Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Review - Throne of Glass

Original Title: Throne of Glass
Series: Throne of Glass, #1
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: August 2nd, 2012

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

I finally did it. After a lot of grumbling and procrastination, I started with the so hyped up Throne of Glass series. I confess that I was curious, as fantasy books and series are always interesting for me, but the final nudge was hearing that it is becoming a tv series, so I thought, “I must be missing something great”. Plus, every fantasy reader out there seems to love Sarah J. Maas. But, just like it happened with another book I read a few months ago, for the very same reason (this one), I found a novel that is not up to its synopsis. Don’t get me wrong, I did like it, and I’ll give it another chance reading the second book of the series, but there’s a few things I want to say first. 

Throne of Glass had a very promising beginning, with engaging characters, and an interesting world. From the moment we meet Celaena Sardothien, the heroine, we know things are not going to be as they are in the classic fantasy stories. For starters –and I really liked this–, she’s not your typical heroine living a normal life, and discovering she’s special upon an unexpected event. Celaena has a past, and a complex one, that is. She has already lived a whole life by the time we meet her, to the point that she became the most feared assassin in all the land. But some things just don’t make much sense. Don’t get me wrong, this was going great, with the whole scene in Endovier, and her sassy, badass attitude, but… well, as the novel progressed, I expected to read her as the terrifying assassin they claimed she was, and instead, I found her to be more of a princess. I mean, we are told that she’s feared at a very young age, right? At eighteen, she has already killed more people than most soldiers, and even made a notorious attempt to escape the mines, killing everyone in her way before being caught, an inch away from her freedom. That has to count for something, isn’t it? But from the moment she leaves the mines as the king’s Champion and gets to the royal palace, things… change.

As the blurb promises, I was expecting a fierce competition between trained, experienced killers, in order to become the royal assassin. But, actually, it doesn’t have the importance I thought it would have, in comparison to other aspects of the novel, as the Tests are not made to push them to their limits, and take a very little page time. At one point, it says:

Amidst her worrying, another Test passed without incident or embarrassment.” (chapter 36).

So? The Test? *Knock knock*. Come one, there’s literally nothing you want to say about it? This confuses me. Wasn’t the whole plot concocted around this competition and Celaena’s training to win? As I told you, this book was more about Celaena as a princess than an assassin. One would think that after her parents’ horrible death, killing for a living from a very young age, and having been cruelly enslaved in the mines, all the girly habits would be gone, and she would be this distrustful person most people would just… dislike. But instead, we are met with a girl that suddenly everyone notices how beautiful she is (cliché?), and perfectly adapts to court life, knowing the manners of a lady, in speaking, dancing, and dresses. What?

Ok, let’s move on. If you have followed me for a while, you know I really don’t like love triangles, and I was not happy when I noticed where that part of the story was going. It got tiring how Celaena felt attracted to both Dorian and Chaol, but there was never any doubt about whom she preferred. The main problem is that the whole thing was so unnecessary. Nothing would have changed in the story if Chaol’s side of the love affair had been cut off. It had nothing to do there, because Celaena clearly likes Dorian better. But still, it baffles me that after everything that happened in Celaena’s past, she had absolutely no problem in falling in love and trusting this guy, like any other non-assassin girl, with an open heart and no sign of any kind of apprehension. Plus, the whole romance feels so forced! She wants to kiss Dorian in totally random moments, but I really can’t see their chemistry. He suddenly loves her, and I just don’t buy it. It feels like the characters only fall in love because the author said so, and that does not work for me. I have no reason to root for them.

Again, and as I’ve seen in other fantasy novels, the names confuse me. In this world we can find a mix of made up names, and names from our own dimension. On the one hand, we have, for example, Celaena, Kaltain and Chaol, that clearly are made up, but on the other hand, we find names like Dorian and Georgina. So… Which is it? Made-up, or real? Plus, I saw a wasted opportunity with Queen Elena, I mean, she, of all characters, was one of the fae, a non-human character, so, all the more reason to give her a non-human, unique name, right? 

Also, I have some problems depicting the world-building in my head. Judging by the cover, Celaena is dressed in an outfit fit for an urban fantasy novel, but it is misleading, because she spends most of the book wearing fine dresses and shoes, and even some jewelry. She holds two swords on the cover, but her fighting skills are not up to the fear she supposedly inspires as Adarlan’s Assassin. I was definitely expecting more in that aspect.

I liked the plot around the mystery, the Wyrdmarks and the fae. The murders were gruesome, but not to the gore point, and that’s how I prefer it. The thing is that I definitely want to know more, both about the world and the fae, and the characters, like Nehemia. I really liked her, I loved her attitude and her badass predisposition, she’s a strong character and I even liked her more than Celaena herself. She will be a hard bone to crack, and I want to keep reading to see how her story plays out. As for the other characters, I really don’t know what to say about Chaol, because he barely speaks, and shows almost no emotions, except those feelings Celaena stirs. As for Lady Kaltain, she’s the typical pretty court girl who is jealous of everyone else and is willing to do anything to get her way. I don’t really care much for her, but I want to know more about what happened to her, and if she will play a bigger role in the rest of the story. I also admit that the last scene with the king and Perrington did the trick, because now I just want to know more.

The competition wasn’t so brutal as the blurb made it sound. The competitors are not very deep characters, save Celaena, and have almost no influence in the plot. They are there to die at the claws of the mysterious creature that roams the castle and eats their organs. But the villains… I mean, everyone suspects Cain is the one killing the other competitors, and in the end, it is him. That is, the biggest and ugliest of all the competitors, and that, my friends, stinks of cliché. The bad guy is exactly the one they suspected from the start, and in a court and a tournament filled with trained killers, the golden opportunity for a good plot twist went down the drain. 

Even though I was expecting something different, I have to admit that the Yulemas ball scene was greatly done. Celaena’s wonderful dress, the dancing, the music, and the setting in general were magical, and very romantic. There’s was not a big effort to disguise that it was totally Cinderella-inspired, but still, it really painted a picture. I did like Sarah J. Maas’ style, her writing flows flawlessly and her metaphors are not overwhelming, but placed in the right moments. I will definitely read more by her.

So, in short, this book was not what I was expecting from a story with a main character that is an assassin, of all professions, but now that I know where I’m standing, and that the story and the world will be like this, I don’t have a problem with continuing reading the rest of the series. The characters have the potential of unexploited depth, and things can get better in the next books. Even when I don’t look forward to the love triangle’s further development, I do hope the whole thing gets better. This book was good, but not brilliant, and so far, I don’t think it is up to the hype. By the big fuss around it, I was honestly expecting this would blow my mind, and in the end, it didn’t happen. 

But I do have hope for better sequels. It’s a promising fantasy world, and I liked the characters enough as to keep reading about them. Fingers crossed!


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