Book Review: Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

throneofglass

Title: Throne of Glass (2012)
Series: Throne of Glass – Book 1
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 404 pages
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Review: In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is serving a life sentence for being an assassin. This was until the Crown Prince offers her a deal: if she fights for him in a tournament to the death and serves his kingdom for a certain period of time, she will be free.

Unfortunately, I must be one of those very rare people who didn’t find this book ~*TOTALLY AMAZING*~ (all caps). I think the reason for my relatively low rating (and by that I mean low in comparison to the ones I’ve seen in the blogosphere) is the characterisation of the main character. This review is going to read more like a rant at some parts, so please bear with me.

Before starting Throne of Glass, I was already afraid that Celaena was going to be a Mary Sue, and I wasn’t wrong—she ticked off many of the characteristics of one, including but not limited to:

  • She has a strangely spelled, pretty-sounding name that’s related to nature—Celaena is pronounced ‘Selena’, which means the moon. This is in contrast to other characters in the book whose names are spelled quite normally, i.e. Philippa, Sam, Dorian, Bill, Cain, Xavier (#1).
  • She is described as especially beautiful numerous times throughout the book, in great detail at that. Many people commented on her beauty and found her attractive or a competition (#4-6, #11).
  • She has unnaturally coloured eyes: blue/grey/green with ‘a brilliant ring of gold’ (#12).
  • Her outfits are described in extremely great detail (#17).
  • She is incredibly snarky and prone to insulting the other characters (#28).
  • Animals are instinctively attracted to her (#39).
  • She is the best assassin in the region and famous for that, despite being ‘just a young girl’ (#48).
  • She plays the piano extremely well even though she hasn’t touched it in a few years (#50).
  • She’s an orphan who is later adopted by an assassin, and her past is incredibly traumatic and tough (#85-87).

Basically, what I meant to say is that Celaena is a Mary Sue, and I found that really, really, REALLY irritating. Besides being too perfect, she was also unnecessarily arrogant and really quite rude.  A good chunk of the book was devoted to describing how beautiful and talented she is, and it didn’t do anything for me.

Celaena also wasn’t believable as an assassin. She was much too vain, too into her clothes and her looks. She complained about many things that I don’t think a world-class, number-one assassin would even think of, starting from her shoes:

Everything was wet and half-frozen, and while she could bear sodden hair, she couldn’t withstand the agony of wet shoes. — Chapter 6

… to being dirty:

But she’d been trained to be an assassin since the age of eight, since the day the King of the Assassins found her half-dead on the banks of a frozen river and brought her to his keep. She wouldn’t be humiliated by anything, least of all being dirty. — Chapter 2

“I’m capable of quite a lot, thank you,” she said, picking at her jagged nails. She tried not to cringe at all the dirt beneath them. When was the last time her hands had been clean? — Chapter 3

… to her shoes again:

“But my feet hurt in these shoes.” She frowned pitifully. “You can’t intend for me to stand all day? Even through my meals?” — Chapter 12

You get the point. On that note, who even rates these assassins? Who decided that Celaena’s the best assassin? Is there a world ranking? How does it work? So many questions!

Secondly, the romance fell short for me. I didn’t like that Celaena was so enamoured by [highlight to read spoiler] Dorian [/spoiler]. Their relationship came out of nowhere for me, given that they didn’t actually spend that much time together, although she did keep mentioning how handsome he was:

Princes are not supposed to be handsome! They’re sniveling, stupid, repulsive creatures! This one… this… How unfair of him to be royal and beautiful. — Chapter 2

In fact, he was so attractive that she had difficulty not thinking about how attractive he was, and again wondered why he wasn’t married. She sort of wanted to kiss him. (…) Damn him for being so handsome! — Chapter 18

I much prefer [highlight to read spoiler] Chaol [/spoiler], who was much more smart, responsible and really quite likeable, but alas.

If I have to say who my favourite character is, though, it’s probably Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe. She was brave and bold, completely devoted to her country, and yet smart enough to know which cards she should play. She had a few tricks up her sleeve which I thought were much more interesting than Celaena’s trials and tribulations.

All that aside, Maas was great at keeping the tension, and every scene from the beginning up until the end is imbued with suspense. Despite my lack of connection with Celaena, I still wanted to know what happens next, and the plot generally didn’t disappoint. Making me care about the plot when I don’t care about the characters is incredibly hard to do, so props to Maas for that.

