Since picking up Throne of Glass in 2013, YA Fantasy, and Fantasy in general, has become the central focus of my reading interests, and Celaena’s journey has become a part of my own journey into adulthood.
However, it has recently come to my attention that, despite the fact that the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas is undoubtedly one of my all-time favourite series, I have yet to review every single book in the series. Therefore, I have decided to rectify this issue by beginning to review the series now, followed by an individual review of The Assassin’s Blade, and a review of the sixth book following its release in September 2018.
In addition, for those interested, I do have individual book reviews of Tower of Dawn, and Empire of Storms (spoiler-free review here) available on my blog, and I will have reviews for both Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire available later this week.
Released on August 2, 2012, Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas introduced readers to what would eventually become an epic fantasy series that would earn Maas to title of “Queen Maas” among YA Fantasy readers. This first book follows the adventures of an imprisoned teenage assassin named Celaena Sardothien, who is offered her freedom by the Prince of the kingdom she despises, in exchange for her services to a tyrannical king – if she can win the title in a tournament against some of the kingdom’s deadliest criminals. Riddled with action, intrigue and romance, Throne of Glass is sure to ensnare readers, and will have them dying to devour the rest of the series.
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 four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. 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.
I first picked up Throne of Glass in the fall of 2013 – I had just started university, and was looking for something to read to help whisk me away from the stress and loneliness that defined that first year away from home. And Throne of Glass undeniably re-sparked my love for YA Fantasy, and had me picking up Crown of Midnight shortly thereafter.
While the world building was lacking in this book (Maas introduces readers to a lot of information with minimal background knowledge), Maas made up for it was exemplary storytelling and writing skills. The story itself is full of suspense and thrilling moments,which keeps you turning the pages – until you (sadly) reach the last page and have nowhere to go but the bookstore (because you need Crown of Midnight).
“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” – Sarah J Maas, Throne of Glass
Next, Throne of Glass introduces readers to several integral characters in this tale (though not all), including Celaena Sardothien, Dorian Havillard, Chaol Westfall, Nehemia Ytger, Duke Perrington, and the King of Adarlan. Celaena is the young assassin – who was known to most as Adarlan’s Assassin before her capture and imprisonment at Endovier. Trained from childhood to become an assassin, she was betrayed by her master and imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier with the expectation that she would die – but after surviving a grueling year, she is offered an opportunity to participate in the competition to become the King’s Champion, sponsored by Prince Dorian Havillard himself. If she wins, she would be an assassin in service to the King of Adarlan for four years. But then she will be granted her freedom and a full pardon. Celaena is an intriguing protagonist – she is vulnerable yet dangerous, independent yet yearning for affection and friendship. Yet she has also built a wall around herself and her true nature, and is untrusting of those who would befriend her – namely Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia. Dorian is the naive, foolhardy eldest son of the King of Adarlan, and therefore Celaena’s enemy. But when he chooses Celaena to be his contender for the competition to become his father’s champion, he forces the two of them into an uneasy partnership. The Dorian in this book is, just as I said, naive – he is a real lady’s man, and is utterly blind to the true nature of those around him. He is, however, balanced by his stoic and wary best friend, the Captain of his father’s guard, Chaol Westfall. Chaol is very wary of Celaena throughout the book because he knows very well how big a threat she is, but he trains her and guards her out of loyalty to Dorian – a character trait he maintains throughout the series. Finally – Nehemia. She is a princess of the kingdom of Eyllwe, who have entered an uneasy truce with Adarlan to avoid outright slaughter. She is clever and deceptive, and is a very strong-willed person who refuses to be looked down upon. She and Celaena become quick friends, though neither are willing to reveal all their secrets.
“We all bear scars,… Mine just happen to be more visible than most.” – Sarah J Maas, Throne of Glass
Finally, let’s talk a bit more about Celaena, because she is a heroine who deserves more than she often gets from this community. As I said, in Throne of Glass she is an intriguing protagonist – she is vulnerable yet dangerous, independent yet yearning for affection and friendship. Yet she has also built a wall around herself and her true nature, and is untrusting of those who would befriend her – namely Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia. She is also vain, arrogant, and over confident – something that hasn’t endeared her to all readers. Yet that is exactly what has always endeared her to me – the fact that, despite the hardships and traumas she has faced (and overcome) she is still strong. Instead of drowning in self-pity (which, don’t get me wrong, she had every right to do, given her past), she decided to stand up, square her shoulders and survive.
Overall, as is probably evident, Throne of Glass holds a very special place in my heart, and I adore it through and through. I do recognize that it is not without its problems, and is (unfortunately) disconnected from the later books in the series (as is Crown of Midnight). Despite this, the storytelling and characters make this an unforgettable read (4/5).