An eighteen year old girl, a trained assassin, has been imprisoned for a year and is given a shot at freedom. This first book Sarah J. Mass’ series isn’t what I expected.
Celaena Sardothien has toiled for a year in Endovier, a salt mine and prison so harsh that few survive more than a few months. Even at her tender age, though, her name was known and feared as the greatest assassin in the country of Adarlan before she was captured. Now she’s been given an offer; be Crown Prince Dorian’s entrant in a contest devised by his father, the king. Thirteen weeks, twenty-four contestants sponsored by nobles of the court. The winner will become the King’s Champion – or rather, his assassin. If she wins and serves for four years, she’ll have her freedom.
Celaena, (pronounced Sell-lay-nah, according to Maas’s website), naturally takes the offer, though she’s no supporter of the king. He invaded her country when she was small, and continued to conquer surrounding lands, committing atrocities with abandon. However, she has little choice; she must compete, or go back to Endovier to die.
A lot of the interest in the book is on the growing relationships Celaena has with Prince Dorian and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol, who first took her out of the mine to meet the prince and continues to serve him. They are both attracted to her, and she to them, though she is drawn more obviously to Dorian. She also develops a friendship with a visiting princess from a neighbouring country that has been subdued, and a there is a subplot of a jealous courtier who wants Dorian for herself.
This book has some great fantasy elements, and Celaena is an engaging heroine. There is a system of Wyrd magic which delivers some great moments and which promises more in the subsequent books. Maas has created a court of complexity and intrigue, and I particularly like the disparate attitudes of the king and prince
A couple of things surprised me about this book. One was how the contest was handled. The first test (one per week) didn’t occur until about a quarter of the way into the book, and I found myself impatient for it. It wasn’t that the rest was boring, because it wasn’t. I was just eager to get to the meat of it. The reader also doesn’t get to see all of the tests, as quite a few of them were skipped over in one sentence and I was a little disappointed with that. I understand that thirteen might be too many to write, but then maybe it would be better to have fewer tests, and maybe even fewer contestants? I just hate to miss out on the action.
The other thing that surprised me was Celaena herself. To have spent a year in what was essentially a death camp (including severe whipping), already the most famous assassin in the country by seventeen having been trained from the age of eight, I expected there to be some hardness in this character. I thought there would be defensiveness, emotional walls, evidence of trauma. Instead, the prince and his captain could have been picking her up from soccer camp.
A lot of the book is written from Celaena’s perspective, and it reflects the emotional and psychological tone of a young athlete rather than a trained killer who’d recently suffered torture and deprivation. There are a few references to the trauma she suffered when her parents were killed, and a couple of anecdotes of her training, but it doesn’t play out in her present psyche. When there’s a killer stalking the halls at night, she’s terrified and can’t sleep. She reads romances, wants to socialize, and gushes over puppies. I couldn’t buy it.
That said, though, I decided to put that aside. If you can accept the non-emotionally scarred, non-hardened, non-traumatized, sweet teenage super-assassin, it’s a good book. Once I entered into it, it’s a good read and I finished it quickly. I’m even looking forward to the next books, Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire.
Throne of Glass is a good read. Just don’t believe the ‘A heart of ice, a will of steel’ tagline. She looks badass on the cover (great cover!) and her fighting skills are without parallel, but she isn’t a cold-hearted killer. She’s the assassin with compassion.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Published: Aug, 2012