My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Where to begin?
When I started reading this, I was hit by the style of writing. That was the first thing that struck out at me prominently. The second thing was Celaena’s obsession with how beautiful the Crown Prince was and also, the fact that Chaol Westfall already looked like a really interesting love interest. And the third, well, it’s really hard to overlook an arrogance like Celaena Sardothien’s.
So….let’s begin with the plot. The Premise:
Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
I won’t lie, I thought part of it, no most of it was predictable. Even when Maas attempted to divert my attention and look at someone else. I just couldn’t help but think at that moment, was that really necessary? It seemed highly farfetched to me, what Celaena thought when she let worked herself into a paranoia about her friend. I sadly, did not believe it or her in that moment. And yet. Without it, Celaena would have seem too ‘Mary Sue’. But coming back to Celaena in a moment, let’s talk about plot. Asides from being somewhat predictable (to the extent where I was looking in between the lines for something more, another plot twist thrown my way and found nothing) that doesn’t mean it’ll be boring to read. In fact, I rarely place a lot of emphasis on plot twists and predictability because surprise surprise, but I actually believe that in order for a piece of writing to be good and enjoyable read, it requires a strong voice, good characters – likeable or not – and presence. The plot was predictable, but it was written well, and it was engaging. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I also let myself flow into the story, and let Maas tell me in her own time what happens. Love Triangles. Yes, I shall bring your attention to the one thing that is seen much too often in YA. Love triangles. I have plenty of issues with these because most of the time, my eyes do somersaults the more I have to read about the love of two men for one girl. Over the years of reading, I have somewhat come to like them because of some more interesting and actually quite affecting love triangles which actually feel decent and real. The one in this book though…fell short of that and this isn’t spoiling much since the back of the book, as well as the first few pages pretty much promote a love triangle. Or at least, it hints at love between Celaena and two different characters. In saying that though, I didn’t like it all, the love triangle, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love the characters. I loved them. I truly did. I love how each character was, but I hated (well mostly) how the triangle developed. Each character was perfect on their own, and I felt it was completely unnecessary to throw them into one. On one side, the relationship between Dorian and Celaena was great at times – I liked how it was – and then at other times it felt forced and unnecessary. The other side of the triangle though, Celaena and Chaol, well, nothing really happened yet plenty did. And to which there is evidence of a great love coming – a great love with layers. Of course, it’s clear I’m all for Chaol, and since I’ve only read Throne of Glass, who knows what will happen between the three in the other books?
Celaena Sardothien has a name that sometimes I wish I could strangle her for. It’s a mouthful that I always forget how to spell. But undoubtedly, it has a ring to it. Suitable for Ardalan’s Assassin. She’s kickass. She’s arrogant. She loves pretty things. She has pride. She’s beautiful – well used to be before she was sent to the salt mines in Endovier. She’s pretty much it. The pride of all female assassins. I loved her. Some other reviewers felt that she was hard to connect to. As a reader, I agreed. But when you think about it, think about Celaena’s story, even speculate on her past (which was only briefly revealed in this novel) then you’d wonder, why is she so hard to connect to? Why is she so arrogant? Why is she so prideful of her work? She’s an assassin. For the first book, I did not need her history, not yet, I needed an engaging character and story that will entice me to continue the series. And Maas gives me that. She gives me Celaena Sardothien with her cold ways. Whether she likes killing or not, she’s been trained since she was 8 to kill for her pay. This is the world she has come to know, and the fact that she’s so prideful about being Ardalan’s Assassin and essentially, being the best makes her, in my opinion, a very interesting character. And so I want to know more about her. Just like I wanted to know more about Saba in Blood Red Road. Of course, Celaena is nothing like Saba, like she is nothing like Katsa from Graceling. And yet both Saba and Katsa were strong heroines, and both sort of fell a little in my eyes at certain moments. Celaena though…the lowest point for me was her relationship with Dorian. I couldn’t help but think….really????? I think because they had ‘something’ it ended up clouding my opinion of Dorian’s character – and which, I hope to see more of in the second book, because he seems really interesting….when he’s not thinking about Celaena.
