“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

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.
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Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, YA | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on ““Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

  1. Pingback: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass | Chachic's Book Nook

  2. The reviews I see popping up are agreeing with you I think. At least among the bloggers whose tastes I align with and follow. I’m going to read it, but I think my expectations are not going to be as high as they once were just from reading the premise. I mean.. assassins! That could be interesting! But throw in a love triangle and I am not sure I’m happy with that. I guess I will see how I like it.

    • I expected a lot more from the story than what I got, and was ultimately disappointed by it. It had the potential to be so much better. It still has the ability to suck readers in, but it’s a bit too cliche for my tastes.

  3. Another book it seems similar to is Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I can’t wait for this book though. From your review I think I’ll like it a lot, especially since I like Kristin Cashore books.

  4. Lol, I’ve been reading through the novella prequels of this one so far, and I can already see EXACTLY what you mean in your first paragraph. It’s so flawed, in fact, I actively dislike Celaena, and yet, I cannot stop! I think I’m just going to have to barrel through that first 150 pages in order to be able to finish this one at all, but it can be done. Also, it’s a lot easier to provide timely sequels when they’re pretty cliche, somewhat shallow, and half as long. 😛

    • Mhm, and it bothered me that I couldn’t put it down because I knew that there was so much wrong with it. It was just strangely addictive for some reason that I can’t fathom.

  5. It’s one of those YA novels where you hate yourself for liking it so much

    Ha! I kind of hated myself for not liking it very much. 🙂 I finished it on Friday and found myself rather cold to it. The love triangle didn’t work for me, either, and I never quite managed to engage with the assassin stuff, or with any of the characters. Oh well. It was a fun enough read while it lasted. I’ll probably tackle the sequel when it appears, just in case THRONE OF GLASS is yet another of those laclustre opening volumes that leads into a truly amazing series.

    • Yeah. I was angry at myself for not being able to put it down because objectively there was so much that I thought was wrong with it. I expected to like it a lot more. Oh well. 🙂

  6. “I prefer my fantasy without the fluffiness of love triangles and fancy dresses. ” I concur!

    • Thanks! The entire time I was reading I wanted the love triangle to vanish so I could learn more about the assassins and fairies and so forth.

  7. I too am getting a little tired of love triangles. But they seem to be everywhere and I can’t avoid them. Le sigh. This sounds like a pretty and fluffy read. Maybe I’ll pick it up when I need something not so deep. 🙂

  8. I like your idea of recommending this book to reluctant readers. Would you call this a girl book? Most of my reluctant readers are boys…

    • Probably, mostly because of the love triangle. If it wasn’t such a big part of the book then I’d say no, because the whole assassin plotline is pretty cool.

  9. Sounds cool, I might look into this now.

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