YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: September 2nd, 2014
Number of Pages: 565 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This Book Review contains spoilers from the previous titles in the series, read at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE!

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE!

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

So, if you though you had a handle on this series and what it entailed based off the first two books….oh honey, you couldn’t be way more off!

Sarah J. Maas comes back with the next chapter of her first fantasy series, Throne of Glass, and gives readers an entirely new feel for what it’s all about! Seriously, it feels like her writing has aged many moons since we last read whatever the latest tale was in Caleana’s story and her writing has dramatically matured into a full fledged Best-Selling author that we know she is! She continues the series in epic fashion as she tells us a story filled with newfound magic, heartbreaking loss, sacrifice, self doubt, character development, friendship, rebellion, danger, and redemption!

I am seriously starving as I write this review, so one way to describe this book is sort of like eating spicy Thai food…It’s delicious and full of savory and sweet flavor, but then the after-burn hits, and you begin to feel the sweat form on your brow and your cheeks redden. You keep eating, and the fire continues to build and build until you’ve got what feels like a legit forest fire dancing on your tongue!

I’m not going to lie, I really want some Thai food now…

Years ago, after reading the ending of Crown of Midnight and being shooketh harder than a polaroid by that big reveal, I knew I was absolutely going to love this series! Looking back on it and remembering my young, naive heart that was still so full of hope and not so much of vain, self-deprecating sarcasm and I’d just laugh at how I absolutely did not see that big reveal play out like it did! I admit, nowadays it’s nothing too new, but it was the way it was told and revealed to us that made it truly epic and changed the entire way I viewed the series.

With how it all left off, I honestly had no idea how this series was going to continue! Crown of Midnight really sped things along and gave us a ton of easter eggs of what was to come (ie: the myth of the Valg, Baba Yellowlegs and the Ironteeth Witches, the wyrdkeys and wyrdmarks, the heart-wrenching death of Nehemia, and yes, Caleana stealthily revealing to Chaol who she REALLY is, plus plenty more), I really wondered what was going to happen next! I thought Aelin was going to just rise up with new army from Wendlyn and return Daenerys Targaryen-style across the sea and take back her kingdom and stop the King that way, and that’s not really the best route for a long term plan. Why not add, like, 10K levels of complexity to that plan and add more interesting characters, develop familiar ones even further, and increase the stakes with an even bigger enemy that has yet to actually reveal itself until now! THAT, my readers, is what it takes to tell an amazing story!

Heir of Fire adds so much more depth to the overall series, and like the novella’s in The Assassin’s Blade, it continues to allow the series to gain an even bigger base in order for it to continue to branch out and grow into something even more amazing than what we mere peasants could imagine! Sarah J. Maas changes the game up on us and gives us a much deeper and more thought out plot than we maybe could’ve originally guessed, and deals with even more important issues that are actually not plot based, but character based. Important aspects towards the characters is how they’ve suffered and how that’s shaped them to be who they are in current time. Things like betrayal, grief, acceptance, self-love, and loyalty play a huge part in how this book develops and allows us as readers and fans of the series to feel an even closer connection towards them within the pages and make them feel so much more real, personable, relatable, and most importantly: memorable.

What It’s About:

Caleana Sardothien, aka Aelin Ashryver Galathynius and who we now know is actually the long lost heir to the throne of Terrasen, has made it over to the magical realm of Wendlyn in order to finally confront her dark past and maybe gain help from her estranged aunt, Maeve, who is queen of the Fae in Doranelle. While in Varese, she is confronted by a fae prince named Rowan Whitethorn, before she can gain any real answers. The scene is officially set when she learns that if she wants to learn the secrets of the wyrdkeys and what power they may hold in the final battle to come, she’ll need to train alongside Rowan and master her fire abilities in an incredibly short amount of time. It’s a hard task, but what does Aelin have to lose at this point? She and Rowan travel to Mistward in order to carry out her part of the deal, but tensions rise and personalities clash as Rowan and her try not to absolutely tear each other’s heads off before they even get there.

A map of the magical realm of Wendlyn, which is East of Erilea where the story had primarily taken place until now!

Meanwhile, another new character is introduced in the name of Manon Blackbeak and her coven of 13 Ironteeth witches. She’s the heir below her grandmother patron, and they travel to the Ferien Gap under the deal they have struck with the King of Adarlan. It is revealed that he is building forces in the mountains and powerful winged creatures named Wyverns are being raised, with the Ironteeth Clans coming together to become their riders for his army. Wyverns are very similar to Dragons, so see the image below for clarification:

Yes, total side note, but the “Dragons” from Game of Thrones and even Harry Potter are actually Wyverns! I wish I could keep track of how many minds I just blew with that knowledge!

Manon is cold, vicious but determined and fights all other witches in order to be named Wingleader, but is she really a villain? Or is she more an anti-hero who surprises herself with actually having a soul and slowly learns that maybe she doesn’t have to settle for what her grandmother’s rule makes her believe is true? Good questions, and an even better new character!

A cry went up from the witches, save for the Thirteen—who stayed cool and quiet. They did not need to cheer, for they—were immortal and infinite and gloriously, wonderfully deadly.

– Sarah J. Maas, “Heir of Fire”

Back in Rifthold, Chaol and Dorian come face to face with Aedion Ashryver, who is actually Caleana/Aelin’s cousin and childhood BFF. He’s all bad boy smirks, sharp zingers that roll off his tongue, and barely contained wild behavior as he seemingly seems to have completely turned his back on his heritage and is now working with the king with his army of the North, the Bane. Both Chaol and Dorian don’t trust him and his suspicious aloofness to certain questions, and try to follow him and see what he’s possibly up to. To make matters worse, Chaol can’t help but notice a particular black ring around Aedion’s finger and assume the worst…

While all that is going on, the bigger enemy has been gaining power until their forces are at their worst and they are finally able to make a major power play move! It turns out, The king of Adarlan isn’t the big threat!

…oh no….

The bigger enemies are a demon race known as the Valg and they were the ones that actually formed the wyrdkeys long ago. They were trapped and entombed before, but somehow they’ve gotten out and intend to continue their malicious plot and infest the world with their eternal darkness….

What I Liked:

  1. The Series Has Evolved Into Epic High Fantasy! So before in the previous two books it had felt more like a Grimdark subgenre of fantasy with only a small inkling of magic but with the hint of more to come later on, but now as Aelin is revealed to be half-fae and the long lost heir to the Terrasen Throne, and changes the game on us. When she goes over to Wendlyn, the author introduces us to a whole new magical world that is full of incredible beings and creatures. While something like this has been hinted at since the beginning of the series, seeing it finally appear in front of your eyes is still pretty eye-opening and adds so much more depth and excitement to the series overall!
  2. It Introduces Great New Characters! Oh. My. Gods!! There’s a plethora of new and interesting characters that are brought into the story! Some of them are more interesting than others of course, but the ToG series is changing rapidly and becoming even bigger with the many new faces Heir of Fire presents us with: First one worth noting is Rowan Whitethorn, of course. Under the orders of the Queen of the Fae, Maeve (another new character), he takes Aelin to Maeve, who will only tell her all about the wyrdkeys if Aelin can master her abilities. The next character is Manon Blackbeak, an Ironteeth Witch whose goal is to track down any remaining Crochan Witches (enemies of the Ironteeth clans for centuries), and eradicate them forever. She, along with her Blackbeak clan of 13, head to the Ferien Gap to personally select their own Wyverns, and it is there that she ends up with her steed, Abraxos. Next we have Aedion Ashryver, who is basically a male version of Aelin and has many secrets beneath his arrogant smirk. Last but not least, we have Ren Allsbrook and his grandfather Murtagh, who are former courtiers of Terrasen before it was invaded by Adarlan, thus making them join the rebellion cause. Many new faces, but important players in the game!
  3. So. Much. More. Growth! What was truly a huge moment in this book was how we finally get to see what happened the night Aelin’s young life was changed forever when Adarlan invaded her homeland of Terrasen. It’s a highly emotional moment that brings tears to your eyes as you learn more and more about those whose lives were lost trying to save her from assassination, and how her inner demons with that knowledge try to drag her down and make her want to give up all this time later. She blames herself for all the pain she feels she’s caused and hates herself for it all and believes she wasn’t’ worth it!S he becomes so raw, broken down, and vulnerable in your eyes as she confronts the dark memories and faces a deadly enemy on the rise, her growth in this story is iconic! She enters Wendlyn a lost little girl, but may be able to leave as the queen she was born to be!
  4. The Theme of the Power of Friendship! It’s another thing that Maas does so well in all her books, and that is how she plays up the importance of friendship and those platonic relationships amongst her characters. There are romantic relationships too, sure, but it’s surprising how little we see of just good ole’ relationships of friends and allies in all the titles of YA Fantasy that come out! This is especially evident in Rowan and Aelin’s relationship as the story develops. They start off as reluctant allies, and animosity builds between them with their clashing personalities. Rowan has an incredibly strong presence that is also chillingly quiet, and he’s also a total Alpha-Male who doesn’t put up with Aelin’s bullshit. She tries to give him harsh words with her sharp tongue? He throws it right back at her 10x over! He’s intense, intimidating, and infuriatingly patient as he continues to train her, but they form a seriously special bond when they begin to understand each other better and learn what the other has been through before their eventual meeting. It’s not romantic really, but more of a friendship kind of bond to the point that they would kill for each other and do anything to help one another by the end. It was incredibly refreshing to read, and not many relationships out there are quite like it in Fantasy genre literature. I’d like to see more like that!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Slower Paced…The author switches things up with the content, and gives us a more traditional high-fantasy genre novel with several POV’s occurring side-by-side from far distances, and while the story takes on a whole new level of world-building and becomes much bigger and richer, it does slow down in terms of pace for much of the middle. This mainly occurs with Aelin and Rowan’s chapters filled with their traveling and training sessions as they travel to Mistward, but can also be seen with Dorian back in Rifthold with yet another side romance story arc that doesn’t really do anything to develop his character. I think the reasoning is because so many of the revolving storylines have an air of mystery to them, and while the author gives us exciting little tidbits throughout to recapture critical readers dwindling attention spans, it’d revert back to the slow pace. Sarah just really takes her time exposing the big reveals, when maybe she could have had them happen a lot sooner, but it’s also worth mentioning that it’s slower because Aelin’s storyline becomes more character driven instead of plot driven, in my opinion. It’s more about her confronting her demons, exposing herself and taking a mental, emotional and physical beatdown, and rising above it as she comes to terms with everything, stops blaming herself, and learns to stop having it weigh her down and instead use it as her driving force.
  2. Dorian and Chaol Starting to Disintegrate…It’s unfortunate to see the two of them continue to drift apart in this next installment because their friendship felt like a backbone of it all and is another great example of friendship that we need to see more of! Their storylines go off into separate directions, Chaol’s being more prominent, and pretty much seems to be leaving Dorian behind. So, he gets a new romantic love interest with a servant girl, Sorscha, as she helps him be able to move on from the emotional pain both Chaol and Caleana/Aelin had caused him in their abandonment, especially when they needed him most! Chaol, bless his heart, continues to become weary and judgmental of Aelin and Dorian’s powers and his unwillingness to accept it is so disappointing. It feels so ignorant and old-fashioned of him, and I don’t want to call out his behavior to being similar to homophobia, but it does feel similar to when someone completely turns their back on a person in their life when they come out of the closet as queer. Chaol’s character wants things to go back to the way they once were, with both Dorian and Aelin, and struggles to accept how things have now become.

