Throne of Glass is the first book in a while that I have really, truly truly loved. And by ‘loved’ I mean become slightly obsessive about.
There are other books littering my floor at the moment: Eleanor and Park, Unwind, The Kill Order, all half read and abandoned. That’s not to say that they aren’t wonderful books, Eleanor and Park made my three hour journey to Coventry far more entertaining, and I promise that at some point soon I will go back and finish them all. But they just didn’t grab me in the same way. I think some of this was my frame of mind; perhaps over-reading futuristic, dystopian YA fiction has made me immune to their effects and I needed a good bit of proper high fantasy to start my imagination up again. Enter Throne of Glass.
Throne of Glass is the story of Celaena Sardothian, an 18 year old assassin who is pulled from the prison-mine in which she has spent the last year in order to take part in a competition for the king. Aiming to find his new ‘champion’, he pits the talents of a bunch of different criminals, each chosen by a member of his nobility, against one another. The blurb describes it as ‘to-the-death tournament’ which sounded a bit Hunger Games-y to me and after finishing it I wouldn’t entirely agree with such a description; sure, *spoilers* most of them end up dead, but it’s more down to unfortunate circumstances than an opponent-coming-at-you-with-a-battle-axe kind of situation. Mostly. The real threat is that any losers will be returned to whence they came, and it is this which pushes Celaena to agree, rather than the whole death thing. The rest of the book follows the assassin in the castle, her growing friendships and her attempt to stop the inevitable, magical doom which hovers over the castle.
On the surface the book sounds fairly standard, and to be honest that’s what I first thought when I randomly chose it as the ‘3’ for my Waterstones ‘3 for 2’ deal. But as often happens to me, it was Throne of Glass which turned out to be the best of that three. To me what made this book special was the characterisation – all of the characters are distinctly real. Celaena was hugely relatable for me. With sass, swagger and tears included, she’s portrayed as neither the hardened, callous assassin, or the overly naive teenage girl. Instead she’s perfectly happy to go around killing whatever gets in her way, just so long as she hasn’t been distracted by something really shiny… There’s one scene where she gets a bag of candy and eats over half of it before breakfast. Sounds like an excellent idea to me. She doesn’t let her life be ruled by men, she’s definitely a strong female lead (*cringe’s slightly at the use of that defunct term*) and yet she is still a woman; she has flings, she falls in love, she lets her heart get heart. She’s human.
The male characters are just as well done. Dorian is adorable in an I-really-need-to-give-you-a-hug kind of way, but is also clever, loyal, corageous and a complete idiot at various points of the book. And Chaol. Chaol. I have no words – just go read it. He’s the best and I want one. Maybe the fact that the story originated on FictionPress means that the characters had more time to develop, or maybe Sarah J. Maas is just a genius. Either way, it was the characters that made the book for me.
The writing is pretty good too. I wouldn’t say it was perfect or mind-blowing, but it was adult enough to keep me engaged, yet not so overdone, as can often happy with high fantasy, that it screwed up my immersion in the story. It was sometimes simple and elegant, and other times rougher and pacy, just like Celaena.
All in all I loved this book, and Crown of Midnight too – enough that it get’s to go on the really good book shelf instead of the standard one. Enough that my mother is fed up of us squealing loudly about it over dinner, frantic gesticulation included. Enough that I am struggling to wait for the end of the series – seriously Sarah, hurry up.
~ Becca x
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Pictures from sarahjmaas.com and yolandasfetsos.com