Publication date: 7 Aug 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children's
Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Keywords: Fantasy, romance, competition, assassins, spirits
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: e-ARC received from Netgalley
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.
I did not expect reading Throne of Glass to be so laborious; I expected I'd fly through it like I did Robin LaFevers's Grave Mercy, or Leigh Bardugo's Shadow & Bone. Not so. It's not difficult reading in terms of language or complexity; it's more that I had trouble suspending my disbelief. This all stems from the most basic premise of the book: The King needs a champion; therefore the sponsors select as their candidates the meanest, baddest, scariest killers and sneakiest thieves in the land. Wait, what?
The entire time I kept asking, wouldn't it have been more believable to have the sponsors select the most shining paragons of valor and heroism from their military personnel and private bodyguards? So you could, you know, have them be in the same room as the King or Crown Prince or important people you don't want dead without having to slap the heavy duty chains or hiding all the silver? Why choose people least likely to honor a contract?
If you really had such a great military already that the infamous Adarlan's Assassin won't bother running away because you could easily hunt her down, why do you need her to try to win this contest? Just hire the guy she's afraid of and send her back to the salt mines already!
Not talking specifically about any one candidate, I get that a true champion might not be willing to overlook morality in favor of a nice fat paycheck for doing the King's dirty business. But I also don't understand how the King might think it's a good idea to let loose upon the land an unscrupulous rogue who might have reason to disagree with the King's own politics, since some of the people vying for the position hail from countries he very recently conquered? In my mind, the King was the villain of the piece from the get-go, and he could have been craftier about selecting a champion. Why not rope some honorable and respected warrior into the job by letting him think he's really defending his king and country, then corrupt him with wealth and power or threats against the people he loves? For most of the book, I could not shake how backwards it all was in my mind. I couldn't justify people's motives and that made for a very slow, torturous read (with lots of breaks to go play with my new kitten, who has claws like freshly sharpened knives).
This book is not entirely without merit. Some of the secondary characters are well drawn and even likeable. I really enjoyed Celeana's friendship with another female who is, like herself, an outsider. The love triangle develops gradually enough not to be jarring, though Celeana mooning over Crown Prince Dorian still had me rolling my eyes often. I think fans who are new to fantasy and have not already read lots of it will really enjoy this book. Inexperienced noobs, you win this round.
Overall, I found the story derivative and not terribly well-plotted. I don't think the elements that I deemed derivative were intentionally copied; I just think the author is very much a fan of fantasy and that her debut ended up reading like a big fanfic mashup of some of my favorite fantasy worlds. I felt that Maas was pandering to her audience too much with Celeana and Dorian's book addiction. Also, if someone can please tell me the significance of the title, I'd dearly love to know what it was. It took me a week to read this book and that little bit of trivia still managed to elude me. While I wasn't completely disappointed, Throne of Glass was still quite a let-down, and I hesitate to read the sequel.
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
Visit the author online at www.sarahjmaas.com and follow her on Twitter @SJMaas
*FTC disclosure: I participate in the BookDepository affiliate program. Clicking on the link and making a purchase may result in revenue for this blog. I also participate in Indiebound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble affiliate programs but the links from this post do not contain my affiliate code.