Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

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 kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three 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.

You can read an excerpt here.


Oh, Throne of Glass. You certainly are a fantasy romp – think Alias meets Graceling – and I was indeed entertained by you, but your love triangle just irritated the heck out of me, and then you went and wandered into LOTR territory… 

First of all, I should tell you this book really is fun. It’s the kind of light, bouncy fantasy that just cruises along – Celaena is your classic ridiculously competent assassin, and watching her maneuver and strut her way through a fight-to-the-death tourney is undeniably entertaining. There I was, reading merrily along, enjoying myself very much, and then suddenly I tripped and fell over the huge, blatant love triangle that suddenly loomed out of this story. From there on out, I just never quite managed to fully regain my momentum with this story – and that really, really irked me, because I was having so much fun up to that point. And worse, it was just so unnecessary – this story had so much else going for it, it in no way needed to insert a painfully familiar love triangle, and yet suddenly there it was, looming large over the rest of this story, throwing into shadow everything else that I was enjoying so very much… ARGH, I say.

Now to be fair, yes, this is a highly subjective reaction – though I suspect I’m not the only YA fan bruised and battered from the constant pummeling by love triangle – but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable for being annoyed with how this story, after gloriously setting itself up to be a fun, action-packed fantasy adventure, then cheats itself out of its own premise by suddenly lurching into a love triangle mire. I just found myself wanting to cry to the heavens, why, Throne of Glass, WHY?!?

And what made it all so especially frustrating was how much else there was to this story that I really, really liked – the tournament, the constant fear of death, the court politics and larger political landscape, how Celaena’s backstory played out throughout the story – it all was so much fun, and so much better than yet another freaking love triangle. And lest you think me an entirely heartless wench, let me just say I did thoroughly enjoy the romance of the prequel novellas – in fact I enjoyed it so much, it only made the Bermuda Triangle o’ Angst all the more painful by comparison.

And then, to add insult to injury, suddenly this story veered again, turning away from action/fun to head unerringly into a would-be Lord of the Rings high fantasy bog. Suddenly we have Elves and Destiny and the Chosen One and I just about wanted to smack this book and yell at it, MAKE UP YOUR MIND! Are you going to be yourself, or are you going to keep regurgitating that which has gone so many, many times before? Oh, how I wish this book had trusted itself a little more, and resisted throwing the trope sink, because all the trope anvils just turned into story sinkholes. By the end of this book I was a wellspring of indignation, because despite all the elements I enjoyed so much, by the end I just didn’t like this book nearly as much as I had liked it at the beginning, however much I wanted to.

And yet, despite all that, this story definitely does have action, intrigue and adventure galore, and Celaena is definitely a character I enjoy very much – so in the end, yes, there is enough here to bring me back for the next book, I’m just rather dreadfully hoping the next installment better lives up to its potential.

Byrt Grade: B+/A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

Celaena is still just a teenager trying to forge her way…She might be in the throes of a bloodthirsty competition, but that doesn’t mean she’s not in turmoil over which tall, dark and handsomely titled man of the royal court should be her boyfriend—and which fancy gown she should wear to a costume party.

Books and Sensibility says:

The novel starts off strong, but overall the story feels watered down. It seemed like there was supposed to be this fierce competition but…there was very little action involved and  the other competitors were throwaway characters.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) says:

This is not cuddly romance, but neither is it grim. Celaena is trained to murder, yet she hasn’t lost her taste for pretty dresses or good books, and a gleam of optimism tinges her outlook. Maas tends toward overdescription, but the verve and freshness of the narration make for a thrilling read.