You cannot pick and choose which parts of her to love!

– Sarah J. Maas, “Heir of Fire”

Conclusion:

Wow you guys, I’ve got to apologize because like the actual book itself, this review is loooonng! I can’t help it though! I love this series, and get extremely passionate about talking about it, even when I can find material to critique and maybe even find problematic later on. I can accept those aspects and still love the series all the same!

I recommend this book, or the whole series in general, to anyone who loves those sweeping & epic fantasy-genre tales that have so much history behind them and so much action, adventure, romance, and coming of age characters (so yes…I’m about to connect this series to the high caliber tales like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and even Lord of the Rings! Get at me if you disagree!

SJM somehow exceeds expectation with this vast addition and shows that she is a master of her character’s development and the interpersonal relationships that form and develop between them too! With the ending of this book—while it does tie up quite a lot of loose ends that have been lingering since the very beginning—it does leave us absolutely shaken to our core and on quite a cliffhanger with the wellbeing of a lot of characters being called into question! It does, however, give the author the thing they want most, and that is by having their readers say the following:

“I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: March 4th 2014
Number of Pages: 435 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

This book was simply supposed to be a distraction to keep readers/fans of the series busy while we waited (barely) patiently for the release of the next book in the Throne of Glass Series, Heir of Fire. What we weren’t expecting was to have our hearts completely ripped out from our chests, torn in half, and then shoved back down our throats to keep us moving forward like nothing actually happened, but we know…we know, and we remember and will never forget, and it still causes us to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. That is how I felt after reading this book!

Instead of a single story like most books, this title is actually a collection of five novellas, or short stories, that act as prequels towards the first original book. These were initially only available as e-books, but with the growing popularity of the series, Bloomsbury threw us a bone and gave us this gorgeous printed edition of all the titles in one collection.

Some people like to pass off prequels, myself included, because let’s be honest…prequels are so limited from the get go: you already know what’s going to eventually happen, and they’re sometimes just used as cash cows from the publishers that have little to do with the actual story, and could even possibly damage the quality of the whole franchise. This book is not like that though; it actually contains material that becomes incredibly important to the overall story of Calaena Sardothien and her redemption arc. Key players to the game get snuck in and are seen for the very first time, and like anything written by Sarah J. Maas, it leaves a lasting impression.

Also, what deserves its own note is Sam Cortland.

Yes, I repeat, we physically meet Sam Cortland in these stories!

What It’s About:

Like I said earlier, it’s a collection of five novellas so I’ll briefly explain all of them below by their titles:

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord:

Under the orders of their master known as the King of Assassins, Arobynn Hamel, a younger Calaena and her companion, Sam Cortland, are sent to Pirates Bay in order to secure a deal he’s made with the Pirate Lord, Captain Rolfe. When they arrive, they find out that Rolfe is actually becoming involved with a slave ring, and Calaena is absolutely furious about it. Never one to support slavery in any form, she has to make a decision that will go against her master’s orders for the first (and possibly last) time ever.

