This book has bestseller potential. It’s one of those YA novels where you hate yourself for liking it so much because it’s got so many problems and cliches but at the same time you can’t put it down and can’t wait to know what happens next and are eagerly awaiting the sequels.
I received a review copy from the publisher while at BEA, and I got a chance to meet the author, who is very nice. Sarah Maas got her start writing at Fictionpress.com, and has written several shorter stories that are companions to “Throne of Glass.” I’m impressed that she’s already been able to garner such a huge fanbase before the book has even been released.
“Throne of Glass” tells the story of Celeana Sardothien (she has a rather epic last name, don’t you think?), an assassin who has spent the past year enslaved in a salt mine as punishment for her crimes against the King. She receives a visit from Prince Dorian summoning her to the castle, where she will compete against twenty-three rivals to win the position of King’s Champion. Prince Dorian wants her to win the competition because it will annoy the King. If she wins, she will earn her freedom after her term as Champion is complete. If she loses, she’ll be sent back to the salt mines, or, more likely, she’ll be dead. Celeana decides to accept the challenge. As the Trials begin, the dismembered corpses of some of the contestants begin turning up in deserted hallways, which is when the story starts to get interesting.
During the first 150 pages or so, I had a hard time getting into the story because I felt like the author was rehashing every commercially successful SF/F novel that’s come out in the past ten years. The competition itself felt a bit contrived and reminded me a lot of “The Hunger Games.” There’s a brief mention of Prince Dorian’s little brother, who is essentially Prince Joffrey from the Song of Ice and Fire series. Even Celeana’s enslavement seemed to mimic Kelsier’s in “Mistborn.” Oh, and let’s not forget the horribly obnoxious love triangle between Celeana, the Prince, and the Captain of the Guard, which not only is annoying in a YA-love-triangle manner, but also displays elements of Stockholm Syndrome.
And yet, by the time I finished those first 150 pages, I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down. It gets better once Celeana starts getting entangled with magic, parallel worlds, and a long-dead fae queen. As the story got going, it started to display more originality, even though the love triangle still detracted from my enjoyment of the book. When I finished, my first thought was “Goddammit! …b…b…b…but where’s the rest of the story? Why can’t I start the sequel NOW? What’s gonna happen next!?!”
Celeana is a kickass heroine who can hold her own against any opponent and doesn’t seem to have any real qualms about her chosen profession, but at the same time she’s got a big heart and wants to prevent others from experiencing injustice. My favorite character though was Nehemia, a foreign princess who pretends to not know the language so that she can be a more effective spy.
Finding the right audience for a book is everything. This book is getting rave reviews right now because it’s finding its target audience. I’m not that audience, and I’m willing to acknowledge that. I prefer my fantasy without the fluffiness of love triangles and fancy dresses. At the same time, I think that this book would be great for young adult readers, particularly those who need the type of story that they won’t be able to put down to get them interested in reading. I can already think of a handful of people that I’ll be recommending this to when it comes out, and I know that they’ll become obsessed with it as soon as they start it.
I keep seeing this book compared to a lot of others, so I’m going to do a bit of brief comparing/advising of my own based on some of the more popular comparisons that I’ve seen.
- Suzanne Collins – Very apt comparison, actually. Fans of the Hunger Games Trilogy will probably enjoy this one a lot. If you are okay with the flaws of The Hunger Games, then you won’t mind them here.
- Kristin Cashore – If you like Cashore’s writing specifically because it doesn’t contain the love triangles/etc., then this one is probably not for you. However, the writing does have a similar feel to it, so I can understand where the comparison is coming from.
- George Martin – It doesn’t have the same complexity, so don’t expect it. You will see some mild political intrigue set in a glass castle, so there’s that. Sara Maas will also probably be far better at providing sequels in a timely manner than GRRM.
- Brandon Sanderson – Sorry, but no.
- J. K. Rowling – Yes. This is another relatively apt comparison. On a darkness level it’s more like the later Harry Potter novels than the earlier ones.