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 kings 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 exhilirating. 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.
Ah, high fantasy. So many love you as a genre but your appeal nearly always escapes me. In fact, the majority of high fantasy books I pick up end up in the forlorn DNF pile. Fortunately that wasn’t the case with Throne of Glass, which I really did enjoy overall. That said, judging by the off-the-charts reviews it’s getting on GoodReads (seriously, almost everyone on my friends list who has read it has given it a five) I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some others. And you know, I’m starting to think that that’s on me and not on the books. I’m a high fantasy failure.
Anyway, to me the best thing about Throne of Glass is the heroine herself. Celaena is a totally kickass, take no prisoners kind of woman. She’s the most feared assassin in the world, and she has earned her reputation. On the other hand, she has always been enslaved in either the literal or the figurative sense. She has led the very definition of a hard life. It would have been easy to make her totally one-dimensional, a mean girl with no love for anyone and wanting only vengeance. Ms. Maas manages to avoid falling into that trap and instead has created a layered heroine who is acutely aware of the damage that has been done to her and by her, but who still has hope that one day she will be free to live her own life.
I was less enamored of the love triangle, pardon the pun. While this one is better than most because it’s never extremely obvious who she should choose (at least, it wasn’t to me) I am just kind of tired of the YA love triangle overall. And I didn’t feel like it added a whole lot to the story, although to be fair it might play more of a role in the coming books. Still, I did find myself rooting for Chaol.
Also, I hope that in the next book we find out how Celaena ended up in the mines in Endovier. It’s hinted at a few times but there is never any real info given, and it sounds like it would be an interesting part of the story.
Overall, the book started off slow for me and was a slow read. It didn’t feel like I was slogging through or anything, I just didn’t burn through it like I do with so many other books. That’s neither a positive or a negative, just an observation. And as I said, I did like it. I really think I liked it as much as I’m capable of liking high fantasy, so despite my star rating this is actually quite a positive review of the book. I’d also recommend checking on GoodReads because the reviews there are almost unfailingly positive and have higher star ratings than the one I’m giving. And I definitely liked it enough to want to read the next book, which almost never happens with the HF genre.