The Assassin and the Healer:

Yrene Towers is a young tavern girl who’s family used to be known as healers, but the king banished any form of magic in the land with deadly consequences. Her family is gone, and she must save up to be able to leave Erilea and find a new home, but one night after closing the tavern, she comes face to face with another young girl, a beaten and battered Calaena Sardothien.

The Assassin and the Desert:

Sent/banished to train with the silent assassins of the desert, Calaena secretly must obtain an enclosed letter from the master assassin in order to return to her own, Arobynn Hamel. The task, she learns, is much more difficult than she anticipated, and while meeting a new friend in Ansel of Briarcliff, she loses herself along the way.

The Assassin and the Underworld:

Accepted back into Arobynn’s good graces, Calaena finds herself now wary of him and his methods. She’s ordered to carry out mission’s that go against everything she stands for, and can’t do it any longer and seeks to find a way out of Arobynn, and the grip of the Assassin’s Guild. The higher points of this story is that you’re introduced to Lysandra for the first time ever, and Sam and Calaena are reunited in the best way!

The Assassin and the Empire:

Sam and Calaena, now together, both try to find a way out in order to run away from Rifthold and their master’s influence in order to start over somewhere else; all they need to do is one last mission, but things are never quite that easy, and both learn how deep a knife in the back can really go…this one is a tear-jerker that makes you think that nothing will be okay, there’s no hope, and you’ll be on your couch with a box of tissues, never able to fully recover.

My name is Calaena Sardothien,” she whispered. “And I will not be afraid.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “The Assassin’s Blade”

What I Liked:

  1. Sam Cortland and Other Characters! A huge highlight of these books is meeting Sam Cortland face to face. There’s a sad reality behind every appearance of his, especially with his relationship with Calaena, because of how his fate’s been revealed in the first two books of the series. It only makes the inevitable more painful as we experience the grief that Calaena has to go through before her eventual imprisonment in the Endovier Salt Mines. There are plenty of other characters that you meet that also play a huge role in how the story progresses: Lady Lysandra, Yrene Towers, Captain Rolfe, Ilias of the Silent Assassins, and Ansel of Briarcliff. All these characters seem minor through the book, but know that all of them become super important as the story moves forward! There’s a reason you meet them all. It’s also worth noting that there is a little cameo of a big character in a certain ballroom scene that is never mentioned by name, but if you think about it, it’s super obvious, and will make you squeal in delight!
  2. The Emotional Impact! With prequels, there’s that awareness that you have as a reader by knowing the fates of characters before they ever do. It’s a cruel kind of power to have, and these stories only add to Calaena’s tragic backstory as you experience it firsthand. What it also does is gives you a deeper understanding towards her character overall and why she is the way she is, the softer/more vulnerable side of her that is seen is few times, and her slow descent into becoming a shell of her former self when she loses everything, and is taken prisoner to Endovier. Sure, its emotionally traumatizing like I’ve mentioned, but for someone who’s read the other books before this, I had to know that it was inevitable.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. What Happens Next?…The one thing I absolutely despise about sequels is how you can feel like you’d experienced so much, been through the emotional wringer, and have this deeper understanding of the characters and the fictional world they belong in, but when you take a step back and think about it, not all that much has happened further into the story. Sure, there’s a deeper, stronger base to go off now with so much more depth to understanding them and their motives, but it still doesn’t answer the question of what happens next? What happens after the events of Crown of Midnight (the 2nd book)? We still don’t know; it feels somewhat like going one step forward, but two steps back.
  2. The Importance of These Stories in Question…Some of these short stories are more fun to read than others, simple as that. Part of me wondered what was the point of some of them: are they important, or are they just filler? I remember I questioned this when I initially read the book way back when it first came out, but after reading the whole series later on, I can say that, YES, ALL these stories carry importance into the overall story and how it ends up. Each play a small component, but it requires years of patience with later titles in order to see it all come through, and by then I bet quite a few readers forgot all about them.

Conclusion:

While it was technically published after Crown of Midnight, this book gives you no answers as to what happens next in the story, which is so frustrating after THAT HUGE REVEAL AT THE END THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING MOVING FORWARD WITH THE WHOLE SERIES…but what this title does give us is more depth to the story, of Calaena and everything she’s experienced as a 16-year-old up-and-coming assassin in Rifthold. It causes the base of the whole world to become much more prominent and gives you a larger emotional attachment towards the books from then on, because c’mon, if you don’t get emotional reading that final story, I have no words for you or your black heart!

For those wondering when you should read this, I’d say you could do it chronologically, so this one could be read before the first book, but I felt like it was also fine if you read if afterwards or even after Crown of Midnight. It’s honestly your choice based on your own reading preference.

