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PFS2012 Blog Tour - ARC Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Throne of Glass
Story Arc: Series
Publication: August 7, 2012 by Bloomsbury
hardcover: 416 pages
Genre: High Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Bloomsbury via Netgalley
Excerpt(s): from 85% in e-reader
Content: Murder, Death, Sexual Innuendo, Kissing

After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point...

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 king's 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.
Prisoners at Endovier, mines that are a high-security hellhole of a death camp, don’t last a handful of weeks—Celaena Sardothien lasted an entire year, and she’s still capable of laughter. Celaena is well-aware that, even as Adarlan’s most notorious assassin, malnutrition and severe punishment by the corrupt hands of the overseers—whose whips and salt-pouring over fresh wounds have left horrifying scars down her back and in more vulnerable places—would have been the death of her very soon, and this is what leads her to consider, and ultimately agree, to Prince Dorian Havillard’s bargain: should she win a cutthroat competition against the lowest of criminals to be the King’s personal champion, to do with what he wishes, she will serve him for a few years before earning her freedom. As grubby, undernourished, and wounded as she is, she has no trouble crooning her own praises, unwittingly reassuring the Prince and Rifthold’s Captain of the Royal Guard, Chaol Westfall, that she’s neither insane nor is she the most infamous of criminals for nothing.

The moans of agony amongst the clank of chains made a chorus as familiar as the dreary work songs they sang all day. The occasional solo of the whip added to the symphony of brutality Adalarn had created for its greatest criminals, poorest citizens, and latest conquests.

You’ve undoubedtly heard by now that the majority of readers of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas are of two minds—they either enjoy Celaena’s characterization or they dislike it immensely. I’ve read it all—that she’s vain, spoiled, inconsistent, etc. For me, Celaena’s worst qualities are what make her one of the best of female main characters. She is a very complex and layered character; she’s loyal even while being concerned with self-preservation, arrogant on the surface, enjoys and utilizes her beauty, and is truly one of the loneliest and saddest characters I’ve encountered in a novel. Her family is lost to her, and all the time following their deaths, she trained as an elite assassin, made friends, trusted the wrong people, and eventually got caught in the middle of her illustrious career. She lost a precious friend along the way. And, her cruel sentencing aside, she has absolutely no love for the evil king she’s bound to serve. All for a ticket to anonymity in the countryside, a place in the world belonging to her and the sky and the treasures they hold above her. She’s unabashedly bold, mocking, tough as steel nails, and anything but humble, and, as Small Review made me realize early on, she is like every arrogant, masked, scarred male character I’ve read—apart from her girly appreciation of glittery, silky dresses, beautiful hair, and flawless makeup—and loved. And although I don’t think they’d get along very well, she reminds me of Scarlet in A. C. Gaughen’s debut this year—another favorite, and a terribly awesome sign.

“After a year, you seem to be more or less alive. I wonder how that’s possible when the average life expectancy in these mines is a month.”
“Quite a mystery, I’m sure.” She batted her eyelashes and readjusted her shackles as if they were lace gloves.

I simply adore the way Celaena goads the new men in her life—the captain and the prince. She shows them many sides, she teases and mocks them, and she falls a little bit in love with both, one more than the other, I’m desperately willing to believe. The love triangle is unlike those we loathe. You know the ones that are written for some ulterior motive or for the sake of writing one and creating angsty, predictable struggles throughout. The one in which Celaena is taken in by the dashing good looks and kindness of the Prince and unknowingly goes down the hate-to-love road with the stoic, honorable Captain happens naturally—at no point does it feel forced or contrived, and is just one aspect of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas as it’s one aspect of Celaena’s complicated life. They neither define her nor do they consume her focus. And, as most seem to be saying, I fell unreservedly, unquestionably in love with Chaol as Celaena’s ultimate love interest. As much as I’d love him for myself, and though she has great banter and friendship with both young men, they complement each other so well. It’s like Hector vs. Paris in Troy the film—Hector has a deep sense of honor, courage, wisdom, and a kind of selflessness that Paris doesn’t, and that’s how I perceive Chaol vs. Dorian. That aside, Dorian is too young in his thinking, pampered, and knows nothing about the sort of scars both Celaena and Chaol share and understand. Chaol sees the heart of her and accepts it without needing to know all of her ghosts and torments, including what she will always be unwilling to speak of, while I find that Dorian is softened by what he’s seen and knows and is intrigued by not only her uniqueness but the shadows that weigh on her soul. As he grows, Dorian may become a more attractive love interest, but not a compatible one, not so that he’ll ever match Celaena the way I see Chaol does.

