celaena is meant to be “solving” the mystery of these murders, but most of this consists of her reading books in the library over, and over, and over and then not acting on the little information she gathers. That, and the plot gave me little fear that Celaena herself might be in danger herself.
Frankly, this plot had absolutely no tension, terrible consistency, and most of the screen time was given to Celaena’s love triangle with Prince Dorian and Captain of the Royal Guard, Chaol, which I could not be paid to care about, mainly because the relationships in this book are not built, they are told to the reader. This entire book has a serious case of telling instead of showing.
I could go on (and on and on), but basically: this book was a total miss for me.
I cannot nail down Celaena’s character. We are constantly told she is the world’s best assassin, but never, not once, does she kill someone. We do not know who she has killed in the past. We are told she is perfect; she is shown that she is perfect in a situation, eliminating any tension we may gain from a flaw. She is fierce and then she is inexplicably, inconsistently timid. We are told she is kind, but exhibits a terribly judgmental and misogynistic attitude toward girls who have done absolutely nothing to deserve her wrath. We are told she is constantly on high alert; she sleeps through people
trudging into sneaking in and out of her bedroom at night (which, Dorian and Chaol: GET. OUT.). She has some bottomless grief for a dead boy named Sam; he and this grief are hardly mentioned again. She has no regard for anyone other than herself; she develops a sense of “honor” only when its suitable for the plot. She never really does anything to enhance or move along the plot. The list can go on, but most of all, I just wasn’t interested in her as our heroine.
Now, our main love interests, Dorian and Chaol. Their characters are also hard to get a grasp of. Basically, Dorian is very bad at prince-ing, and Chaol is VERY bad at Captain of the Royal Guard-ing, and instead of attending to these duties they spend most of their time barging into Celaena’s room and engaging in inane conversations and bland romance. Taking into account the fact that these kinds of scenes take up most of this book, they do a surprisingly terrible job at relationship-building. I eventually realized that most character development I could hope for them was that they might learn the meaning of “no” or “go away” (particularly Dorian), but perhaps that comes in the sequels.
In conclusion: I did not care about our main trio here at all and I cared about their romance even less.
There were several other characters who I found more interesting, more entertaining, and smarter. Nehemia, Celaena’s princess friend, does more to advance the plot than Celaena ever does. Nox, one of the only criminals in the assassin competition given personality or a role in this story, was one of the few characters with sense, and I liked him. Kaltain, who is unfairly subjected to Celaena’s judgmental eye, is one of the few characters with an clear motive to achieve something in this book. They weren’t perfect – or great – by any means, but if I could choose, I’d have made them the main three.
The writing was…weird? Oddly descriptive of things I didn’t care for much description of. Wordy at times. There was a lot of awkward info dumping. Strange constructions of physical scenes. Lots of repetitive introspection. Lots of contradicting introspection. It wasn’t terrible writing ,but, like everything I found in this book, it could have been much better.
Was I satisfied?
No. I was intrigued enough through the first half of the book, but once it became clear that most chapters were going to begin with Celaena waking up to Dorian or Chaol standing at the edge of her bed, my interest went into a severe decline. I haven’t read any of Maas’ other books, but I’ve heard her writing and storytelling improves significantly, so I feel like I will give the second book a try because I’m intrigued and still think this series has potential. However, if it’s true that she has skills, this book REALLY deserves a rewrite.
Also, I need to give props to Liam at Hey Ashers! for providing a FANTASTIC and hilarious snarky read-along of this book. It was definitely the best part of my experience and I may have not made it through to the end without it.