You meet so many characters that WILL play a huge role later on in these stories, even if it doesn’t feel like it after reading, plus a fun little cameo from an already established character; this title only adds to the whole experience that is reading the Throne of Glass series!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: August 27th 2013
Number of Pages: 418 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Romance

***WARNING*** This review may contain spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

The ever-amazing Throne of Glass series continues into this exciting sequel, which has so much more action, suspense, betrayal and badassery than the first book. If anyone was feeling meh about it, I sincerely suggest giving this book a try and possibly change their mind. Instead of dresses and love triangles, there’s more characterization and much more surprises!

What It’s About:

Calaena Sardothien has won the King of Adarlan’s tournament to become his champion and royal assassin, but her loyalties remain in question as she’s sent on specific missions to kill his enemies, all of whom may or may not be innocent. One target in particular, Archer Finn, is suspected to be the leader of a rebel group in search of the lost princess, Aelin Galathynius, in order to restore the lost kingdom of Terrasen, Calaena’s homeland.

Calaena also deals with the changing of her relationships with those closest to her in the castle. The most notable change is her relationship with Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard. It’s obvious that they both have unreqruited feelings for each other, but where their true loyalties lie may be the thing that tears them apart.

More clues are also revealed as to what is building behind closed doors within the castle. The King is up to something sinister, and Calaena is unraveling more and more about the wyrdmarks and the answers to the riddles that reveal secrets far beyond anything she’d imagined.

Tragedy strikes, and Calaena’s word is flipped upside down. Suddenly, no one is to be trusted and she turns to unconventional means to get what she wants…

What I Liked:

  1. The Bigger Sense of Direction! After reading this sequel, readers will be shown a much more intricately drawn out plot towards the overall story. The first novel, as it turns out, was merely setting the scene and introducing the world and characters that the author created, but this book takes it all so much further, and gives a much more exciting and unpredictable story to enjoy. The author truly stepped up her game with the characterization, the worldbuilding, and the rising tension that makes readers so eager to turn the pages to find out what happens next.
  2. Calaena Becomes a Bigger Badass! In the first novel, readers merely caught a glimpse at the warrior that Adarlan’s top assassin is capable of. In Crown of Midnight, it’s like she’s been unleashed, and her wild, deadly ways are truly shown. She also keeps her sassy, witty, arrogant attitude that made me like her immediately and remains absolutely ruthless towards those that threaten who she cares about. She is lethal, plus there’s so many reveals for her in this story, its amazing how many secrets she actually has about herself.
  3. The Romance! It’s no longer a love triangle, it’s a slow burn of unreqruited love between two great characters, each being torn between what they want, and where their loyalties lie. Calaena and Chaol’s relationship was filled with unexpected moments in this novel, it started off with humorous banter that makes readers ship them so hard, to much more meaningful moments that makes us think true love exists, but has a few sobering moments that make us think that romance is dead…
  4. Dorian Gets A Twist! He may not have gotten the girl, but he did get something a little unexpected…But I’m not going to spoil it for anyone!
  5. The Character Development! The original trio really change throughout this story; Calaena finally stops running from her past, and both Chaol and Dorian finally gain the courage to stick up to their fathers.
  6. That Revealing Ending! It was the moment that I knew that I loved this series.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Straining Relationships…Dorian became a favorite character of mine because he was as an apple that had fallen as far from the tree as physically possible from his father. Dorian is a great character; he’s handsome, he’s charming, he reads. for fun. The boy is straight up marriage material, but in this story, it felt like he was put on the backburner in terms of his relationships with Chaol and Celaena. He deals with a specific twist that’s life changing, and doesn’t know how to share that tidbit with anyone, but the other two seem too worked up in their own issues to even be decent friends to him anymore. Plus, Celaena’s relationship with Nehemia takes a downward turn at one point, and her and Chaol go from extremely high to low, it was all so surprising to be honest.

Conclusion:

The scene had been set, so the story can finally begin! The author went above and beyond to bring more action, excitement, danger, betrayal, and surprises; it’s added a much needed new depth to the overall story. If people get past all the less than interesting first novel filled with clichés, this novel will save their interest, and believe me, the time investment that this series requires is so worth it!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: August 7th 2012
Number of Pages: 406 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

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.

A map of Erilea, the land of the Throne of Glass Series.

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:

  1. 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..
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

Conclusion:

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

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of of Instagram account: @darkfaerietales_

This series is about a young assassin named Calaena Sardothien, who’s been trapped at a concentration camp for over a year before she’s hand selected by the crown prince, Dorian Havilliard, to be his champion in a tournament in order to be the king’s royal assassin and eventually gain her freedom. Without giving too much away for those that haven’t read it yet, SO much more happens in this series, and we’re introduced to a lot of memorable characters:

My review of book #1 –Throne of Glass – Click here!

My review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click here!

My review of The prequel – The Assassin’s Blade -Click here!

My review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click here!

My review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click here!

My review of Book #5 – Empire of Storms – Click here!

My review of book #6 – Tower of Dawn – Click here!

My review of book #7 – Kingdom of Ash – Click here!

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Calaena Sardothien: Amber Heard, or Samara Weaving

Amber Heard, credit to owner
Samara Weaving, image courtesy of celebmafia.com

Both these blonde bombshells have that little fire in their eyes that perfectly encompass our main protagonist, Calaena! Amber Heard has been in Pineapple Express and Aquaman, and Samara was in the Netflix Halloween flick, The Babysitter. Amber was my original choice when I read the series over the years since while they were published, but I discovered Samara recently and thought she’d also make an excellent Aelin!

Dorian Havilliard: Chace Crawford, or Karl Kugelmann

Chace Crawford, image courtesy of stars-arena.com

So ever since I watched him be pretty boy Nate Archibald in the CW’s Gossip Girl back in the day, Chace has been a favorite of mine! he’s got the charm, he’s got the smile, and to help further my justification, it was the image of him below that had me sold on him being my Dorian!

Karl (below) is a model/Tik-Tok creator/influencer (I also can’t believe that’s a thing), and he is so stunning that I actually tear up a little if I look at him for too long! He’s like if Ian Somerhalder and Matthew Bomer had a baby together, and a lot of people are also fancasting him as Rhysand from SJM’s other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I see that, but personally, I think he encompasses our dashing Dorian Havilliard just a tad more.

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

Chaol Westfall: Steve Boyd

Credit to owner

The guys no actor; he’s a model I found on Instagram, but he’s my version of the proud and stoic Chaol Westfall. You don’t see it in the first image I selected, but Steve has that smoldering gaze that made it easy for me to select him as another one of my favorite male SJM characters. To further prove my point, here are some more images below to enjoy for your own eyes, and maybe see where I’m coming from…you can thank me later 😉

For all images: Credit to owners

Nehemia Ytger: Antoinette Robertson

Image courtesy of actress’s Instagram account

I love her portrayal of Coco Connors in Netflix’s TV show Dear White People, so I know she’s not afraid to play a strong woman of color. She’s absolutely gorgeous, and has such a glamorous presence on screen; she’d be perfect to to play Princess Nehemia!

Kaltain Rompier: Camilla Luddington

Image courtesy of gotceleb.com

She’s tough and spunky Jo Wilson on the later seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, but I feel like she’d also be able to play the catty and brash Kaltain. Her character starts off as the basic, interchangeable mean girl trope, but becomes much more compelling as you read Queen of Shadows, and that is where I think Camilla will excel at this role.

The King of Adarlan: Alan Van Sprang

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

He’s played a brutal king on the CW’s Reign, plus other titles too, so I know he’d be great at playing the sadistic King of Adarlan! Not the most original casting, I know, but the guy plays corrupt men on the thrown so well, I felt like some of us would be disappointed if he didn’t get the role!

Nox Owen: Bernardo Velasco

Image courtesy of the model’s Facebook page

I’d hoped Nox would play a bigger role in the whole series because I really liked the time we had with him, short and brief as it was, but I could totally see this handsome model play the part of Nox.

Sam Cortland: Sam Claflin, or Cameron Cuffe

Sam Claflin, credit to owner
Cameron Cuffe, image courtesy of gettyimages.com

Both actors just fit the description I had pegged for the one character who everyone loves but only a few actually meet (At least those who read The Assassin’s Blade), and both actors have the ability to teach me love, teach me patience, and teach me pain with Sam’s terrible fate.

Archer Finn: Armie Hammer

Image courtesy of thefashionisto.com

Archer is a total pretty boy, plain and simple. He’s a male escort in Rifthold, and Armie is just so delicious to look at, and he’s surprisingly not as old as he actually looks! I’ve seen him in The Social Network, The Lone Ranger, and Call Me By Your Name.

Queen Elena: Amanda Seyfried

Image courtesy of thesharenator.com

A lot of people have fancasted her as Calaena and/or Aelin, but I always thought she seemed too old for that part. With her being put into the list of possible names, I just came up with the idea of the actress from Mean Girls, In Time, Mamma Mia, Jennifer’s Body, and Red Riding Hood would be better suited to play the first queen of Adarlan!

Duke Perrington: Stellan Skarsgård

Image courtesy of hollywoodpicture.net

Stellan is a terrific actor, even if he’s never been an actor who I seek out whenever finding a movie to watch. I imagine Duke Perrington to be this more portly nobleman who just has foot soldiers do all his dirty work, but actually has SO MUCH GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE, I”M NOT SPOILING IT BUT OH MY GOD, please appreciate the meaning of that sentence!

Sorscha: Kelsey Asbille

Image courtesy of ign.com

I loved her as Gigi in One Tree Hill, and immediately thought of her as the healer we meet in Heir of Fire who also becomes a love interest to our favorite Prince, Dorian.

Rowan Whitethorn: Chris Hemsworth

Credit to owner

Watching him play the god of thunder, Thor, in the MCU movies was what really gave this idea to me. I mean, he had such gorgeous long locks of hair that were so similar to Rowan’s when we initially met him in Heir of Fire, and I’d hoped he’d have kept it a little longer than he did, but nonetheless, he’s beautiful no matter what length it is! But since everyone is so NOT for this choice, here’s a visual of Thor’s hair both long like Rowan’s in Heir of Fire, and shorter like it is in Queen of Shadows and further on:

Credit to owner

Aedion Ashryver: Josh Upshaw, or Christopher Mason

Josh Upshaw, credit to Owner
Christopher Mason, credit to owner

Both highly agreeable options to play Aedion, I feel no need to further justify!

Lysandra Ennar: Megan Fox, or Phoebe Tonkin

Megan Fox, image courtesy of cosmopolitan.com
Phoebe Tonkin, credit to owner

Despite people not seeming to be big of fans of Megan Fox, I’ve always liked her in whatever film I’ve seen her in. She’s type-casted as the bitchy hot girl, and Lysandra definitely starts off as that, but it’d be a great bridge for Megan, who has more ability than just being the same role! Phoebe is another great choice; catch her in the CW’s The Vampire Diaries and its spinoff, The Originals.

Manon Blackbeak: Catherine Joy Perry

Image courtesy of the WWE Superstar/model’s Instagram profile

So I follow SJMaas on Pinterest, and she’d pinned images of caucasian girls playing Manon, and not east asian actresses like others are casting her as. I won’t knock anyone who chooses their own fancasts, but I’m just personally going with the author based on her own visual cues.

Asterin Blackbeak: Teresa Palmer

Image courtesy of ranker.com

Another fancast option that’s been mentioned for Calaena and Aelin, so I had her included in my casting as the Second-in-Command for the Thirteen in the Blackbeak clan.

Lorcan Salvaterre: Henry Cavill

Credit to owner

I love this man…with his Netflix show, The Witcher, showing him in his white wig as the main character, Geralt, and EVERYONE was instantly like “IT’S ROWAN!!!!“… Not me, I’d already had him casted as my Lorcan!

Fenrys Moonbeam: Jason Momoa

Image courtesy of usmagazine.com

Fenrys was by far the hardest character to cast! First, not enough artists have commissioned fanart of him, and no one else has given me satisfying fancast options of him either! Jason Momoa came up because he’s a person of color, he’s can show the cockiness to match, and Aquaman here is also just plain gorgeous! I like him being my Fenrys; give me a better actor’s name, I dare you!

Gavriel: Charlie Hunnam

Image courtesy of moviestillsdb.com

He’s been in the show Sons of Anarchy and the Guy Ritchie directed flick, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He’s got a more mature look, so I thought he was an actor of proper age to play our calmer member of the Cadre, Gavriel.

Blackbeak Patron: Jessica Lange

Image courtesy of gala.de

She’s an icon, plain and simple. Jessica usually plays homophobic old women in her roles, but I can look past that for the sake of having her play an ancient, but powerful Ironteeth Witch and patron of the Blackbeak Clan. I’m literally getting chills just thinking about it!

Elide Lochan: Nina Dobrev

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Everyone knows her as Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce on The Vampire Diaries, but now you can also picture her as the resourceful and courageous Elide Lochan! Both characters know they aren’t the strongest players in the game, but that doesn’t stop them from sticking it to the big male alphaholes who continuously underestimate them.

Nesryn Faliq: Liza Soberano

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Liza has beautiful Filipino features, and she was someone who I thought of to play the master archer, Nesryn. It’s up for debate what ethnicity she technically falls under, but I’ve always pictured her having more eastern Asian features in her appearance, plus there’s plenty of fanart to back me up, so I’m sticking with my choice!

Ren Allsbrook: Alex Libby

Image courtesy of selectmodels.com

Ren isn’t described a whole lot in the books, so I feel like it can be pretty up in the air with whoever would portray him. I had a major crush on this model around the time we met this character in the books, so I just put a face to the name at that time. This choice could really be anyone!

Ansel of Briarcliff: Rose Leslie

Image courtesy of vk.com

If not Sophie Turner, I believe the role of Ansel should go to the other fiery redhead in Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie! I loved her portrayal of Ygritte in the hit HBO series, and even though Ansel is a little more refined and less rough around the edges, their spunk and confidence is what made this choice for me!

Queen Maeve: Kate Beckinsale

Credit to owner

When her most famous roles include movies like the Underworld films and the Van Helsing flick with Hugh Jackman, It’s no surprise that this gorgeous, British bombshell should play the High Queen, and one of Aelin’s biggest enemies!

Erawan: Alexander Skarsgård

Image courtesy of the actor’s official Facebook page

This is more for when we physically meet (one of) the King of the Valg, and big villain of the series, in Empire of Storms. I believe the host he took over was described as statuesque and blond and beautiful…um, so basically Alexander Skarsgård then! I find it funny that I have two Skarsgård brothers to play the big boss villain!

Captain Rolfe: Theo Theodoridis

Credit to owner

Theo is a model I found on Pinterest of all places, plus I do believe digital artist @morgana0anagrom kind of based her commission the character off him too, so he’s a choice for me to play the Pirate Lord who we first meet in both The Assassin’s Blade, and then later on in Empire of Storms!

King Gavin Havilliard: Wes Brown

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

This was just kind of random choice to be completely honest, I believe I was watching Private Practice on Netflix around the time I met him in the books, as Wes was a guest star on it, and he had similar features to Dorian, so that’s how I made the choice!

King Brannon: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Image courtesy of randomhotguy.blog

Love, Love, Love him as Jaime Lannister! I think by the time we get a surprise appearance of this character in the series, I was just looking for any character I could have Nikolaj play. If not King Brannon, he could also play a good Gavriel too I think!

Galan Ashryver: Jay Byars

Image courtesy of smgmodels.com

Another character who really anyone could play I feel like…Jay was another model I discovered on Instagram around the time I met Galan in Heir of Fire, so that’s how I made this choice!

Ilias of the Silent Assassins: Kendrick Sampson

Credit to owner

I wish Ilias was around more in the whole series! I really liked the whole Silent Assassins thread when you meet them in The Assassin’s Blade!

Yrene Towers: Kat Graham, or Tina Kunakey

Kat Graham, image courtesy of instyle.com
Tina Tunakey, credit to owner

Yrene Towers is one of the harder characters to fancast, just below Fenrys to be honest! There are so many different names thrown out there as to who everyone believes should play the healer that escapes to the Southern Continent, and becomes such a huge role in how the whole series wraps up! Kat Graham is a choice for me so long as she has her hair longer and lighter like in the image above, but someone on Tumblr mentioned Tina as their choice, and with her long curly hair, I do see her as a choice too!

Prince Arghun: Godfrey Gao, or Alex Landi

Godfrey Gao, image courtesy of showpo.com
Alex Landi, image courtesy of mattsimpkinsphotography.com

Godfrey Gao, who was in the Mortal Instruments movie, was my first choice to play the pompous high prince of the Southern Continent, but I was so sad to hear about his unfortunate death…the story behind it is just so tragic too! He died way too early. I have to include him, but Alex Landi is a newer choice, and you can see him on the most recent seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Prince Sartaq: Sam Asghari

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s Instagram profile

Mr. Britney Spears is my choice for Sartaq, who is by far the best new character to come out of Tower of Dawn (You meet Yrene in The Assassin’s Blade first!) Obviously, put a wig on top of Sam’s head, but wouldn’t you swoon if you saw him flying by on the back of his noble steed, Kadara? Can Ruk’s (Giant Eagles) be referred to as noble steeds?…

Princess Hasar: Constance Wu

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly Magazine

I first saw Constance star in Crazy, Rich Asians, and crazy enough, I also pictured her playing the exact opposite of a character as the the vicious, sharp-tongued princess and eldest daughter to Khagan, Urus. Some other fans see Hasar as more Middle Eastern, Egyptian, or Indian, but Constance really resembles how I pictured this character.

Prince Kashin: Sean Sarrantos

Credit to owner

The handsome middle son of the Khagan, I’d found this Greek/Korean fitness model on Pinterest and it was love at first sight! Someone said he looked like an asian Ryan Reynolds, so do with what you wish with that information…I hope that’s not offensive to anyone!

Borte: Naomi Scott

Image courtesy of the actress’s Instagram account

Borte is one of the Ruk riders alongside Sartaq and his clan, and is described as having golden-brown skin and onyx hair, and I know Naomi is a credible actress, so I thought she’d make a great addition to my stacked cast!

Yeren: Ariel Ben Attar

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

In my opinion, Yeren could really be casted as anyone…for anyone who needs a reminder, he’s engaged to be married to Borte despite the fact that they can hardly stand each other, even though they’re both in the same clan of Ruk riders in Tower of Dawn.

Falkan: Aiden Gillen

Image courtesy of latimes.com

We meet him in Tower of Dawn, and he’s incredibly worth mentioning based off what you learn about him later on in that book–not that I’m spoiling it in this post for anyone who possibly hasn’t read that far–and I want Aiden to play a role where I don’t hate the character too!

Bronwen: Elizabeth Blackmore

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB profile

Katherine played Heretic Valerie Tulle in the seventh season of The Vampire Diaries, and I think she’d play this role very well. Not much was told about this character’s appearance, so I think it’s a little more up in the air, but since she played a notable role in Kingdom of Ash, I thought “why not?” and included her.

Arobynn Hamel: Tom Hiddleston

Image courtesy of popsugar.com

I had to end this fancast on a high note, and why not have the Master of the Assassins–and Aelin’s former mentor–to end it with? My first choice was originally Michael Fassbender, who’s also a lot of other fans’ choice, but I believe Tom as Loki in the MCU movies changed my mind, as Arobynn and Loki are very similar in personality and demeanor, at least in my opinion!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell