Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. ★★1/2
Throne of Glass is a YA fantasy that felt like a compilation of YA tropes I’m not fond of. The heroine, Celaena Sardothien, is the best assassin in the world at the age of eighteen. She’s spent the last year in a prison camp but is offered the chance at freedom if she wins a tournament to become the king’s new personal assassin. However, for something nominally the focus of the book, the tournament doesn’t receive a lot of page time.
Throne of Glass has a slow start. It takes until halfway through the book for the main plot to finally arrive. And the tournament? It’s often skipped over in a few sentences summaries, which more than anything else tells you just how exciting this plot line is.
Instead, a lot of time is spent on the love triangle and how commenting on how amazingly attractive the various characters are and how great Celaena looks in her various outfits. I hate love triangles, and I especially hate love triangles where the only basis for the relationship is how good looking the people are. Besides, it’s not like either of her love interests had an actual personality.
Celaena herself annoyed me, especially at first. She’s vain and frivolous, and it feels like most of her assassin’s skills are told rather than shown. She doesn’t act like someone who’s killed for a living, much less the most famous assassin. She doesn’t act like someone who’s just spent a year in the harsh conditions of a mining prison. What even is her motivation? She wants her freedom, but when it’s literally staring her in the face she doesn’t take it. Instead she for some bizarre reason stays around to participate in the tournament to become the personal killer of a man she hates! None of this makes any sense!
There was an undercurrent of girl hate and “not like other girls” with Celaena immediately hating on the female courtiers (who are obviously all vain, frivolous and gossipy… much like Celaena?), with the only named courtier being a classic mean girl character type. As a bonus, she hated Celaena because she wanted to marry one of Celaena’s love interests. I am so tired of these plot lines. However, this whole section of the novel was ultimately saved from being completely terrible by the inclusion of Celaena’s friendship with a foreign princess, Nehemia. While she could have used more characterization (this is true for every character in the book), she had one thing everyone else seemed to be lacking: motivation. It didn’t take much for Nehemia to become my favorite character.
I really love books with good world building. Unfortunately, Throne of Glass does not fit into this category. It’s basically a completely generic medieval Europe/fairy tale world type. To make things even better, Maas outright lifted holidays from our own culture. Case in point “Yulemas,” a winter holiday celebrating the birth of the Goddess’s first son where people give each other presents. More than anything else, that displays the amount of creativity and imagination which went into the world of Throne of Glass.
Basically, Throne of Glass is a YA trope extravaganza. If that sounds like your thing, you might find it has value for fluff reading. However, it’s not a book I would recommend.