Which brings me to Prince Dorian whose last name escapes me, and scanning through many reviews, somehow…his last name escapes everyone, which makes me question if I was actually told it in the first place? I probably had read it, but with my mind all over the place, I’ve forgotten. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Prince Dorian is the prince of this fairytale retelling – you know I learnt from a friend that this was first written in an online writing site, so I went and did a bit of research, and found my eyebrows shooting to the sky when I learnt this was a fairytale retelling of ‘Cinderella’. In comparison to Cinderella, I do love this a whole lot more. Kickass Cinders, hell yess! And the Prince, despite his almost insta-love for Celaena proved, or at the very least intrigued me throughout the course of the book. When he was not ogling and thinking of Celaena, and actually was doing other things – not often by the way – then I was really interested in him. I was intrigued by his character, and I really want to know more about him. Just not with Celaena. I really don’t have to repeat it do I? I find Dorian I whole heck load full more interesting as a sole, individual, developing character. I want to know more about him. And if he must love Celaena, I want and feel that he can possess more than the shallow seeming feelings I saw of him in Throne of Glass. Is that harsh? I guess. But in Prince Dorian, I can already see a man who is someone a whole lot more interesting than the ‘Prince Charming’ in the old classic fairytale. And that, looks very interesting to me!
But interesting…in terms of love interest is Chaol Westfall, the dashing, grumpy bums Captain of the Guard. Pretty much seems like Celaena’s equal upon his introduction – the whole, I was appointed young kind of thing, just like I became the best assassin when I was young etc. At first, Chaol clearly hates Celaena and what she stands for. He’s a good person, he has morals, everything that an assassin shouldn’ have. And he’s also darkly dashing, not like the flippant seeming Prince either. No, Chaol is he kind of love interest I love dreaming about, but do not always love. Because a lot of the time, the dark, dashingness of a man gets taken away by the sappy love stuff. Well with the exception of Valek in Poison Study and probably a few others who I can’t name because they don’t stand out. But yes, Chaol doesn’t come off as cheesy. No. His interaction with Celaena has the basis for a great love story, but the thing is, like Celaena and Dorian, it’s kind of a little forced. I won’t lie though, I loved it. Every moment they interacted, I just wanted more. Because the relationship that Celaena and Chaol have is slow, a building kind of love. In saying that too, I want to point out my earlier point about the love triangle that this book would have been fine without. I might like Chaol and Celaena together, but Chaol as a character, was wonderful on his own. He is so…I feel like with Dorian, I want to know more about Chaol. I want to see more of him, explore his history, get to know him. Just like how I also want to see more of Celaena’s history, and Dorian’s. I want to see them grow. Normally I would like character development in the books I read, but in TOG, it’s more, you see what needs to be developed, and in the books to come, it’s what I’ll expect kind of thing. I have so much high expectations now for these three main characters, I’m dying to read the sequels just because I want to see these three characters develop. Because each of them I know, has PLENTY of developing space.
Lastly, characters-wise, I want to briefly talk about the others. Lady Kaltain Rompier has rarely been brought up in others’ reviews. Not surprising, since she’s not the main character. Not only that, she’s quite, well, ambitious throughout TOG. And she seemed weak. BUT. I feel that she’s a character that I would really, really, really, like to know more about. Side characters always fascinate me. Even though they are only side characters, like the main characters, I feel like their stories are very important to the overall whole. With Main Characters, you know that they’re going to do something great, or they’re part of some great story, something will happen with them. But with side characters, sometimes they’re important, sometimes they’re not, the ones who are given an important place, who have stories to add to the bigger story and not just hovering in the background, used as fillers by the author, fascinate and intrigue me. Lady Kaltain Rompier was one of those. Nehemia too, though for her, though I sense her role in the story will be as big as Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian, as of yet, I can’t comment on her. For a character, I don’t want to. Mostly because I have yet to formulate a feeling about her and intend to reserve my judgment for later, since while she’s cool and all, I feel like she was barely touched on in this novel. Lady Kaltain though, after what happened with her, I was fascinated, I felt for her, even though she had been overly ambitious, I felt for her, and wanted to know what happens to her next. The King and Perrington surprised me, though I had guessed, I hadn’t guessed that much. But like with Nehemia, I’m waiting for the next sequel (of which I have yet to get my hands on) to make my judgment on them.
