& Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's August 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s August 2012

The Book Itself: It’s an improvement from the book’s first cover release: a pretty blonde woman in full makeup with just a hint of a knife strapped to her arm. This one looks decidedly more badass, but the attention given to the long flowing hair is a little misplaced (if you were an assassin, anticipating close combat, wouldn’t you want your hair short, or at least up?)

My Review: 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 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.

Mark Twain had this idea that everything is plagiarized. He said “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” And it seems these days that a lot of complaints about movies and TV and books is that it isn’t original enough. Here are the same tropes and themes and characters, again and again, people cry. Give us something new!

Now, for me, I don’t mind the same old tropes and themes and characters. If they are well-written, if the story is paced well, if I feel like there are kernels of something in the story that I feel spice up the action and those same old themes. And unfortunately, Throne of Glass didn’t do it for me.

We’ve got a love triangle. We’ve got a dreamy prince and a bad boy captain of the guard. We’ve got a competition of wit and brawn. We’ve got a sassy female protagonist who ends up being super, unbelievably annoying, but who of course is the best in the land and can totally kick a bunch of guys butts in a deadly competition. Cool, okay. Badass female assassin sounds great. But we don’t really get that out of the bargain.

First of all, Celaena gets sprung out of the strictest prison in the land in order to be part of this competition, and she immediately becomes incredibly needy and spoiled. She refuses to get out of bed because she spent all night reading (and if the in love with reading thing is a bid to get us fellow readers to like her, I didn’t fall for it) even though hey, this competition is kind of important and can change your life so stop acting like a spoiled brat days after you’ve been sprung from a slave camp. And she doesn’t get any better. For the majority of the book, it felt like I was reading the adventures of an ugly stepsister (although she’s not ugly! Heaven forbid we go a chapter without being reminded that she’s pretty), and not the strong female role model protagonist I thought I was going to get.

The competition is almost pushed aside until the very last, fight-to-the-almost-death. In fact, there are whole paragraphs that say things like “the three Tests she’d had, the most exciting of which being an obstacle course, which she passed with only a few minor scratches and bruises.” Soooo…this is not the exciting, no holds-barred, winner takes all battle royale I was expecting. This sounds…boring. The competitors are tested in specific skills: archery, riddle-solving, apparently obstacle course completion…and the book hardly dwells on it. The tasks only serve to whittle down the almost faceless pool of competitors so that it’s just Celaena and an opponent (and even who that opponent is going to be is mindnumbingly obvious from the get-go).

And then let’s get to the central mystery…competitors for this competition keep dying, quite gruesomely in fact. And no one seems to really care. At most Celaena scratches her head a little, and then moves on with her life. In fact, here’s a sentence that boggles my mind: “But he’d been lucky: three other competitors had died. All found in forgotten hallways; all mutilated beyond recognition.” And then the scene moves on. What? So…three people died, and everyone’s just like “Meh, thin the herd.” Where is the agency or sense of urgency here? It’s like we wait around for spoiled Celaena to step up for once and do something productive.

Sorry. I just really dislike Celaena.

Maas tries to inject a little magic and mythology in there, but by that time it’s too late. I finished the book, but I will not be continuing on in the series. There are too many other good ones out there that do these themes better.

My Grade: D+

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