Saturday, September 13, 2014

REVIEW: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated By: Elizabeth Evans

Have you ever been arrested for being a famous teenaged assassin and imprisoned in a really brutal labor camp? And then had the Prince come along and promise you a job and then your freedom if you could defeat a whole passel of other bad asses in a ritualized and epic tournament? No? Me neither but that is exactly what’s happened to Celaena Sardothien and as you can imagine she’s pretty pumped about winning the tournament and eventually being free to make her own damn life choices. Unfortunately, her simple plan is complicated by ghostly visitations, brutal animalistic murders of her opponents and two pretty, pretty boys who think she’s the cat’s meow. Because what’s a YA book without a damn love triangle?

So as you can see, there is a pretty great, if formulaic set-up. There’s a mystery and some intriguing references to political intrigue. There is also a lot of set up for what I suspect will be one of the big mysteries of the series - Celaena’s origins. However, all of that is merely hinted at in this installment and while it got me interested in continuing with the series it ultimately made Throne of Glass seem somewhat shallow. This first book is all about setting up the relationships and the world of Rifthold. So in the end, I have hopeful feelings for the future but was just meh about this particular story.

What would have helped me like this book more?
1) If the author hadn’t felt it necessary to mention on every other page just how beautiful/gorgeous/perfect-looking Celaena was.  Her astonishing good looks better play a very large role in the plot at some point in the series, otherwise I'm calling foul. 
2) If there had been some flashbacks to Celaena’s tragic/difficult childhood (time in the mine, time in the assassin training school, who the heck Simon(?) was), it would have provided some depth to her character. As it was we are told to feel bad for her even though she seems perfectly well-adjusted and happy most of the time except for one scene of moody piano-playing. I know this happy-go-lucky attitude is meant to be a mask she wears but I never felt like I got to see behind that mask to how she was truly feeling and why she was feeling that way. Or appreciate how hard keeping the mask on must be considering what she had been through. The only Celaena we get to see is the one who gets to wear pretty clothes, eat scrumptious food, lounge around in a sumptuous suite of rooms while being doted on by the two most eligible bachelors in the castle. My sympathy for her knows no bounds.
3) Somewhat related to the above, if I believed for even one micron of a second that Celaena was a renowned assassin. Or even just a so-so assassin. I didn’t believe AT ALL that this girl had cold-bloodedly murdered even one person, not to mention a whole bunch of seemingly important enough people for her to earn a legendary reputation. I feel like the author just gave her this bad ass title and expected me to buy it. I understand that she had to give her some kind of violent background but, beyond arrogance and vanity there didn’t seem to be any real thought about what an assassin would actually be like. She would have been far more interesting, believable and less of a Mary Sue if she had verged on the amoral. This would also have given the character room to grow and made the fact that she is going to be asked to selflessly fight for the side of good (because you KNOW she is) a little more fraught with conflict.
4) Her arrogance and vanity don’t seem to turn anybody off except those that are eeevil. I'm fine with characters have flaws and faults and in fact I applaud it but they need to feel real, add to the characters depth and have consequences. In this case, all the characters that are “good” are immediately drawn to and love Celaena. This is practically how we know who is bad and who is good and they are all, for the most part bad or good – no in between. It doesn’t help that arrogance and vanity are two personality traits that I find particularly difficult to relate to so for them to work for me I really need to understand why the character is acting the way they are.

You’ll notice that all of my wishes have to do with better character and relationship development. Celaena surfed way too close to Mary Sue territory for me to get behind her fully though there were definitely some great scenes (like when she gobbles up a half a pound of candy before breakfast:). In the end, the only character I found really interesting was Chaol Westfall mostly because the author deliberately keeps him aloof and mysterious which made me hope for hidden depths. However, even he and Prince Dorian exhibited an unbelievable naivete’ and immaturity that just didn’t make sense. It seemed like a sloppy way of divorcing them from the seemingly evil machine of which they are an intricate part (you mean prisoners being forced to labor in a mine are whipped and treated poorly? egads! How could this be?!).

To be fair there is at least one outside factor that could have influenced my feelings. The narrator was okay but she read Celaena with this really bratty, snotty high school girl tone that may have exacerbated any negative impressions I had of Celaena. I plan on reading the sequels rather than listening.

Because yes, despite all the grumbling, I do plan to continue with the series. I really enjoyed the world that was built and what promises to be an intricate plot with politics and the fey! I just hope the cast becomes as complex as the story in future installments.

And now I will go hide from Elizabeth at so long and thanks for all the fish.  I will be happy to accept any thrown rotten fruit or vegetables.  Hopefully I'll warm up to Celaena is future installments?  Also, anyone out there -if you connected with Celaena what did you like about her?

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