Overall, there is a colourful cast of strong characters. Each character, even the King and Perrington (hopefully) have many layers for me to peel back. Because that’s one of the other things I look forward to when I read a book, to see how complex a character can be.
So remember at the start how I comment on the writing being a shocker? Well, when I read the first page, I was shocked. The writing style was so familiar to how I usually see people rping in the rp groups on Goodreads (the more detailed ones). Particularly when Celaena was thinking about how beautiful Dorian was when she first saw him at the very beginning of the book. The familiarity struck me so badly, I was well a little stunned. I had been expecting heavier, denser writing. Or at least writing that was different. I have read quite alot of fantasies, quite a large number of them are high fantasies, with lots of intense world building, or intense characters and political affiliations. Take Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book of that trilogy, and leading on to a sequel trilogy. I will not hesitate to say just how much I loved her books. I loved her story, I loved the way it was told. Sure the whole first book focussed on FitzChivalry’s life from the very beginning, it would seem slow going for others, but to me, I loved the way in which she built up FitzChivalry’s character. Every moment was important, and it wasn’t just the events, it was her way of telling the events. No one can possibly replicate what she did there, and she is perhaps the one of few authors I believe who can weave a story in such a way. That is until I read Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court Trilogy beginning with Power and Majesty. Gawd, I nearly died with how epic that was. But you see here, both these books are shelved as Fantasy, Adult. So much more complicated, and with a writing style that completely takes your breath away with story. Let’s see, in YA, Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Maria V Snyder’s Poison Study are two books that can be compared to TOG. Both have assassins, though in Poison Study it was the love interest that was the assassin and not the main protagonist. But yes, these boks ae comparable. And while writing is not particularly spectacular in a hardcore epic literature kind of way, they do capture my attention, and also capture the emotions of the characters in their stories. Sarah J Maas though, is different. Her writing style is very casual, not explicitly ‘epic’ but not bad either. It takes a while getting used to the separate thoughts that come out of Celaena’s head, specially the ones in italics usually admiring the Prince’s beauty. I didn’t love her style of writing excessively, but there is potential there, and I’m interested to see how her writing develops over the next few sequels. Because by no means do I have any plans of not finishing this series. I love epic fantasies, and even if I have some negative thoughts about this series, overall, the positives outweight them!
I can list plenty of fantasies that might be better than this one. Assassin ones too. I mean my favourite all time assassin book is Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows and also Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. They was just *drool!* but unfortunately a male protagonist (which is not my favourite perspective to read from but hey, but the end of the series, I couldn’t not love it). And in comparison to that, it’s hard for me to compare others. Which is why I don’t. As of this moment, after reading and spending several hours to type out my thoughts here in this Suggestive Read (because I don’t call them reviews on my blog! Check it out : Words That Flow Like Water ) I realised, I want, now more than ever, to read the next one, and the following, because there’s so much more to explore in this world. So much more of Celaena to get to know, and see. Arrogant and dislikeable (though I loved her personally) she’s pretty awesome. And then there are the hints of plots, subplots going on which need to be explored! So, I have no plans of stopping here. But I do realise that not everyone loves a protagonist like Celaena. The thing is, she’s more than she seems. Aren’t all great character the kind that make you hate or love them? Clearly they’ve communicated their personality. Unlike…Bella. For other similar books, I suppose check out the ones mentioned in this Suggetive Read. Assassin books (look for Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks, Kristin Cashore, Maria V Snyder) and for Epic Fantasy Reads (Robin Hobb, Tansy Rayner Roberts, etc). Hopefully, you will enjoy reading Throne of Glass, and learning to love Celaena’s complicated like I did too. But then, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea!
[Note] How does it work out that I own Throne of Glass and Heir of Fire but not Crown of Midnight the second book of the series?