Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is one of those books that I’ve been seeing around for ages, and almost every single one of the BookTubers that I get reading suggestions from has emphasized how awesome this book is, yet I’ve never even given it a second glance. Again, it was because I had some weird aversion to fantasy novels. However, one Red Queen introduced me to the amazing world that is YA fantasy, I made a list of sorts of all the top YA fantasy books that I felt deserved a read, and Throne of Glass was at the top of the list. It also just so happens that the fourth book in the series, Queen of Shadows, was released at the beginning of this month, so once again there was a lot of hype around this series, and this time I couldn’t ignore it.
YA Fantasy has some of the most kickass heroines in all of YA fiction, and Celaena Sardothien is no exception (the name alone is pretty kickass). Trained at a young age to kill, Celaena quickly became the most feared assassin in the kingdom-that is, until she was betrayed, captured, and throne into the salt mines at Endovier at the age of 17. Somehow she survived to the age of 18, when she is brought before the Crown Prince Dorian, and he offers her freedom…if she acts as his champion in a competition his father is holding to find a new royal assassin. Should she win, she would serve as the royal assassin for 4 years before being set free. If she loses, she’ll be thrown back in the salt mines to face certain imminent death. Her opponents are all sorts of criminals, chosen by nobles of the king’s court, and Celaena is the lone female of the group. Celaena at first feels life in the castle is dull-that is until she finds herself not only in a love triangle with the Crown Prince and the Captain of the Royal Guard, but also as a mysterious beast begins killing off contestants. What she finds in her search for the killer leads her to a world she never could have imagined.
“My name is Celaena Sardothien, and I will not be afraid.”
I have to admit, I didn’t like Celaena at first. In fact, I didn’t like the book at all in the beginning, and almost put it down a few times. The plot moved along pretty slow, which made Celaena’s annoying attitude (in the beginning) glaringly obvious. I thought she was self-obsessed, vain, and entirely too boastful about her status as most-feared assassin in the land. There were multiple times she pointed out how beautiful she once was, or admired herself in the mirror after being cleaned up by palace handmaidens. I felt that looks were a little too important to her, considering she was kickass assassin who didn’t need to look pretty. Then I realized I often complained when heroines put themselves down, call themselves ugly, even though it’s clear they’re not. So instead, I began to look at her vanity as confidence, and it changed the tone of the book for me, in a good way. It was actually very refreshing; Celaena’s confidence, combined with her deadly skills, made for a pretty different heroine than I’m used to. Not only that, she also possessed a fair amount of sass and wit, which offered comic relief several times throughout the book. One moment she would be kicking all kinds of ass, and the next she’s shrieking at billiard balls because they didn’t do what she wanted them to (I can understand the frustration though, I’m pretty bad at pool).
The love interests were also both pretty well-developed. I’ve found that in fantasy, the romance aspect often takes a backseat to the action and world-building, which I appreciate (If I wanted in-your-face romance, I’d pick up a romance novel). While Celaena herself doesn’t really seem to have true feelings for anyone until the very end of the book (sorry, Dorian x Celaena shippers), both Crown Prince Dorian and Chaoll Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard become enamored with the beautiful assassin. Personally, I feel she would be best matched with Chaoll Westfall, but at the same time I feel bad for Dorian and think he truly does love her, even though he doesn’t have a chance in hell with her. I would elaborate on both those points, but I really don’t want to spoil anything about this book. It’s more fun to read that way.
One of the most important and unique aspects of YA Fantasy, or any fantasy novel, is the world that the author creates. When you read fantasy, you not only escape to the narrator’s life, you also enter into an entire new world. In Throne of Glass, that was a world with forbidden magic, a castle made of glass, an icy throne held by an even icier king, a network of hidden tunnels, a foreign princess aligned with the rebels, and a grand library with millions of books. The world building was done brilliantly by Sarah J. Maas, even if it did take a little bit to get going. That’s the thing with fantasy though, you have to be patient and wait for the story to gain momentum. Just be patient. By the end of the book I could vividly picture everything about Celaena and the castle she resided in. The characters were also brilliantly written. At first glance, they all seemed easy to understand and pinpoint. However, as the book progressed, it became clear that everyone had a hidden agenda, and was much more complex than what first met the eye. Each character was intelligent as well, which always helps me not want to throw a book across the room.
I’d give this book 4/5 stars, just because I feel it doesn’t quite meet Red Queen in certain areas, and Red Queen has become my standard for YA fantasy (it can always be toppled from the YA Fantasy throne though). I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to look more into the world of YA Fantasy. In fact, in October I’m planning on write a “Newbies Guide to YA Fantasy”, after I get a few more of those finished and reviewed, so keep your eye out for that. AND, there are three more published books in the Throne of Glass series, with the last two books set to be published in 2016 and 2017, so there’s still much anticipation awaiting you with this series. Go ahead and get started on it now if you haven’t already!