The world-building was interesting too. Celaena lives in a world unlike ours, complete with its own cultures, traditions, languages, politics and history. The places Maas described in the book—starting from the salt mines of Endovier to the entire Adarlan kingdom—were well-developed, and it was these things that I really didn’t mind long descriptions on because they came alive in my head. It was also quite interesting to read about the Wyrd, the Yulemas, and the way religion works in Celaena’s world.

Overall, Throne of Glass was a slightly irritating read, with the occasional enjoyable scenes. I didn’t like the main character at all and found the romance mediocre at best, but there were still parts of it that I appreciated. Maas isn’t a bad writer—this book just isn’t for me.

On that note, I am honestly SO UTTERLY DEVASTATED that I didn’t like this book as much as I wished! The blogosphere is totally crazy for it, and I’m just here twiddling my thumbs and feeling like something is wrong with me. 😦 Can someone tell me if Celaena gets less ‘perfect’ in the later books? I might still read them.

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47 thoughts on “Book Review: Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

  1. Lovely review! I have always thought about picking up this book. In fact, the entire series but I haven’t done so yet. I may be having second thoughts now! However, you may not have loved but I still might. I don’t know? 🙂

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    • Thanks, haha! I couldn’t help but to get a little bit ranty. :p

      Honestly, most people LOVE this book, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you do love it as well. It is a very popular series for a reason–it just didn’t really resonate with me because it hit many of my pet peeves (as I mentioned in my review). I personally think you should pick it up, let it speak for itself. Let me know what you think if you’re able to! :p

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually give the book quite a high mark – on my scale it’s a B+ (4 stars). I saw some things lacking but overall, I quite enjoyed it. I was expecting way worse but I was just happy that it was better than my initial thoughts.
    I agree with most of what you’ve written and I also pointed out some on my own review – her somewhat annoying beauty, the love triangle (romance) and I also wasn’t convince that she’s the infamous Adarlan’s assassin.
    Here’s my review BTW 🙂 :
    https://thelitmermaid.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/throne-of-glass-throne-of-glass-1-by-sarah-j-maas/

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    • I think for me there were just too many things that hit me right in the pet peeves, so in the end, the good stuff wasn’t enough to turn it into an enjoyable reading experience.

      I also found her beauty annoying rather than… amazing, haha. I can’t imagine anyone being in the salt mines for as long as she did and still being as vain/into her looks as she was. :/

      Thank you for linking me to your review!

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      • You’re on point on her vanity! I overlooked that part obviously. Maybe she was always that vain? XD
        Well on that note, I actually read the sequel with the premise that the story might get better. In some ways, it actually did but… I don’t think I’ll finish the series.

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  3. Oh no! Ha ha, no it’s fine though that you didn’t like it. It’s 5 stars for me, but well, you know how opinions vary. I like how you didn’t just say that you hated it, it sucked, case closed, but took your time to explain why exactly you did. So I take it that you aren’t going to read the sequel then? 😉

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  4. After reading your review I won’t be picking up this book…I thought of it but seeing how you’ve pointed out a few things which I feel I’d also have a problem with I will forgo this book. This was a lovely review, liked the way you presented your thoughts 😀

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    • Eek, I definitely didn’t mean to deter people away from this book–many (most) loved it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the very rare odd one out, haha. I think it’s just that characterisation is very, very important to me, and I really don’t like Mary Sues, so instead of finding Celaena endearing and fun like most other readers, I found her incredibly irritating. :/

      Thank you for your comment! And do let me know if you end up picking up the book after all, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha! That shows how much ppl trust your opinions. I’m also big on characterizations; and with the few quotes you’ve provided, along with your analysis I just feel it isn’t the book for me. I’ll think about picking it up if I manage to get over my reading slump and have some extra time 😉

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  5. I’ve been told by a lot of people that I need to pick up this book. However, I’ve been reluctant to do so for several reasons. The hype was definitely a cause for concern as well as the love triangle that apparently turns into a love square later in the series. I’ve also seen a lot of drama in the fandom. So I may check the series out eventually but I think I’ll wait until all the books are released. Great review. 🙂

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    • I think the hype only managed to raise my expectations, so it definitely wasn’t an advantage in my case, haha. I went in expecting to be blown away, and instead I was just constantly annoyed–it didn’t really make for an enjoyable reading experience.