“You marry the person you love—and none other,” he said, and she laughed. “You’re mocking me! You’re laughing in my face!”
“You deserve to be laughed at for such foolish thoughts! I spoke from my soul, you speak only from selfishness.”

Immersive love triangle aside, the story line is immensely well-written and hard enough to maneuver for those who quickly solve mysteries, with enough red herrings to make it fun, and not so difficult for those who might find it a bit more challenging to follow. I’ve seen this book pitched as a teen version of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, aka Game of Thrones, series, and while I haven’t read those books yet, I have heard that the plot is incredibly intricate. I wouldn’t say, from what I’ve heard from friends and other recommenders, that it’s as crazy layered and overlapping as the plot in that series, but it’s brimming with a bunch of different fascinating problems woven together. It’s a paranormal murder mystery set in a high fantasy world, filled with talk of faeries and their descendants, evil beyond what lies in humanity, ghosts, castles made of glass, ancient, magical forests, and more that’s entirely riveting! And yet they’re all somehow linked. The plot itself ties in very nicely with what is gleaned from the small glimpses into Celaena’s past—both of the time during her assassin career and the time before that at the age of eight and younger. You have that high-stakes competition, the murder of some of the contestants, and the suspicious motives in politics for involving Celaena’s newfound friend who is a princess of neighboring country—a blunt and kick-ass secondary character. As Small perfectly describes this element of the story, “…she sleuths, and I love her for it. She utilizes both the library AND secret passageways, two things that are near and dear to my heart. And, in this case, both lead her to buried secrets from the past, which pretty much makes the whole scenario explode with win.” Although Small and I both agree the final reveal of the villain is a bit “deflating,” I found reading it to be as much fun as she.

He nodded. “And how old are you?”
“Eighteen.” But he said nothing. “I know,” she continued. “It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an early age.”

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a fulfilling novel for someone who enjoys what Maas has to write about, her particular brand of storytelling, and characters that reeled me in with their woes and wounds, kindness and witty banter, and the interconnecting relationships. Maas’s characters are not necessarily ones you would relate to—except Celaena’s delirium over pretty anything, if you’re into that kind of thing like I am—and not ones you sympathize with, as they don’t ask for any sympathy or pity. More, you love them for who they are, all their highs and lows, despite all they had to endure and overcome to survive and still maintain some semblance of the person they are. Again, I’m referencing Small here, but Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is by no means a flawlessly written or perfect read, but, for those anything like me, it’ll be an unerringly wonderful match.
Celaena turned to Chaol. But instead of handing her the plainas-porridge sword she usually wielded in practice, he drew his own blade. The eagle-shaped pommel glinted in the midday sun.
"Here," he said.
She blinked at him, and slowly raised her face to look at him. She found the rolling earthen hills of the north in his eyes. It was a sense of loyalty to his country that went beyond the man seated at the table. Far inside of her, she found a golden chain that bound them together.
"Take it," he said.
Rating: Special Shelf

IN LESS WORDS: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas will not be a book for everyone to enjoy, though it has been devoured by the masses it seems. Not everyone will understand and/or appreciate Celaena Sardothien’s characterization, fall in love with the wonderfully written love triangle, or feel invigorated while reading such an engrossing plot. Some will scorn this high fantasy world. However, if you’re anything like me, you will love this book for it’s slow burn, murder mystery plot, characters with sore hearts, as well as magic, unearthing old secrets, and a competition among the dirtiest, most formidable criminals out there in the land. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a favorite debut of the year, packed with weapon-wielding action at the hands of a hot-headed, arrogant teenage assassin, both steamy and subtle romance with two love interests (Team Chaol!), and mysterious magical interference. If you’re a lover of fantasy, I suggest you give this a whirl.

  1. Small Review
  2. Bunbury in the Stacks
  3. Emily's Reading Room

  1. Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers
  2. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
  3. Defiance by CJ Redwine
  4. Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Comment down below if you've got three scars on your body or you always believed Cinderella could be an assassin. (Throne of Glass is a very loose reimagining of the fairy tale.)


Lili said...

