Book Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas

My Edition:
Paperback, 404 pages
2012, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408832332

Celaena Sardothien is the most badass assassin in all the land, though aside from her title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” we’re given little evidence of this. Young, achingly handsome Prince Dorian, with his piercing sapphire eyes, and his equally young and devastatingly handsome captain of the guard, Chaol, drag her from the depths of a salt mine where she’s been slaving away for a year. The King will hold a tourney, comprised mostly of criminals who he gives almost free reign of his castle to, in order to choose a champion to do his dirty work. Can Celaena eliminate her competition to regain her freedom, tactfully handle the oodles of compliments she receives from two sexy men, and pick which sexy man she’ll fall in love with, all while embarking on a side quest from an ancient ghost?

If you can’t already tell, I wasn’t a fan of this book (and I realize I’m in the minority on this), so if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s the short version: the characters were cardboard cutouts and walking clichés, the dialogue was clunky and full of our heroine and heroes constantly interrupting important conversations with thoughts of how attractive they find each other, and the plot had too many elements with no real focus. I feel like Maas wasted an opportunity to actually portray a badass young assassin and instead wrote a half-assed love triangle set inside a castle and called it a fantasy novel.

Here are a few highlights from my Twitter:

Started a YA novel. Page two and I’m hearing about how beautiful our heroine is 😧

YA adventures continue: page 6, a handsome youth appears! Page 8: another boy! This one “achingly handsome”!

Special snowflake eyes, glimmering golden hair, thin: our heroine is a strikingly lovely, highly skilled, totally average teen! Even when she’s so thin she’s skeletal, she’s still so beautiful!

Yes, I too, often remark mid conversation on someone’s looks when it’s not at all relevant to what I’m discussing.

Confirmed by our hero, our heroine is still beautiful even when sweaty! Thank gourd!

Our heroine is wild and has “impossible anger.” What even does that mean?

Hero B pauses his thoughts of important political intrigue to think about our beautiful, strong but secretly fragile, heroine.

Guest tweet by @redstarreviews: he ponders how her inner brokenness draws him to her while her rough sarcastic exterior confuses his emotions….

I struggled to gather my thoughts on this book. I know it is part of an incredibly popular series and while I don’t read YA as often as I used to, I do still enjoy the genre. Throne of Glass could have featured an intimidating, strong-willed female lead delivering some serious ass kickings. Instead we’re beaten about the head with Celaena’s title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” (re: the best in all the land at only eighteen) but aside from a few fleeting scenes, readers are never given any real taste of her skills or even her past. I at least wanted to know about who she’s killed in the past! Mass failed to impress me with her lead character, to make me feel invested in the story and to excite me.

The majority of the book follows the “tell, don’t show” format. We’re constantly told how beautiful the three young heroes of our love triangle are, what they’re wearing, and how attractive they find each other. Snore! While romance isn’t my genre of choice, if it had at least been well written, I would have considered this book to have some redeeming quality. But the characters lacked personality and their “relationships” lacked depth.

Celaena wavers between a petulant teen starved for the attention of the sexy men who are actually her captors and a tough girl who occasionally thinks of murdering people and escaping. She wants to be seen as a serious threat, but she also wants to be invited to royal parties and play dress up. She wants to hide in her room and read, but really she’s just lonely and wishing she had friends! None of her thoughts or actions solidified her personality for me. Dorian and Chaol are just pretty faces that waver between not trusting an assassin (as they shouldn’t, if she were actually a threat) and wanting to smooch her.

The dialogue is clunky and unrealistic. As I mentioned in some of my tweets, our characters often stop serious conversations to remark, mentally or aloud, about how attractive they find each other. Celaena also fails to exhibit her strong, independent personality with gems like this:

(A competitor tells her that he thought she’d have run off. Celaena “trembles with rage” and Chaol tells her to save it.)

“I’m going to kill him,” she breathed.

“No, you’re not. If you want to shut him up, then beat him. He’s just a brute from the king’s army – don’t waste your strength on hating him.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thank you so much for interfering on my behalf.”

“You don’t need me to rescue you.”

“It still would have been nice.”

Ok what!? Chaol says it lightly, but yes, she shouldn’t need rescuing. ALSO RESCUING FROM WHAT? Ahem – sorry. But seriously, her competitor did nothing but comment that he thought she’d have abandoned the competition. Its conversations and actions like that which stopped Celaena from being a convincing character.

The whole competition aspect of the story didn’t make sense either. I could see no reason why the king would have two dozen or so people competing for the position as lead assassin and allow them (many of whom were known criminals) free reign of his castle and attendance to royal parties. Because there were so many characters and so many weekly skill tests, most of them – characters and tests alike – are skimmed over, draining any tension from this story line and leaving Celaena a lot of down time (for parties and pining over cuties!)

On top of all this muck, there’s a side plot involving the ghosts of dead royalty, faeries, outlawed magic, and evil beasts. Maas spread herself too thin trying to tackle too many subjects and instead left them all feeling haphazard and unfinished.

If you read my whole review – I applaud you! I just had too many thoughts on this book and unfortunately, none of them were pleasant. I can say the cover art is gorgeous though – it’s certainly a beautiful looking series!

You can find Ms. Maas on the internet.

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