Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Sunday, July 29, 2012
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: fantasy, young-adult
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Pages: 350 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected August 7 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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 kings 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.

Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel geared towards young-adults. It can prime the pump for a well-deserved novel, or it can drag down an otherwise entertaining but not very well executed novel with unfulfilled expectations, as is the case here for my read of Maas's Throne of Glass. Advertised as a "Game of Thrones"  for teens meets an assassin version of The Hunger Games, the similarities and comparisons to other young-adult fantasy novels (particularly Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder -be sure to check out Amanda's great comparison review!) are unavoidable and lamentable. In addition to the misplaced hype and the whole "been-there-done-that feel", Throne of Glass suffers from a wide array of issues that kept me from loving this. I've had several days to digest and work out my-not-so-happy feelings towards this (and vacillate on my rating!), and while I will inevitably pick up the sequel, I do think Maas has a lot to learn about the fantasy genre, writing a credible romance, and crafting a better method of authorial sleight-of-hand.

Celaena Sardothien is a complex character, that is without a doubt, but one that is a little too enamored of her own looks, instead of worrying about, oh I don't know, LIVING. Even Katniss, for all her faults and flaws, doesn't worry about her good-looks when confronted by the people who ruined her life, and oppressed her people. I think Celaena will be divisive among readers: some will respond to her hard-edged confidence and others will be much less enthused with her inability to look at the bigger picture. There are many sides to her personality, and I will admit that she is admirably flawed and realistic for a YA protagonist. She's a strong, smart, capable, and decisive young woman, while only slightly suffering from Special Snowflake Syndrome. She's also arrogant beyond belief (though I didn't start to dislike that aspect until her arrogance about her skills was never backed up by her actions! One sparring match does not a Master Assassin make! And, after all, how many times, exactly, can Dorian sneak up on Celaena before she loses all credibility as The Greatest Assassin Ever?), cunning, deadly, and way, way, too invested in the superficial facets of Court life. The sheer amount of time clothing, especially Celaena's and Dorian's wardrobes, are described, lusted after, and compared is simply exhausting and dry.  

Another main issue I had while reading this was the clear and present focus on romance, a love triangle and angst instead of THE ASSASSIN-TASTIC DEATH MATCH. It's supremely frustrating to be told that Celaena is an amazing assassin and then see no proof of it, outside very few isolated events. What is the point of a Hunger Games death match between assassins if it's all offsides and offscreen? For almost the entirety of reading about the tournament, I was thinking "KILL SOMEONE, DAMNIT. Prove you're what you've been so enthusiastically saying about yourself." It's too much telling about Celaena's prowess, and far too little actual "showing" on Maas's part. The Tests and trials are glossed over, or focus on the least-actiontastic events (a poison ranking? Really? Harry Potterish much?) to the overall detriment of what was actually the most compelling aspect of the whole novel. Instead, the author ignores the good stuff in favor of awkward flirting, and endless descriptions of what every character is reading. It's a shame and a glaring misstep for any novel that seeks to be compared for the bloody and dark Game of Thrones.

Maas is a capable author, but sadly not one readers will be able to call subtle after reading first-in-a-series Throne of Glass. Celaena's mysterious past and real identity are both easy to suss out, and it's remarkable that none of the other characters manage to do so in the 400+ pages of the final edition. The super-obvious obvious plotting and writing, the easy-to-spot red herrings, and not to mention the heavy-handed approach to the love-triangle that takes up 75% of the novel, make for a very predictable novel. The "mystery" of who is behind the competitors death...isn't. It's both obvious from the start and then subsequently, hilariously frustrating how long it takes Celaena to cotton on to the real culprit. <SPOILER> Celaena's whole "Nehemia has a secret! Therefore, she must be the killer or maybe just politically savvy. Never mind that I've been lying the entire time we've known one another!!1!" subplot is particularly dumb. Be smarter than that, Celaena. Respect your readers more than that, Maas!</SPOILER>  

Third-person omniscient makes it easy for the POV to rotate around Celaena, Dorian, the Crown Prince of Ardalan, and Chaol Westfall, the earnest and awesome Captain of the Guard and show a wider view of the world.It also caused me to feel distant from the characters and kept me from fully investing. (Exception: Chaol. MOAR PLEASE.) Were the other two perspectives really needed? No, but nor do they detract from the narration. The love triangle manage to do that allll on its own. You can see it forming from the first chapter, and Maas never makes it worth reading about. It's all overwrought glances and touching, with little real emotion to back up the overused trope. It's not used to illustrate that Celaena is torn between two men who genuinely appeal to vastly different sides of her character, but rather to show how beautiful and alluring she is. No, thank you. The writing itself can be bloated with overdescription (the clothes! the glass castle! WE GET IT!), but Maas does reign it in occasionally to let a plot emerge.

Fun, but very flawed is my final verdict. Great ideas need great execution and that is not at all what happened here with Throne of Glass. Though Throne of Glass has been grossly overhyped and is quite often amateurish in its presentation, I can't deny that there are moments of great entertainment... but, sadly, they are not enough to earn this novel more than 3/5 stars.


  1. Your review has decided it for me - Throne of Glass is one August novel I will definitely not be spending my money on. I hate love triangles, I hate assassin's who don't assassinate, and I hate obvious plotting. While I'll still read this one because of all the hype surrounding it, your review has definitely helped lower my expectations for this one, quite significantly! Another fantastic review, Jessie! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

    1. I'd definitely recommend borrowing from a friend or a library. I think you'd like it, but it is definitely not worth hard-earned cash. There are moments of greatness, but they are few and far between all the pages of the cliched romance. I hope you do read it and like it, but my expectations were definitely too high.

      And thanks, Keertana! That means a lot :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Salt mines! My wife and I tell each other to get to the salt mines when work needs to be done, so that cracked me up.

    As did your review, like -- Celaena Sardothien is a complex character, that is without a doubt, but one that is a little too enamored of her own looks, instead of worrying about, oh I don't know, LIVING. -- this book might not be for me but oh, how I love your reviews. So awesome. I hate that you had to suffer through this but I love getting your delightful thoughts in return!

    1. Hahaha, that's awesome. XD

      And I am just glad that other people find me somewhat amusing (and not just myself). And I don't think you'd have much good to say were you to read ToG. Seriously, the girl is dragged from the mines to confront the son of the man who condemned her, and 65% of her thought process is about her deteriorating looks. It's just far too immature and caught up in melodrama. But glad I could amuse you with my capslockian thoughts.

      And thank you! :D


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