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 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.
I wrote this review last summer and this was my initial reaction to the series’ first. I’ll be re-reading this book to refresh my memory before I move on to Crown of Midnight. Maybe my opinion of the book will change, but for now, this is where I stand. Warning: This is a long, in-depth, sort of rant-like review. So prepare yourselves.
Before I say anything (because I might sound a little contradictory later), I liked this book. It kept me interested throughout and I finished it in a few hours. I’ve given it 3.5 stars and I’m ready to read the sequel. So, what’s the problem? Okay. Let me just say this: just because I read a book and liked it, it doesn’t mean I didn’t find a lot of problems with the story.
Celaena Sardothien had the potential to be a remarkable female character that set the bar pretty high on heroins that can kick some hefty ass, be cunning, comedic, complex, and confidently beautiful. But all I got from Ms. Mighty Assassin (because the author would like to remind us every five pages) is that she is stunning, she likes clothes, she is feared across the land, and she likes candy. She was one of the most un-assassin-like assassins I have ever read. Not once did I ever feel like she was a character to be feared. Sure there was a moment or two in there where she showed her skills, but for the majority of the book she was a girly girl who loved to play dress up and flirt with the boys.
She loves attention and she loves to say how great she is and fantasizes about the damage she can do to other people, but she never does anything to the point that should generate the fear the other characters had towards her.
The worst part had to be what I call the “Candy You-Gotta-Be-Kidding-Me Incident” because how does one of the greatest assassins of all time allow someone to sneak into her room (not once but like three times) and place a bag of candy next to her head. HER HEAD. How does she not wake up with a knife in her hand? And why would she eat this anonymous bag of candy??
And another thing, if she were such a great assassin, how’d she get caught? And another thing, wouldn’t she be a bit more wary and/or suspicious about the people around her? Wouldn’t she, oh I don’t know, smell a cup of wine before she drinks it, especially if someone whom she does not trust gives it to her. Case in point, the character has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with. The author just needs to give her more strength, courage, and cunning (a lot more of this actually) to be a true assassin and turn down the emphasis on her beauty and so-called skills. Show, not tell.
I’ll make this part quick. The boys in the love triangle were a bit superficial. One was just part of the triangle because he was pretty and a player (a pretty player), and the other was there to be the foil to pretty boy. That’s about it. The captain of the guard, Chaol, rarely if ever really acted like a highly accomplished captain of the guard at the ripe age of 22 and the two boys spent more time chasing after Celaena than doing their respective jobs and you know, living their own lives.
The plot is pretty simple and the synopsis on the back of the book made it seem as if the competition would be the kind that would have readers on the edge of their seats the whole time. Come to find out, most of the book isn’t even focused on the competition but the stuff that happens outside of the competition. The romance, the superfluous political intrigue, the deaths, the wyrdmarks and magic. All that stuff was way more important than the competition in which the most trying thing the competitors had to go through was climbing a building. At least someone died during the competition rather than during training (which was also emphasized to a very minimal point). I wanted to see a lot more of it. You know, bloody death and all that. Sabotage even. I actually wanted to see Celaena commit a crime against one of the other contenders because that would have given her a much-needed ruthless edge to her character.
Overall, I’d say about 70% of the book is dedicated to romance and the rest was the competition and the mystery around the deaths. That in itself is a little disappointing.
I haven’t read Fire of Song and Ice but I have watched GoT. I can only imagine the type of thought that went into creating such a dynamic world with various characters, kingdoms, issues, and geological locations.
Erilea on the other hand is just another generic territory with a generic tyrant who wants to take over the rest of the generic land. There isn’t much definition in the lands of Erilea and while I was reading, I had a hard time grasping the layout of the glass castle and the city (I forgot the name of it…) and I couldn’t quite imagine much else. There needed to be a lot more imagery so that the world of Erilea could be brought alive and seem much more vivid. But right now, it feels like a two-dimensional drawing with stick figures I have seen and read before.
To be truthful, I wasn’t much a fan of the writing. It’s a bit green and had some really strong moments and some really weak moments (especially in the beginning). It seemed to gather strength as the story progressed but I wish the story was a bit more complex to give the writing an extra boost.
Now, even though there are a lot more things I could complain about, I’ll leave it at that. It was still an enjoyable read. The romance was interesting enough to keep me reading and so was the mystery and suspense aspect of the book. I feel there is room to grow. The assassin needs to act more like an assassin and the prince and the captain (Dorian and Chaol) need a lot more personality to stand out even the tiniest bit. I heard the second one was better so I’m excited for that. This one though, I’ll give 3.5 stars for keeping me interested enough to read the sequel. Maybe I’m being a bit generous but I feel as if Ms. Maas is just warming up. Just give me a lot more action and a lot less romance, and I’ll be a much happier camper.
- Series: Throne of Glass (Book 1)
- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
- Publication Date: May 7, 2013
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- My Rating: ★★★ 1/2 ☆☆