Seeing how I’m all caught up with Kate Daniels, I’ve been searching for another fantasy book series of the same general sort. A few months ago, a friend of mine recommended Throne of Glass, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.
Written by Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass is a YA epic fantasy novel starring Celaena, an assassin condemned to slavery in a mine who is offered a chance at freedom. To earn it, she needs to win a tournament against a bunch of soldiers, thieves, criminals and other assassins. Of course there’s something else going on – something sinister. It sounds like an interesting premise. Does it succeed? Well, yes and no.
First off, this book has two very different covers. The first is of a pretty blonde girl who looks more like a proper lady than an assassin. The second cover is by far the better one, with a knife-wielding woman who looks like she could kill just about anyone. It’s striking. Celaena’s is somewhere between those two. There are some decent action scenes but she rarely gets a chance to show off her assassin skills. She does show off her ability to sneak into a ball and make everyone wonder who she is (only the prince and her guards know she’s an assassin). One fight scene ends in three seconds, and I won’t say too much about the final fight to avoid spoilers, but it’s made unfair through deceit and politics. It makes the fight intense, sure, but it also means that her opponent might not be that much of a challenge otherwise. I would not go so far as to call Celaena a Mary Sue though, especially when you consider some of the revelations at the end.
Celaena herself is a good enough character to keep the book going. She’s rough around the edges and can be very confrontational, but there’s definitely a soft side to her that surfaces more and more as the book goes on. She reads a lot in her spare time, but even though she starts reading several strange books to figure out some of the magical things going on, that doesn’t really go anywhere. Her internal conflict about whether she wants to flee from the capital or stay for the competition does help keep the story moving in the first half of the book, which is otherwise the weaker half.
The other characters are mostly pretty good as well. The Prince, Dorian, is very much different from his fascist father, and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol, is suspicious of Celaena without going overboard. Besides their basic personalities and a touch of the Prince’s beliefs though, they don’t have much personality outside of being conflicted over being attracted to Celaena. There’s also a foreign princess, Nehemia, who is probably the most interesting supporting character. Of all the protagonists, she’s the most mysterious and she knows more about what’s going on than anyone else realizes.
Although the plot takes a while to get moving, the book never feels slow. It’s mixed well with the occasional glimpse into a minor character’s head just for an outsider’s perspective that helps make the storytelling interesting, but it mostly sticks to Celaena, Chaol and Dorian’s point of view. The variety of tests in the tournament give a variety of scenarios that Celaena must overcome, with varying degrees of difficulty. The main problem here is that with the exception of a few scenes, there isn’t much tension in the book.
As much as there isn’t anything particularly wrong with this book, and I did enjoy reading it, nothing really felt special about it either. The romantic sub-plot feels a little cliché, but the writing behind it works. The mythology is vague, but that could be intentional as the world expands in later books. The book is usually amusing when it tries to be and there are no real groaners. The ominous ending will be pretty great for anyone who loves this book – personally I think it works but like the rest of the book, it’s not special.
The tag line on the cover that says “fans of Game of Thrones and Hunger Games will love it” is misleading. Throne of Glass isn’t nearly dark enough to say that GOT fans will enjoy it. There’s no dystopian feel or attempts at satire like in The Hunger Games, nor is the tournament meant to be deadly, so that’s not the greatest comparison either. If anything it’s better to compare this to A Knight’s Tale, just with a female lead, more magic involved and hints that there’s something sinister going on that we’ll learn more about in future installments.
Would I recommend this book? Depends on how much you like the concept. Overall I’d say it’s on the lower end of good, with the potential to be great in its sequels. I enjoyed it enough that I’ll probably read the second book someday, but I don’t feel the need to rush into it.
The next novel I’m going to read will most likely be the final Harry Potter book, just to finish the series. After that, it’s between X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble, one of the free books I picked up from a local Author’s event, or re-reading Magic Bites (the first Kate Daniels book). If I choose the third option, there won’t be a post about it since I’ve already talked about it on this blog.