Title: Throne of Glass (2012)
Series: Throne of Glass – Book 1
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 404 pages
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.