      Why were you reluctant to pick up the book, and what drama in the fandom was there? :O

      Liked by 1 person

      • From my understanding the drama is basically centered on the shipping wars and it’s caused quite a divide in the fandom. From the reviews I’ve read on the latest book some people feel cheated in the way that Chaol is presented and there’s basically a lot of character/ship bashing. I’m always wary of over hyped books because I know my expectations will always be too high and that’s why I’ve stayed away from this series so far.

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  6. You’ve made me rethink about my plans on buying the entire series! :/ I’ve heard so many people loving it but I think it’s important to like the characters of a book and I don’t think I’ll like Celeana from your thoughts…

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    • Most people actually LOVED this book (and the series)–I think I just read it completely differently, haha. Characterisation is very important to me, and Mary Sue characters are a HUGE pet peeve of mine, so instead of liking Celaena, I was just really irritated by her.

      What I would suggest is maybe buy just the first one or borrow the series from the library? That way you can decide if you like it or not before spending money on it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really did not like this book, either. People say the series gets better as you go along, but I just don’t care that much about it to find out. I did like A Court of Thrones and Roses by the same author much better than this one, but it was more like a 3 star read for me than the 5 most people give it. But I am glad it a chance eventually because I wasn’t going to since I disliked this book so much.

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    • To be honest, you’re the first person to agree with me and I’m super glad you did! I just found Celaena really, really irritating, and that ruined pretty much the whole book for me. 😦

      Thank you for saying that A Court of Thrones and Roses is better though–I’ll look it up! I think what sucks is just that I was so excited about Throne of Glass; everyone pretty much loved it and I really, really didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to admit, in hindsight I didn’t enjoy ToG as I thought. I think I did get pretty swept away with the hype; if I was to re-read and re-review, I think I would give it lower – probably because I have read a lot of books since reading ToG, so I’ve developed my taste and awareness of what works well.

    Your critique of Celeana is absolutely valid; I’ve only read up til Crown of Midnight, but much of that hasn’t changed. Though, I have to say her character develops somewhat in CoM, especially when she feels conflicted about her values and war. In saying that though, I felt like CoM to be superior to ToG in every way – though the improvement is slight. I’ve heard the series gets better with every book though; I guess I’ll find out!

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    • That happens to me so often! I’ve changed my mind on quite a lot of books, and after a while, I tend to rate them lower than what I did the first time — I think by then my emotions have settled down, haha.

      And thank you, CW! I might actually check out the second book just because and see if I like it better or not. I do enjoy when characters go through internal conflict, and Celaena does seem to have lots of potential in that area. Or maybe I’m just being too hopeful… hype tends to bite me in the behind, haha. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too! Sometimes when I’m a good mood/feels are crazy, I rate the book higher than I ought to. Some we’re alike in that respect!

        I’d give it a go! The characters are written better, and there is definitely some internal conflict and the characters are met with some challenges. 🙂 I do hope you enjoy it if you read it!

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  9. I love this book but with reservations I must say. Like you, most of my issues are because of Celaena and how flawlessand obnoxiously arrogants she is. Plus, instead of being a fantasy book, it became more of a romance. The second installment, Crown of Midnight, is definitely a step up for me..

    Great review, Reg! I love your honest, straigtforward feels on this despite knowing a lot of people have the opposite opinion toward this book 🙂

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    • She is rather obnoxiously arrogant, haha. I think that aspect of her personality is fine with me if she is deserving of it, but I’m not convinced that she’s that great of an assassin either, so it’s a double whammy in my case. D:

      Lots of people have said that Crown of Midnight is even better, so I think I’ll go pick it up, actually. And thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed my review-slash-rant! ❤

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  10. I liked your review–I personally enjoyed the book, but I thought that your review did a good job explaining the con aspects. Celaena’s character, however, matures a lot throughout the series, although she does maintain a few characteristics.

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  11. Oh my gosh. I totally didn’t realize that Celaena was a Mary Sue. That makes her…one of my favorite Mary Sue’s ever! I never expected me to be susceptible to that kind of character, but here we are.

