Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars
Throne of Glass is just the beginning of a fast paced, high octane, seriously action packed YA fantasy series that immerses readers into a rich, complex and beautiful world full of assassins & warriors, corrupt kingdoms, scorching romance, courtly scandals/intrigue, and forbidden magic that burns with a growing need to be set free once again.
Instead of posting one long review of the whole series, I decided to break it down and review every book individually. Each book deserves it’s own post, and it’s an important series to me as it helped spark a passion in me towards reading much like the Harry Potter series (but honestly, I can’t think of anyone who’s a book enthusiast that doesn’t say the same thing about HP).
I started this series back in the spring of my freshman year at college back in 2013, so about a year after this title was released, and it’s been a huge part of me ever since. I remember of all the places to discover a book to read, it was on Pinterest where I began seeing concept art/fan art with “Throne of Glass” in the tags, so I decided to look into it and started reading it while in between events at a Track meet, and as lame as it sounds, I felt the confident swagger that Calaena protruded and it spread through me like a fan spreading flames. I was instantly hooked and wanted to see what could possibly happen next!
What It’s About:
The story starts off by introducing readers to Calaena Sardothien, formerly known as the youngest and deadliest assassin in the land of Erilea, but now she is a prisoner stuck in the salt mines of Endovier, a notorious concentration camp for only the worst criminals that had been captured.
She’s been there for about a year, physically and mentally abused into submission until any hopes and dreams of being free long gone…until one day when the crown prince, Dorian Havilliard, shows up with his Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, to give her a proposition: if she competes in a 23-person tournament as his hand selected champion, wins, and becomes the King of Adarlan’s royal assassin for four years, she will earn the right to finally become a free woman. It’s the deal of a lifetime, and so she takes them up on their offer, and gives herself a fake name in order to not draw attention to herself.
Soon, she’s at Adarlan’s capital city of Rifthold, and enjoys the pleasures that being Dorian’s champion has to offer, including flirtatious run-ins with the prince himself, all while training with Chaol to condition herself back to normal after being malnourished in Endovier for about a year. It doesn’t remain that simple, and soon she discovers that something dark and malicious is at work within the walls of the glass castle…
One after another, competitors are being discovered murdered and brutally mutilated in such ways to suggest that these are no ordinary attacks, with mysterious shadows hiding terrors through the halls in the dark of the night. While dealing with her developing affections for the charming, handsome prince and the brooding, stern captain AND becoming familiar with a spirit of the past as her guide, Calaena must figure out what’s going on before whatever it is that’s killing the others becomes too powerful and comes for her…
What I Liked:
- Calaena’s Sass! Girl has an attitude, and I am here for it. She quickly became one of my favorite characters in any book because she is a sassy, badass chick who smirks at any man who tries to completely control her. She has the mouthy comebacks, and asserts her place amongst the court of the glass palace in Rifthold..
- The Memorable Main Characters! One thing that I know more than ever from reading Sarah J. Maas books over the years is that she creates such vivid characters with an even more amazing group dynamic. Seriously, they are squad goals! Calaena, Dorian, and Chaol are incredibly easy to get behind, and all have entertaining interactions amongst themselves that helps make the story even more entertaining.
- All The Easter Eggs! I will say that there were many, many hints about what was to come later on as the series progressed. It was fun when I went back and reread it and realized how much is actually hinted at. Plenty of events happened, especially during the climax of the book, that excited the readers to want to move onto the second book and see how many answers it would give them. Evil forces are at work, and nearly all the past players have returned to restart the unfinished game that they began long ago…
- The Entertainment Factor! Maas truly knows how to excite their readers, for pretty much none of the story felt boring or excessive. It gives the reader a satisfying amount while making them want more, and while its not high fantasy, it’s not absolutely mind-blowing content, but it is much fun to read.
- The Good Minor Characters! There are several other characters that are introduced in the book that add so much to the bigger characters while still standing out on their own. Nox Owen is another competitor in the tournament, and Calaena grows to have him become an ally as the competition gets underway. Kaltain Rompier is a noble-born lady who serves as Calaena’s typical “mean girl” rival who also is after Prince Dorian’s affection (She’s kind of similar to Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones, in a sense). There’s also Elena, the spirit of the first ever Queen of Adarlan. Calaena discovers a secret passageway to an underground mausoleum dedicated to her and her husband, King Gavin, and so Elena’s spirit becomes Calaena’s guide in order to solve the mystery. Lastly, we have the proud and brash Princess from the southern region of Eyllwe, Nehemia. She instantly becomes fond of Calaena, and they quickly become a formidable duo of strong willed outsiders who help each other out. Calaena promises to teach Nehemia the common tongue of Adarlan, while Nehemia teaches her about Wyrdmarks, an ancient text linked to magical properties.
- The World of Erilea! Maas, while creating some of my all time favorite characters, she also has a stunning ability to create truly believable fantasy realms that serve it’s purpose to be a part of the bigger picture of the overall story. Erilea used to be a land filled with magical beings and creatures, until the King banished all of it, and hunted down any of those who dared to defy him. With it, an appreciation for the arts is also lost, so theaters, museums, libraries, and art are all destroyed as well until only profitable, industrial businesses take favor.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The Shallowness…Before people assume the worst and think I sound like a sexist, chauvinistic man…I’m talking about the fact that Calaena is supposed to be a deadly assassin. In fact, she’s supposed to be the most reputable, notorious one in all of Erilea, so why is she so consumed with what dresses to wear and how her hair is done? Her overall looks while also being overcome with the whole “does he like me?” mentality with both Dorian and Chaol seems pretty juvenile and unnecessary in this kind of setting, plus it’s become a real cliché in YA lit by now. Sure, this book was released back in 2012, so it wasn’t so overdone at that time, but it’s not even funny how often this little arc is portrayed in SO. MUCH. YA. It looks juvenile, even if it’s supposed to make the character look vulnerable and relatable and remind the audience that they’re just a young girl like some of them. At least at one points in the story, Calaena calls herself out on it and focuses on the bigger issues.
- Less Than Developed Antagonists/Villains…The King of Adarlan is a cruel, arrogant, brutal man who has silenced any magic that once remained in the land of Erilea, but there isn’t really much else revealed about him. No motivation, no evil plan, nothing…he’s just another villainous man who is in charge, and it’s a wonder how Dorian is even supposed to be his son since they’re nothing alike (thank god, Dorian is not another Joffrey Baratheon). Another character is Duke Perrington, who seems to be nothing more than the King’s right hand man. They’re both present in the story, they’re obviously the bad guys, but there’s little reasoning behind it all besides the fact that they’re in powerful positions, and it’s no surprise their cruelty got them there. I know more gets revealed later on….ugh, SO much more…but at first glance, these guys are just so flat as villains!
Overall, this is a strong start to (once again) one of my all time favorite series that I have ever read. I can promise that there is SO much more to come as it evolves, and it’s so strange to look back at the beginning of it all in this first of a magnificent eight books, and how much has happened/changed from its original foundation.
While for newer readers, it may show signs of cliché YA fantasy tropes like the love triangle, the badass female protag who becomes distracted by material objects & potential love interests, and a token POC character amongst a whitewashed cast, believe me when I say that you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell