Monday, 9 March 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - Review

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy, Romance
Content warning: Violence
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed from friend
My Rating: ★★★

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 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've been wanting to write up this one earlier, but I got hit with the flu bug, so writing anything for leisure with a body temperature of 38 degrees just doesn't feel... leisurely. But THIS BOOK. So much I want to SAY.

My howl for this book is:


          This book had a lot of hype, and people introducing the book mentioned "female assassin", so nothing was going to stop the strong female protagonist lover in me from reading it, and I went in without so much as glancing over the synopsis. When I read the synopsis right before posting this, I snorted a little because it sounded way cooler than how the actual story was like. Probably should not have snorted though, because I actually did not have a hard time finishing the book, so it must have brewed suspense well somewhere. Unfortunately, it was lacking in terms of characters, especially the most important character of the book and for me, it was a huge problem. *shakes head and sighs*

          Throne of Glass is about Celaena Sardothien, 18, (supposedly the best assassin in all of Erilea) who was temporarily released from her enslavement in the Endovier salt mines and brought to Rifthold (the capital) to compete with other killing specialists for the title of the King's Champion, in other words, the king's personal assassin, so it's totally "official". The Crown Prince of Adarlan (the country) made her this offer: win the competition and be a free person after four years of service, or get thrown back into the harsh environments of the salt mines, awaiting death. Of course she chose the former, and thus started this journey to train and win the competition. If only it were that simple of our heroine. Not long after, the competitors start turning up dead, mauled to shreds by someone or SOMETHING, then there are the mysteries that lurk beneath the castle's walls...(ooohhhhhh)

          If my "ooohhhhh" seemed sarcastic, that's because it was. From the very beginning of the book, Celaena has been described as "the most notorious assassin", and that hearing her name would actually petrify people. All in all, she was THE BEST. And I got that impression, when she boasted about killing her overseer and twenty-three other sentries back in the mines with just a pickax. BUT IT ENDS THERE.  Although she kept talking about how she would murder some of the characters in extreme detail during her internal monologues, she doesn't assassinate anyone else AT ALL. You can argue that she only does it on a hiring basis, but what's the point of giving us an assassin as a main character when we don't even get to read about her doing what she does BEST? I thought that I'd get some showcase of badass female assassinating skills in the trials before the actual competition but guess what the trials were?? Humdrum tasks that every assassin were unquestionably expected to already be good at like poison identification, one-on-one sparring, archery, wall scaling and parkour-like race... like "oh, these were the deadly trials to select the King's Champion? Sorry I thought I just read about AN AMATEUR CONTEST FOR JUNIOR ASSASSIN-WANNABE STUDENTS." Okay, maybe the trials weren't meant to be. But why not AT LEAST get one of those nobles in the court to hire her for their own hidden political agendas? I would read the heck out of that.

           Fine. Let's say we give this book the benefit of doubt. Maybe Celaena will assassinate someone in the NEXT book, as she is distracted with competing at the moment. But honestly speaking, there were so many instances that made me question her competence as an assassin. For one thing, she is able to sleep through a whole lot without even being on guard and perform that classic "sneaking up on any intruders with a knife" assassin move. Someone was able to enter her room, draw Wyrdmarks (magical sigil thingys) UNDER HER BED UNNOTICED and still, most mornings she had to be woken up by Chaol her babysitter, then complains about how she needs more sleep because "she stayed up till four in the morning". Doing what you might ask? READING. Passionately READING the books that the Crown Prince sent her after writing a rather flirtatious letter to him asking for them. *smacks forehead* The most laughable incident was when someone left a huge bag of candy on her bed (again she slept through it and did not notice) and the first instance she saw what it was, she went "oh how I love candy!" and proceeded to gobble up half the bag no questions asked, forgetting that a KILLING MAN/BEAST WAS ON THE LOOSE in the castle targeting competitors LIKE HER, and that those lovable candies might be POISONED. Seriously girl, there is a time and place for everything. You don't even need to be an assassin extraordinaire to know that.

           And the ROMANCE (if you can even call it that) was just as subtle as a brick. It takes up about more than half the book, with the constant flirting and lame banters that came across as forced and led to nowhere. It kinda felt like reading Twilight again, as it got me reminiscing about the love triangle plot from hell. So much of the book's potential gems like the magical lore and murder mystery got overshadowed by these hormone-infested manchildren obssessing over a criminal who just happened to be an attractive woman.

          Did I like anything about the book at all? Well if I had to turn a blind eye... I generally favored Chaol Westfall, our Captain of the Royal Guard, who seemed to be the only one who is most aware of his priorities, until of course, his role as love interest had to be played. At least he played the less annoying one, actually trying to fulfill his responsibility as her supervisor or tutor, building some form of friendship with Celaena first before going googly eyes all over her, despite knowing her for the killer she was because he is just so good-natured that way. (I just can't understand why he has to be the one to wake her up in the morning though, like doesn't Celaena have a personal maid??? And how is he allowed to walk into her private rooms anytime he pleases? Did the court not set any rules or boundaries??? GAHHH). I also kind of liked Nehemia, the Eyllwean princess as our character of color, but only when she hung out with Celaena, and together they somehow led this book to pass the Bechdel test. I guess I liked reading about her because it was only when the two women converse that Celaena wasn't gushing over Prince Dorian or how pretty she herself looked in court dresses, most of the time anyway. But Nehemia, as a princess, seemed clueless about diplomacy and political strategizing, hence the "kind of liked".

           I give Throne of Glass 3/5 stars, because if I look pass the ridiculous writing of the characters, I could sense an inkling of interest in me to know about that never-before-seen Wyrdmark on Celaena's forehead,  and how is she connected to the Fae King and Queen, and the identity of her dead parents because THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING THERE. I HOPE. WE'LL SEE IN THE SECOND BOOK. At least I still want to continue reading so I'll give that credit to the author.

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