    I put off reading Throne of Glass for so long because I was convinced I would hate it (I’ve had such bad experiences with hyped books), but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

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    • Lucky! That was on the forefront of my mind for loooong before I picked up the book, and once I started wondering if Celaena was a Mary Sue, I couldn’t help but notice all the signs. And hey, we all have exceptions. ❤

      It's great that you liked this book; I feel like I'm the odd one out! Apparently the subsequent books are better, though, so I'm looking forward to reading those. :p

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  12. oh my god! excellent review! I completely agree with you, though i didn’t like the world building; I didn’t think there was much of a world building. I loved when they described the world (i feel like i’m saying world too much) but I didn’t think there was enough of it. maybe there should’ve been more descriptions of that instead of her dresses, lol. And yes! It just seemed like the author was trying too hard to make her an awesome character. Its like the icing on the cake was way too sweet, know what I mean? The more I think about this book the more I’m disappointed. Though I do plan on continuing with the next book because I just feel like there’s so much potential.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh, I’m somewhere in between with the world building–I think I’m conscious of the fact that Maas has six (is it six?) books in which she could develop the world further, and I appreciate what little tidbit we got in this one. It also makes it more suspenseful and mysterious, in a sense.

      And I definitely know what you mean about the icing on the cake! I felt like she was trying too hard to convince me that Celaena is this awesome person–it just felt like a lie? Like the whole “if you’re a really awesome person, you wouldn’t need to brag about it” type of thing.

      You’re not the only one disappointed! Mine is literally the only one of two bad reviews I’ve read in the blogosphere (excluding Goodreads), and I’m just sad I didn’t enjoy this one as much as others have. I’m still undecided on picking up the second book, but I am curious–do let me know what you think, and if it’s worth reading! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I found the main character so overbearingly annoying and too perfect that she’s just unrealistic, and her relationship with the men in her life didn’t really fascinate me. My review has more specific reasons why I didn’t like this book, and to be honest, even without the hype I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it. […]

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  14. I rather enjoyed this but I can definitely see where you’re coming from. I think I was able to ignore the mary-sueness because I dove head first into the second book mere seconds after finishing the first. Let me tell you, she gets less perfect as the books go on. Like, super broken/messed up. And this is going to sound terrible, but I liked it. I think it makes her more believable when she has to overcome such terrible hardships and you finally learn about her past (in book 3.) The short lived romance with Dorian is by far the worst romance in this series but thankfully it gets shot down quickly. It didn’t really serve a purpose.

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    • The second book is definitely better than the first (I’ve read it now), and you’re right that she gets less perfect! I agree that the Dorian/Celaena romance didn’t serve a purpose–it probably would have been better if they were just friends from the start. Maybe it’s to build some angst for the second book? I’m not sure. 😛

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  15. I think Number 2 can be crossed off as well (Deliberately make the character look like the author). All of SJM’s favorite characters–Celaena, Manon, Feyre, Nesta, Elain, Mor (From ACOMAF)–have a tendency to be blue-eyed, blonde haired.

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    • Oooh, that’s a good point! I didn’t realise and was a bit afraid of making assumptions, haha. At the point of this review I’ve only read Throne of Glass, and as you can imagine I’m not toooo excited to read Maas’s other books. Thanks for pointing that out! 😛

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  16. I was really annoyed when in an early chapter, it’s said the guards in the mine have all been trained to be able to kill a squirrel by arrow through the eye at 500 feet or something insane like that. But one day, Caleana snapped and literally came without like a foot of getting out the door before they got here. What, were all the guards on coffee break? How did she get THAT far when they’re all so well trained???

    I also hate how she’s the “number one” assassin. In the prequels, the author introduces multiple assassins who are much older then her and probably have been training longer then she’s been alive. How is she so much better???

    If the plot and pacing hadn’t been so interesting, would of thrown this book across the room and never looked back.

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    • I forgot about that tidbit, but I can relate – I just feel like Celaena was totally unrealistic with the whole “best assassin” bit. Like it’s already really hard to go against maybe like 3 people, but she’s so amazing that she could literally obliterate almost a whole prison? Yeah, I dunno about that. :/

      I haven’t read the prequels yet, but I’ve been told if I do I might like Celaena better. Did you feel like that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I really like the prequels. They’re five short stories that lead to her getting sent to the salt mines. I like them better then the books. They also feature her assassin master, who I think is a pretty good character.

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