Since I loved the A Court of Thorns and Roses series so much, and I flew through all the available books in that series, I’ve been going through some severe Sarah J. Maas withdrawal. During a recent trip to my library, I came across Throne of Glass, and decided to give it a shot.
TRIGGER WARNING: slavery, reference to rape, substance use, gore
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 four 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.
I liked Celaena’s character a lot. She’s definitely the type of woman that I’ve come to expect from a protagonist in a Maas book. Celaena didn’t have very many things come easy to her in life, but she is a fighter — literally and figuratively. She’s tough, independent, brave, and smart. The fact that she happens to be attractive is just a bonus that she uses to her advantage, although she is a bit of a girly girl, who loves clothes a lot. But the part about Celaena that I love the most is that she is an avid reader. She strategizes well, and stays aware of her surroundings and how to work them to her advantage. I guess you’d have to when you’re an assassin, especially if you want to stay alive.
Throughout the book, Celaena keeps trying to maintain distance from the people around her, but eventually becomes willing to slowly put her trust into people, little by little. This isn’t an easy process for her, as anyone who’s been hurt or betrayed in the past can understand. I mean, who can’t identify with this emotion? I know I can, and reading about what Celaena went through only makes me more empathetic to how difficult this process is for her. She’s smart and her character is simultaneously charismatic and abrasive, but it’s in a humorous way. It makes me think way back to when I was 18.
While the story is an engaging one, there’s also strong undercurrents of injustice. The royal family lives in an outrageously lavish castle made of glass, enjoying the best foods there are and just living their best lives, while the kings armies take over neighboring kingdoms and their people are repressed. People are enslaved, and rebellions are crushed brutally. There’s also some sexism that occurs in the book. When Celaena enters the competition, she uses this to her advantage, knowing that her opponents will underestimate her.
Magic is outlawed, and the mere mention of it has dire consequences. Anything that was even related to magic has been wiped out -- practitioners, books, the whole nine. Since it has been banned, all magic has disappeared from the kingdom. I can’t help but think of how religion has often been a major conflict, with one religion often trying to assert dominance and working to prevent religious freedom throughout history.
Initially, I found myself comparing this book to the ones in the ACOTAR series, and thought it didn’t match my expectations. I caught myself doing this, and realized that it wasn’t going to be the same. Once I started reading this as a completely separate book, as if it were written by a different author completely, I found myself enjoying it much more. It started off as a bit slow moving, but the writing was beautiful in a different way than the ACOTAR books were. One of my favorite lines came early in the book:
“The guards positioned beneath the window didn’t glance upward, and she gaped at the bluish-gray sky, at the clouds slipping on their shoes and shuffling toward the horizon.”
The plot felt almost as if it were a reality show, but a cross between the bachelor and ninja warrior, except with much higher stakes — as in people actually die in this game. The story grew on me, and the action and suspense kept getting more intense, as did the tension between Celaena and the two men fighting for her attention. I was sad to see the story end, but I’m definitely planning to read the next book in the series sooner rather than later. It isn’t the same as the ACOTAR series, but if you go into this expecting a very different experience, you may just find yourself enjoying it as well.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 19
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars