Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
Three years ago I was wandering the bookstore with my husband. Newly pregnant after several years and countless disappointments, we were taking this pregnancy slow. Not long into my first trimester, issues with my body arose and after a painful surgery I was put on bedrest. Dutifully and faithfully my husband got me out of the house – the once a week my doctor allotted. More often than not we would go to dinner so I could stuff my face and revel in the fact that I was out of bed, and then we’d take a light stroll around the bookstore so I could stock up on my bookish companions for the week.
I became obsessed with series. They were like the elixir of life for those 7 months of bedrest. I could get caught up in the lives of characters and have the relationship stretch on and on and on; and so I hunted down long series in the bookstore, with The Mortal Instruments saga being the meatiest (with, at that time, 10 books in print) and the one that kept me going through those hard days stuck in bed.
It was through that series that I began an love affair with the modern phenomenon of young adult fantasy. When I was a young adult . . . many, many moons ago . . . we didn’t have too many choices. Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High, Encyclopedia Brown. Goosebumps, Janie Johnson, V.C. Andrews. These were the books that slid me through my angsty adolescent years and helped soften the blow of teenage-dom.
But these kids now-a-days? Wow. They have an endless supply of well-written stories set in immaculately maintained fantasy worlds. Words full of dramatic romance, artful villains, and sassy and strong heroes of both the male and female persuasions. Nearly every teenager can find themselves in a young adult book : African American and transexual, the bully and the princess, gay and firmly set in the closet, abandoned and orphaned, refugees. . . it is a modern-day Breakfast Club of the most international and interracial and intersexual proportions. The world of young adult fiction has grown by leaps and bounds, and each series I’ve read in this genre has led me on to the next . . . and eventually pushed me in the direction of Throne of Glass.
I got there by way of A Court of Thorns and Roses, a series that I couldn’t get away from even if I’d tried. Bookstagrammer’s all over the internet have saturated their feeds with photos depicting the beautiful covers and vividly finished pages from the accompanying coloring book. Book-inspired merchandise runs rampantly through the veins of Etsy and Redbubble.com, and the book-loving community shouts accolades for Sarah J. Maas from the rafters. Throne of Glass was actually penned before ACOTAR; in fact, the first book in this series met its inception when Maas was only 16 years-old. After loving the Court series so much, I figured I had to get back to the basics and give the story of a wayward assassin a try.
Celeana Sardothien was sent to the salt mines of Endovier in light of her transgressions against the Crown little more than two years ago. Once the infamous and staunchly feared Assassin of Ardalan, Celeana unwillingly traded in her title and riches and became a slave to the empire, all at the bequest of enemies who hid cleverly in plain sight, and a ruler who took great pleasure in his cruelty.
Having spent nearly the entirety of her life under the tutelage of the greatest assassin in known history, Celeana grew up in the shadows. Working her way through commissions and joint ventures, she did her part in keeping the balance of the city she was raised in. But Ardalan was never truly home, no matter how she tried to make it so. She’d been scooped up from the side of the river as a young child, a casualty of war, and she was brought up to be who her benefactor wanted her to be. She has spent her life surrounded by more traitors than even she knows, and the teenage girl now trusts no one.
Dragged up from her veritable prison in the mines, she is propositioned by someone she never expected to see in this hot and dusty hell – the golden Prince Dorian of Ardalan. His father plans to host a tournament, at the end of which a victor will be named the King’s personal assassin and enjoy the spoils of the coveted position. If Celeana agrees to come to the city made of glass and join the fight – and if she wins – she will be granted her eventual freedom and her record wiped clean of previous crimes, after a set period of time working for the King, of course.
The journey to the end of the tournament and becoming the cruel King’s champion is wrought with problems and frights. Instead of going up against somewhat honorable fellow assassins, as Celeana’s prior work experience usually entailed, she is instead fighting the absolute dregs of society. Players who fight dirty, thieves and murderers with no regard for decency or who live by any sort of code other than destruction, and all with nothing to lose – these are the men she must plow through to get to the finish line and earn her precious freedom.
The path is also full of relationship quicksand; Celeana fights against her feelings of vulnerability and camaraderie as her instincts are inherently pre-set to remain isolated and suspicious.Being an assassin often left her isolated or only in the company of her guild . . . a place where friendships were complicated and set balanced on the edge of a sword. Here in the palace, Celeana is isolated in a different way. While forbidden from having free rein around the grounds, she is under constant guard by Chaol, a man who seems determined to keep himself as professional as possible. But even the Captain of the Guard is not immune to the quiet charm that weaves its way around Celeana like a spell, and Chaol finds himself letting her inside of his mind more than he ever intended.
He is not her only companion. Celeana has drawn the interest of the Prince of Ardalan and her benefactor, Dorian. While he initially brought her on as a champion candidate to annoy his father, Dorian has since seen a spark in the assassin that was most unexpected. She has depth and intelligence, wile and wit. Drawn as a moth to a flame, Dorian must decide if the feelings growing inside of him for the beautiful and forbidden woman are worth the risk.
The first in a series of seven books (and one collection of novellas), Throne of Glass sets the stage for Celeana Sardothien and her companions, laying out a land of political intrigue, ultimate betrayal, and complicated romance. Set in a world of high fantasy, readers who enjoy this genre will be appreciative of Maas’ soft touch when it comes to things like magic and alchemy. While some authors tend to go in full force with fantasy and all that it entails, Maas tends to tell tales that are equal parts character and plot driven, allowing the details to become something more organically inclined.
Giving Throne of Glass 4.5 out of 5 stars, I recommend it to readers ages 15+. Other books in this series include:
The Assassin’s Blade (a collection of novellas set in the time period before Throne of Glass)
Throne of Glass
Crown of Midnight
Heir of Fire
Queen of Shadows
Empire of Storms
Tower of Dawn
*The final installment of the series has yet to be titled; to be released in September of 2018