Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
It’s unique and fits the story. She has a head–which is always a plus. And she’s meeting the viewer’s eye; she looks rebellious and challenging, and has a knife, befitting her vocation. The castle looks ghostly, which I’m not so thrilled with, but–small victories. It’s about 20 (million) times better than the other one on 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 [sic]. 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.
Yep, and I’m confused about it. Heck, I’m confused about how this volume got published (in its current state) by such a prestigious publisher as Bloomsbury.
Not really. It’s not without merit, but at least once every 20 pages I’d roll my eyes at something or other.
Female Assassin! Celaena is an assassin, acknowledged to be the best in the country. (I know, Zoe’s not an assassin, but I couldn’t find any good pics of female assassins wearing clothes that seem suitable for assassinating–and besides, she could have been, if she’d wanted to.) The parts of the story that have to do with Celaena’s physical and mental prowess, fighting and figuring out mysteries, are the best and most convincing portions of the book.
(Terrible) Love Triangle: Love triangles are so cliche as to be automatic eyeroll territory for me as it is, but I was so unconvinced by either of the choices that the whole thing just bored me. Chaol is clearly the better choice, but I didn’t see any reason for him to like Celaena.
Mean Girls. Hey, remember when Lindsay Lohan wasn’t a complete trainwreck? Anyway, there’s a woman in the palace, Lady Kaltain, that the author clearly wants the readers to hate, so Celaena hates her, basically on sight. Yes, she’s a classic Mean Girl, vain and focused on marrying the Crown Prince to the exclusion of all else. But Celaena herself is mean, vain (oh, boy, is she vain) and a bit of a bitch. Kaltain is later revealed to be (probably) racist, a drug addict, and also under demonic (?) control, but none of that is presented as the reason why she’s despicable (or as an extenuating circumstance). She’s just icky, so there. There’s not a lot of difference between the two ladies, and the case for hating Kaltain is totally unconvincing. Celaena’s one friendship with a female is also completely lifeless and told much more than shown.
I do want to stress that Maas’ first novel is not completely without merit, but she clearly tried to do too much in too small of a space. If it had been expanded into a longer, adult epic fantasy, it could have been very good, after extensive revision and expansion. The action and mystery scenes are sometimes very good; however, more character development was needed on pretty much all fronts, and the love triangle could be cut out completely (I realize that it is partly a Cinderella retelling, but it’s very loose–and it would be more innovative to have a love story-less Cinderella, anyway). I haven’t even touched on the mythology/magic/Wyrdmarks, etc.
I’m actually most disappointed in Bloomsbury, honestly. I have consistently liked pretty much everything that I’ve read of their catalog, and I don’t understand how this could have passed through their editorial department. There’s just no excuse for passages like: “Insults would have risen to her lips if Chaol hadn’t touched her shoulder, his chestnut eyes filled with some emotion she couldn’t yet understand. There was strength in his face that she found to be achingly beautiful (pg. 353, emphasis mine)”–what does that even mean? There’s also no excuse for the lack of research revealed by the fact that salting wounds from a whipping is considered by the text to be an example of pure sadism, devoid of any healing purpose (pg. 36).