There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
A while ago (a year ago?), I received a copy of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I loved the cover so I read the first couple of chapters. I thought it was okay but I wasn’t really gripped and there were other things on the pile that I wanted to read even more, so I put it back down again and moved on to something else instead.
I was okay with this decision until I mentioned it at an event at the offices of Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury have incredibly nice and fancy offices. I was terrified of spilling my drink on their carpet but I managed to avoid it!) and it seemed like every single person in the vicinity turned around and told me that I had to try again, that it improved in later chapters and that book 2 was even better.
They even gave me an advance copy of Crown of Midnight to encourage me to try again. Which meant that I really had no choice.
I’m reviewing them together because that’s how I read them – as one continuous narrative. I’m also giving them each individual ratings plus a combined series rating.
What are the books about?
Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight tell the story of Celaena Sardothien, the most famous assassin in the fantasy kingdom where she lives. At the beginning of the story, she is a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier. When the crown prince offers her freedom – for a price – she sets out on the road that will lead to her destiny.
Also there’s a love triangle. And friendship. And intrigue. And magic. And some badass fight scenes.
What I liked:
I wasn’t keen on her at first (for reasons that I will explain later) but Celaena really grew on me as I read the story. By the time I finished Crown of Midnight, I had really fallen in love with her. I think what stood out to me was not the ways in which she was brave and smart and strong, but actually the ways in which she was fallible. Celaena isn’t perfect – more than once in the story, she avoids responsibility or fails to think about the consequences of her actions. She really grows and develops as a character through the two books.
I liked the supporting characters as well, especially Chaol and Nehemia. The story is primarily told from Celaena’s perspective but I actually thought that the scenes from other points of view really helped pull the story together.
If there’s one thing that Sarah J. Maas does really well, it’s writing action sequences and fight scenes. She does a great job with mental fight choreography so that you can see what’s happening in your imagination without it slowing down the action. She’s also great at creating tension and suspense.
I’m not sure whether Throne of Glass is intended to be a series or just a trilogy but I think that the story is deep enough and contains enough layers and plot threads to keep me reading for quite some time. I can’t wait to find out what happens next and I want Celaena’s entire backstory. I want it all immediately please, if not sooner. I could just immerse myself in the world of Throne of Glass.
What I didn’t like:
It’s not a Throne of Glass/Crown of Midnight specific complaint but I’m really not a big fan of fantasy novel naming conventions. It slows down my reading when I can’t figure out how to pronounce the character’s names (even in my head). I ended up using Selena as a pronunciation for Celaena and read Chaol as Chad.
My main issue with Throne of Glass is the same one that made me put it down the first time. I think a case could be made that Celaena is a bit of a “Mary-Sue” – smart, snarky, brave, beautiful, good at everything, the object of everyone’s love and admiration and a big reader. It’s true that she starts of a little as a wish-fulfilment type of character, the character that the writer might wish that they were. As the books continue, she does start to be a properly developed character and, by the time I finished Crown of Midnight, I genuinely liked her.
The writing is also a little weak in places but again this definitely improves and I’d advise anyone who is tempted to put Throne of Glass down after a couple of chapters, like I was, to give it a little more time to win you over.
My final complaint is a plot twist type complaint. There were some incredibly satisfying twists in there, don’t get me wrong, but there was one twist that I couldn’t decide whether it was even supposed to be a twist because I saw it coming so far in advance. I couldn’t decide whether Sarah J. Maas was trusting her readers to be able to work it out on our own, or whether it was genuinely supposed to be a surprise. It left me with a slightly sour note at the end of Crown of Midnight. It did however make me really want to read book three.
This series definitely deserved a second chance. If you like fantasy novels with action, intrigue and female protagonists or books about assassins in general (Assassin’s Creed fans, are you listening?), you should read these books.
Apparently there are novellas containing Celaena’s backstory which Bloomsbury are intending to release in a single combined volume. I can’t wait! I love backstory.
I give Throne of Glass: 3/5
As I said, the books improved as I continued reading. Overall, I’d give the series 4/5 for the potential it shows and how caught up I became in the plot.