13 January 2014

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasI had high expectations for Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass: it was billed as high fantasy with great world building and complex characters. I was thinking Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for young adults. Although there is a lot to like about this novel, it wasn't love at first sight for me.

Beautiful Celaena Sardothian began her training as an assassin when she was just eight years old. Within a decade she had become the most feared killer in Erilea--that is, until she was captured and sent to the salt mines, where it was expected she'd quickly die as a result of exposure, slave labor, and/or starvation.

Strong and resourceful, Celaena beat the odds, surviving months of ill-treatment until she was given a second chance by Crown Prince Dorian: Wealth and freedom could be hers if she could find a way to defeat twenty-three other criminals in a deadly competition and then serve as the king's personal assassin for four years. With nothing to lose, Celaena accepted the offer.

The bulk of Throne of Glass revolves around Celaena's training for the competition and her life in the castle. But Mass interweaves several additional story lines into the main plot, including the king's agenda and court politics. Although some of the story arcs were easy to figure out, others are more complex and some are left up in the air, presumably to be picked up in future installments in the series.

The side stories help create a full world in which people and places have a deeper history, which we discover slowly as the series develops. Most of the characters are multi-dimensional; though some of the bad guys are clearly bad and some are left flat (for example, Celaena's maid in the castle).

My principal issue with Throne of Glass is one that other reviewers see as a strong point. That's the personality of Celaena herself. It was extremely difficult for me to believe her to be a feared assassin. Yes, her mind is constantly looking for escape routes, weapons, and other people's weaknesses, just as you'd expect from a professional killer. On the other hand, she seems overly concerned with court affairs and fashions and soon finds herself in a love triangle. Would a trained hit man who had only one chance at regaining freedom really distract herself by mooning over the prince and sneaking into a court ball? I had trouble buying it.

I understand that Celaena is more than just a killer. I appreciated that she liked to read, that she was curious, and that she wanted to make friends. But something about the love triangle (Hunger Games or Twilight, anyone?) made me weary. Perhaps it was the timing. Let her have a conflicted heart only after the competition, when she finally has time to recuperate and contemplate her future. (This is not a spoiler, we're really sure from page one that she will live no matter what happens at the castle.)

It speaks to Mass's skills that, despite my reservations noted in this post, I am curious enough about Celaena and her world that I plan to read the accompanying Throne of Glass novellas. If they capture my full attention, I'll gladly give Crown of Midnight (the second in the series) a try. Furthermore, I'm really looking forward to Mass's 2015 A Court of Thorn and Roses books, which are targeted to an adult audience and involve myth and fairy tale retellings.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Audible, Inc.; 12 hr, 47 min) read by Elizabeth Evans, who is a veteran audiobook narrator but new to me. I thought she did a fine job building tension, rendering the snappy dialogue, and projecting the characters' emotions. Evans enhanced my enjoyment of the book; in fact, I'm not sure I would have finished it if hadn't been for her worthy performance.

Note that if you decide to listen to the book instead of reading it in print, you'll miss the map at the front of the book and the extras found in the paperback edition (pronunciation guide, additional scene, and author interview).

Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781599906959
Source: Print: review; audio: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 1/13/14, 7:40 AM  

That's a riot about the trained killer distracted over sneaking into a ball. Yes, that's what they do! Isn't that what Al Qaida people do? I'm buying it, hook line and prom dress!

bermudaonion 1/13/14, 7:49 AM  

This probably isn't the book for me.

Daryl 1/13/14, 9:00 AM  

i am sure i would agree with your issues with the character .. i really get annoyed with plot/character 'stuff' that seems obvious ..

Erica 1/13/14, 9:44 AM  

Without giving anything away, I will say that some of the issues (the love triangle in particular) would not be issues in book 2 and the novellas! Even though you didn't love it, I'm glad you liked some aspects and I'll definitely let you know when we start promoting Court of Thorns and Roses :)

Kailana 1/13/14, 10:47 AM  

hm. I got this for 3 dollars at a Boxing Day sale. If I don't love it I won't be too upset. I just wanted to try it. :)

Rhiannon 1/13/14, 10:56 AM  

I had the same issues, and dissapointments with this book. I was blown away by how often people snuck up on her, which was always used as a way to show her softer side, but come on! I felt like the second book was a bit of an improvement , and I liked it more, though mass is still obviously trying to play to the YA stereotypes. Have you tried Cinda Chima's Seven Realms series? It gave me way more of what I wanted in a YA Game of thrones sense.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 1/13/14, 7:29 PM  

I am back and forth on this one.

Heather 1/15/14, 9:01 AM  

I couldn't get into this one. Seems like so many YA novels feature killer young girls now and yes, I usually have trouble seeing them as assassins (and such). If I ever try again, I think I'll go with the audio. Her adult book sounds interesting though!

Charlie (The Worm Hole) 1/15/14, 9:44 AM  

I've read one or two positives reviews but many listed problems. They were a while ago however so other than knowing it didn't appeal to me I forgot the rest. I was liking the sound of the heroine right until you discussed the love triangle. Yes to it being a case of bad timing!

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