Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of GlassTitle: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Publication Date: August 7th, 2012

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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.

Maas burst onto the young adult SF/F scene with her debut “Throne of Glass” in 2011; Maas is actually quite an experienced writer, as she first gained popularity through a sequence of prequel novellas published online. Those novellas have been compiled into a bind up, featured in one of my Waiting on Wednesday posts here.

Celaena Sardothien is a study in contradictions: she is the deadliest assassin in the world, yet she harbours a passion for books (especially harlequins!) and has a debilitating sweet-tooth. Thrust into the royal court to compete in tests of skill against other rogues and criminals, Celaena must persevere or lose her freedom forever. It isn’t long until she discovers sinister forces at work in the castle. Forces that want to see her fail.

Thankfully Celaena has a small group of friends willing to risk a lot to help her succeed. The lovable group includes Chaol, captain of the guard; Dorian, Crown Prince and son of Celaena’s greatest enemy; and Nehemia, princess of Eyllwe and rebel sympathizer.  Each of these characters has their own unique perspective and advantages that they can use to help the charming assassin in her mission. Nehemia is a personal favourite, with her love of knowledge and desire to fight for her people. I have to say that having more than one strong female character in a YA fantasy novel felt very refreshing. Of course, best friends Chaol and Dorian are both attracted to Celaena and she is intrigued by them. Hate love-triangles? Never fear: by the conclusion of Throne of Glass, Celaena has rejected one of her suitors. All I`ll say on the subject is that I was pleasantly surprised by her choice.

A strong critique of imperialism is presented through Celaena’s anger and contempt for Adarlan’s conquests and ruthless suppression of cultural difference. Although fairly minimal in this volume, the King of Adarlan’s war with Eyllwe and their rebel factions will undoubtedly be developed further as the series progresses. Celaena’s anger in the face of this injustice is understandable: her birthplace, the kingdom of Terrasen, was conquered by Adarlan and its royal family slaughtered when she was just a girl. The assassination of the King and Queen of Terrasen was mentioned too many times to be coincidence; I suspect that our beloved assassin is actually a member of this royal family. Do you guys think I’m crazy?

While I consider Throne of Glass a very strong debut I did have some issues with Maas’s writing, especially the multiple perspectives. While I enjoyed seeing how other characters perceived Celaena I would have liked different characters` voices to be showcased. A chapter or scene from Nehemia`s perspective, for instance, or from one of Celaena`s competitors. I will say that I appreciated the sections narrated by the villains – knowing who was behind it all while Celaena remains in the dark creates a delightful sense of dramatic irony.

Overall I thought Throne of Glass was a really good first effort from Sarah J. Maas. If you`re looking for a fantasy novel with some ass-kicking, intrigue, and a burgeoning magical sub-plot then this one`s for you. I look forward to reading the sequel(s) as soon as I can get my hands on them.

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