Throne of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas
RECOMMENDATION: GET THROUGH THIS BOOK, and then pick up the rest of the series: Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows. The books get much, much better—they’re a different, darker breed all together rather than this poorly constructed assassin competition that is a backdrop for a romance novel.
WOW this book was a flashback! I remember reading one of the early drafts on Fictionpress, the premise being a Cinderellaesque assassin fighting something— I don’t remember what. I was instantly enchanted with the "heart" of the story as it figured out what it wanted to be, and the glass castle descriptions were straight from a fairytale. I remember Dorian being super alluring and the chemistry he had with Caelena was off the charts because of the "will they? won't they?" tension. There was also a really hot fairy prince.
Sadly I do feel like the "heart" was missing from this book—what made the world unique and the characters come to life. The love triangle between Caelena, Chaol, and Dorian feels forced rather than natural, the tension is missing from Caelena and Dorian's encounters, and Caelena seems more concerned with gowns than being a kick-a** formidable assassin. Too many secrets are hinted at that feel like a set-up for the next book rather than being relevant to the plot, such as the fairy world, and it's tough for me to explain how said fairy world stands on its own against a trillion others in standard high fantasy.
Really loved the character of Nehima and the great friendship she and Caelena had! And although I liked the tribute to Beauty and the Beast with Dorian showing Caelena the library, I suddenly had Disney versions of Belle and the Beast dancing through my head, kind of amusing.
The one flaw that continues throughout the series is the lack of a consistent, menacing villain. The king reminded me of a thinly-developed Galbatorix figure from Christopher Paolini's Eragon, and demons who kill for the sake of killing are pretty boring to read about it. There are some side characters like the King of Assassins and the Queen of Faeries who are intriguing antagonists, but there really is no central, riveting enemy who is Caelena's equal in cunning, power, and character development threatening the lands. As such, this leads to a lot of lost tension and the stakes don't feel high to me. You might bring up the witches here, who had the potential to be a dangerous and intriguing enemy for Caelena, but it's obvious from the first Manon chapter that they are "redeemable" because they are "pawns" for the Duke. I need my Lannisters, damnit.
The second book takes off, so stick around for that one. Or better yet, pick up the short story prequel series, The Assassin’s Blade, and pretend that it is the first book. You won’t miss much. Also, hopefully later in the series there will be a really compelling villain to bring back the tension/threat to the characters' lives (evil king? bah. seen that too many times before). Overall, it was just too easy for me to put Throne of Glass down.
Recommended for fans of: Julie Kagawa and Kristin Cashore
Upcoming Book Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare