This is the debut novel of Sarah J Maas, and is the first novel in a series that carries the same name. And even though it was published quite recently (in book publishing terms) it already has quite a large following from all over the world.
The story of how this book got published is also noteworthy. According to the author, the story originally started out as a retelling of ‘Cinderella’ before evolving to it’s current form. It was first published in fictionpress and then got noticed and purchased by Bloomsbury books, which lead to it’s official publication in 2012.
Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy novel. Maybe that was part of what stopped me from enjoying it fully (Yes I’m old), because this book didn’t do much for me.
You need to take this book on faith.
While this book itself might not be as great, the second book in the series shows marked improvement, and I’ve been told that the rest of the series continues to improve. And you need the first book to understand the story of the second one.
This book tells the story of a teenage assassin who goes by the name of Celaena Sardothien, who is rotting in a slave mine when we first meet her. She is offered her freedom if she fights in and wins a gladiator style competition against a small army of other assassins, terms and conditions apply, please don’t read the fine print.
Her life and death struggle would be a little easier if she wasn’t distracted by a handsome playboy prince, and the equally handsome rule-abiding-stiff-as-a-plank (this changes later) captain of the royal guard. But at least she has the mysterious foreign princess to help her along, after they become best friends of course. Did I mention that the action takes place in a castle made of glass?
Now the plotline and characters do look like they stepped into a fantasy setting from a high school drama. We have all the ingredients, the heroine, two potential love interests, and the bestie. Plus a mystery looming in the background. But that might be part of just why this book is so popular among a teenage audience. They can relate to the characters. Especially since the main characters are all aged 19 to 21.
The plotline itself is not that complicated, the characters not that deep. But both plot and characters are well written.
This brings up something else I found issue with. We are repeatedly told that the main character of this book is an assassin. But we only have word of mouth to validate this. There isn’t a single assassination montage, no instance of Celaena showing off her vaunted skills. This is especially noticeable when the book keep going on and on about how she is this legendary assassin. Maybe it’s because I read the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ so recently (It had one of these ‘assassins’ as well) but this really stuck with me.
The second thing I found issue with is the attitudes of Celaena and her two hangers on. The main character is an assassin. But the way she goes through the book is reminiscent of a typical teenage girl than a hired killer. She struggles with romance, she adopts a puppy and makes a scene about it’s impending death, she devourers valentines day chocolate. Not once does she think about the lives she took, not once does she think of alternate plans for gaining her freedom. She generally acts like an innocent virgin. If she was putting on an act for her enemies it would make sense, but this is shown as her true personality. And the captain of the guard? He is a bodyguard, in the process of well and truly falling for the above mentioned hired killer. His resistance lasts, very little time. This is, to say the least, unprofessional, and not how a bodyguard acts.
I hope that this was written in this manner because Sarah J Maas was writing for a young adult audience and wanted to provide a layer of abstraction between them and the violent bits. Because if not this girl is a psychopath or the mines did something to her head. The lives of hired killers from the real world are described as filled with paranoia, violence, drugs, and always ended badly. This one is so, carefree.
But despite all this, the series does improve from the second book onwards. And for a first time novel, this is great.
Something I really liked was the worldbuilding in the book. The setting is very well done, the world is mapped out and the characters casually drop mentions about real world events and places that hint at a larger world than the one we are shown. This is expanded further in the second book.
I recommend this book if you are a teenager or want to read the series.