Throne of Glass
by: Sarah J. Maas
Oh, will wonders never cease? Yet again a YA series that I have no desire to continue reading. Have my standards risen to new heights, or am I just tired of predictable plots, “sassy” female characters, and lack of world building?
I’ve been reading a lot of YA books lately, mostly fantasy and dystopian, reading a few of the “popular” series starts out there. Part of this is because the price is right–Kindle deals have been making the first book in the series three bucks or under, and I can get into a new series for that. If it really hooks me, then I’ll read on.
Unfortunately, Throne of Glass was one of those beginnings where I probably should have saved my dollar. In any event, I’m really glad that I didn’t spend more than that. Maybe I’m just not a true YA fan…which disappoints me, as there are a lot of great YA series out there that I would love to fall in love with. But that’s all an aside. I’m here to talk about Throne of Glass.
The biggest issue with this novel lies with the believability of the characters. The plot I could handle–even though the actual assassin competition was minor and eclipsed by a larger “mystery” surrounding the assassin competitors’ deaths. Wait, what? Okay, so there’s this competition…Celaena (Selena?) is the world’s most famous assassin, so feared that everyone knows her name–but doesn’t know she’s a girl. Huh? Okay, sure. Maybe. If she’s really that well-known, it seems likely that someone would know she’s a she. And they all recognize her name, so… Is Celaena a unisex name? Now I’m already having a hard time suspending disbelief.
Anyway, this book starts after she finally gets arrested, sent to trial, and “everyone hears” when she goes to Endovier to work the salt mines. Although this is apparently a death camp, through some special skill that isn’t expanded on, she doesn’t die like the rest of the people there, and lasts a year, during which she almost escapes. Then, one day, the Crown Prince of Adarlan or something comes to offer her a deal: compete in this assassin’s tournament, and if you win, you have to work for my father the king for four years and then you’re free. Perfect. I can handle that. What I can’t handle is the way Celaena wonders how she’ll work for this King. Sure, he had her country obliterated along with her parents, but why does it matter who she kills? She’s supposed to be a stone-cold assassin! As you later find out, she apparently got to pick and choose who she assassinated as her mentor’s pet assassin. Okay…starting to lose belief in this entire world. What type of girl-child assassin in debt to her mentor gets to pick and choose whom she kills? And speaking of killing, not that I wanted a gruesome book, but a book about an assassin suggests that the assassin will actually do some killing. But, no. The only thing she kills is a beast (won’t spoil that for any readers out there).
So…she agrees, goes to the castle of her enemy, who also happens to be the Crown Prince, and she’s put in a fantastic suite where she then begins to…obsess about books, clothes, and boys. Oh my goodness. Not only that, but she then proceeds to make friends: being friendly to her guards, the Crown Prince, a princess from another country, and adopt a puppy, all while acting like a spoiled princess herself. Where is the damaged girl who lost her parents to war and began training as an assassin at eight (or was it ten)? I mean, Maas had a great opportunity, like Suzanne Collins did in Mockingjay, to explore the effects of PTSD and how it shapes a person’s character and outlook on life–but nothing. Celaena is a frilly, dress-obsessed girl who crashes a ball because she’s upset about being left out and thinks her best friend may be keeping secrets from her.
There’s the novel in a nutshell. While the climactic scene is…okay…it had clear elements of deus ex machina. The characters and outcomes were predictable, the people you thought were evil were, in fact, evil, and the misdirection came off as such. I was overall quite disappointed in a book that has generated such great reviews on Goodreads and from others in the writing community, and shocked to see there are six books in this series! Who would want to read another 1500 pages about a selfish, volatile, unbelievable assassin? Not me. In fact, I’m surprised I got through the 400 pages of this book.
What the writer in me learned:
- sloppy POV still bothers me
- character motives matter
- it’s better to have less foreshadowing than sloppy foreshadowing