Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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.
I love that Celaena is both kick-ass and girly-feminine. I'm sick of seeing heroines defy the patriarchal paradigm or break free of womanly constraints in a man's world only to reject so many things about their femininity in the process, shunning dresses or long hair or other things that would be considered "girlish" or "feminine". Not that I have a problem with girls rejecting these things, but must EVERY paradigm-defying heroine also be a tomboy? I am beginning to view that trope (or is it a cliché?) as a suggestion that being more like a boy is preferable to being an empowered female - as though there's something less acceptable about anything delicate or pretty. To see Celaena embrace both her power and her femininity is honest and refreshing. Why can't girly girls be badasses? Why should embracing one's femininity and beauty mean that one can't also be physically strong? It doesn't, and Celaena is a perfect example of that. She loves dressing up, reads romance novels, suffers PMS, and is nowhere near devoid of emotions and feelings even though she's a contract killer. And she can still kill a man with her bare hands. She's confident to the point of occasional arrogance. She's the girl version of the cocky rogue, and I absolutely love it. Will her overconfidence get her into trouble? Probably. It has the potential to be a fatal flaw if she isn't careful. But you'll never see me complain about it.
Chaol and Dorian. I love these two! Dorian looks at Celaena and sees her sensitivity, vulnerability, and captivity. Chaol looks at her and sees her skill, cunning, and killer-instincts. Each sees something of himself within her. The prince sees someone who has suffered loss and been placed at the mercy of the king. The commander sees a dangerous warrior. They both care for her, but neither of them is getting the whole picture yet. Personally, I'm in favor of Chaol because he is not blind to the cruelest parts of her but cares for her anyway.
Celaena is the focal character, but the narration occasionally slides from the perspective of Celaena into that of a handful of other characters, the most important of those being Dorian and Chaol. The setting is almost exclusively restricted to the castle. I wish we'd have gotten to explore the world a little bit more because it is interesting enough for me to want more of it, but I also like that this adds to the containment that Celaena is feeling. She's a prisoner, after all. The tournament is not quite as exciting as I would've liked it to be. It feels more like a means to an end and a way to draw out Celaena's journey from the prison to her current station. I wish that it'd have either been more of a focal point or that it'd have been bypassed much quicker so that things could just carry on. The other thread of the story involves a killer who is running around maiming the tourney competitors. I felt like the mystery of who was ultimately behind this was rather obvious and I wasn't at all surprised by any of the ways that this plot line developed, since it turned out pretty much exactly how I figured it would. A good portion of the plot in this book is predictable (at least it was to me). There are some pretty obvious hints regarding Celaena's pre-assassin identity (at least, I think it's pretty obvious - I guess I'll have to wait to see if I'm right or if I totally am getting fooled, but based on how my other predictions have gone so far I'm going to go with obvious). But none of this did much to mar my enjoyment of the story, which remains fun despite any predictable outcomes.
The quality of the writing is at times inconsistent. Some paragraphs had me reveling in the words and enjoying every engrossing second of it, and others sort of put me off because the wording felt amateurish or cliché. It was up and down. A few things that happen in the text are completely random. For example, out of nowhere (and fairly late into the story), Celaena suddenly misses this guy that was never mentioned or hinted at or even thought about previously in any of her reflections on her past (and there were enough musings for him to come up at least once). For something that is of such major import to Celaena, it was totally out of left field and, whether he was added late or outtakes removed any previous mention of him, I think that there should have been a sentence or two added back in to supplement his appearance in Celaena's thoughts, in order to reduce the WTFery that was bouncing around in my head at Celaena's sudden longing for some person who is never properly introduced to the reader.
Despite my niggling complaints, I like Throne of Glass quite a bit. The characters commanded my attention and adoration, and the environment and story sucked me in regardless of the fact that I find some of the major plot points to be predictable. The love triangle doesn't bother me in this story because it is handled in a way that (at least so far) makes it pretty clear that one is a friendly and fun yet shallow infatuation, and the other has the potential to be a deep-rooted love based on mutual understanding and a (very) hard-earned trust. I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel, because it seems like book two will be going very interesting places.