I am so excited to read this book that it's not even funny! I bought it and I will be starting it soon. Like your blurb at the end said, it's not for everyone. Every review I have seen of it is of someone freaking out with adoration or vehemently explaining how they didn't like it. There's no common ground. It's amazingly awesome or amazingly bad. I feel like a well-written love triangle and a murder mystery plot is totally something worth checking out, and I totally plan on doing so, too. I'm excited to form my own opinion on this, but I'm so glad you're one of the people who enjoyed it, Asher!

Thank you for the review!

Annette Mills said...

I agree. I loved Celaena because she WASN'T a cookie cutter heroine. She's unexpected! Loved this book. Interesting review!

Katja Weinert said...

I adored the novellas and novel, great review; fab quotes and lovely referencing. thanks gore sharing.

Katja Weinert said...

Oh, *curses phone autocorrect* gore = for

Mar - How I see it said...

amazing review! I am really looking forward to reading Throne of Glass, the blurb lured me in. I really hope that I will like Celaena and the love triangle, but to me both of them sound like something I could easily go down with.

Thanks for reviewing,

AnimeJune said...

Yeah, I'm one of the people on the other side, who vehemently disliked it. I love your review, it explains everything about why you liked it really well, but I have to respectfully disagree.

I could not buy Celaena as a murderous assassin who spent a year in a death camp. For me, it was the little things that I didn't understand about her character. Like how she complains about wet shoes THREE DAYS after being rescued from a death camp. REALLY. Wet shoes? After a lifetime of poverty and the death camp? Would you rather go back TO THE DEATH CAMP? And the fact that she made her living murdering people - and yet the idea of a poor puppy being put to sleep brings her to tears? Yes, I have the blood of hundreds of people on my young awesome hands (including the 23 people I slaughtered breaking out of prison!) but THINK OF THE PUPPIES!

I would not be surprised if they tried to whitewash her backstory in the second book by explaining she only brutally murdered BAD people.

For me, I felt the book TOLD me that Celaena is an awesome morally gray assassin and yet none of this is shown in her behaviour or backstory. She instantly likes people who appear good and has no prejudices or irrational fears or angers or hatreds except against those people who are Obviously Evil. To me, she was a Mary Sue poorly disguised with a badly-developed backstory.

But again, this is just my opinion. On the romantic side of the spectrum, it was somewhat entertaining - although I prefer the Prince. I get really tired of "heroes" who express their unrequited love by being jerks to the heroine. But as a fantasy? Not really. I didn't feel the worldbuilding measured up.

If your tastes differ, I would highly recommend the "Lioness Rampant" series from Tamora Pierce. Actually, pretty much anything written by Tamora Pierce.

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

GIRL. Your review IS PERFECT AND AMAZING. I could only wish I could ever write something this amazing.

Chaol sees the heart of her and accepts it without needing to know all of her ghosts and torments,

THIS. This gave me legit cold chills! Because it is SO SO SO TRUE!

Ash @ Paranormal Indulgence said...

No, thank you! I'm so glad that you enjoyed the review =D

Asheley Tart said...

Love your thoughts!
I read and reviewed this one on this tour as well. I think, and I choose to stand by, that this book is a set-up for the future installments in this series. (I've read there will be five additional books??? Whaaa?) To me, that is the only explanation for how intricate the story lines are without ever seeming to converge. I love them all, don't get me wrong, but at the end of the book it felt like I'd merely touched on all of these stories rather than dove into them.

As far as characterization, there are a lot of them! So, of course, the development wouldn't be as deep as it would be if there fewer. I like Celaena - I like her girlishness (despite lots of people HATING it) and do not find it odd that people can be girly and badass at the same time. (Hello? Anyone ever seen female Marines? Or other female US military members? Thank you and goodbye.) Also, I loved that she was bookish. The two guys - I loved them both but I KNOW KNOW KNOW that my heart will be broken when she finally decides to make a decision.

As far as a decision in this love triangle - I can't tell where her head is! She seems to like them both as they both fall in love with her, genuinely in love. It was sad to me, because I am anticipating my heart being broken along with whichever fellow she doesn't choose.

At the end, I liked the book, but I didn't GUSH over it. It was a good start, but it wasn't solid to me. I'm eager for book two, though, and I'll try and grab it as soon as I can. (Also, I didn't like the way the book was compared to The Game of Thrones series.) My review was not very popular. Haha