[A quick note: I read this book AGES ago. I was in school and it was all anyone was talking about. Throne of Glass this. And Throne of Glass that. And it’s so incredible, blah blah, blah. So I had to read it too. I remember being overly critical about it then mainly because I saw flaws. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see the same flaws this time around. Anyway, I got caught up with school and wasn’t able to continue the series. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I was just too busy. This is me giving it a second shot. I wanted to read the book again before diving into the rest of the series. After reading ACOTAR I felt I owed it to myself to read this one before moving on to Crescent City. If anything, it’s a learning experience to see how an author starts out, and how they become stronger.]
“We all bear scars,... Mine just happen to be more visible than most.”
― Sarah J. Maas
A girl with a tortured past can still overcome hardships and rise above the rest. Celaena Sardothien, the worlds most notorious assassin, just spent the last year in a death camp. No one is supposed to live longer than a few months in the salt mines of Endovier. Yet, she has survived with no hope of freedom. That is, until the Crown Prince, offers her a bargain she can’t resist: win a competition and become the king’s assassin, in exchange she will win her freedom. The only problem is, the very same king she must serve is the one who put her away. She agrees, and finds herself pitted against others with the same idea in mind. Everyone is fighting for the same thing—their freedom. But Celaena soon finds that there are greater enemies than those she’s competing against. A dark evil is lurking deep beneath the glass castle. Competitors are dying on the eve of each competition. Celaena may be the only one who can stop it. But can she conquer the evil and win her freedom?
This was a fast read and I enjoyed it. There’s plenty of mystery, action, and good dialogue. As far as female assassin books go, there aren’t many out there, so I was eager to read this one. It’s always fun diving into an entirely new world, getting to learn its culture, customs, magic system, lay of the land, etc. This book was no exception. It’s got layers of intrigue and backstory sprinkled through its pages. It’s also very clearly YA.
I found a few flaws in the writing that knocked it down a star level. These were mostly to do with Celaena’s character. A number of elements jumped out at me within the first part of the book. As a female assassin, Celaena is not very believable (but it’s YA so I’m trying not to judge too harshly). I think SJM did what she could to make us believe Celaena was a hardened killer by throwing in “I could kill him in an instant” and “All I needed to do was wrap my chains around his neck and he’d be dead” type of thoughts. This is supposed to make the reader believe that she’s constantly thinking about killing. As a killer, that seems like something a killer would be frequently thinking about...right? But, it still didn’t feel...genuine. There are many of these kinds of thoughts sprinkled in the very beginning, but they disappear quite quickly after about the 25% mark. In regards to Celaena’s abilities, there was a lot of telling, and not enough showing. We never really saw a lot of examples where Celaena showed us exactly how powerful she was, especially in the beginning. Moreover, there were too many things about her that seemed contrived. Her love of fine clothing, while understandable, doesn’t feel assassin-esk. Her love of books. Her ability to play the piano beautifully. She seems like a girl who can do it all...EXCEPT she can’t play billiards? And struggles to hit a billiards ball into a pocket? And her emotions, but she is a teenager. Which has me thinking...THIS is Adarlan’s most powerful assassin? And of course, she acknowledged the fact that most others had the same thought. But it’s still hard to buy in on that fact. IF YOU CAN GET PAST THIS, the book is quite good.
There is a love triangle trope. A lot of people dislike the love triangle, but I don’t mind it so much. If done well, I enjoy an occasional love triangle. I think that SJM did a fine job on portraying it. It was understandable because the Crown Prince is tired of the same type of woman, and Celaena is different than what he’s used to. Of course he’d be attracted to her. And then you have his captain of the guard, who is forced to be around her all the time, and hates her at first, but once he gets to know her, she’s not so bad, eh? So why wouldn’t he start to develop feelings for her. His feelings are subtle, not overdone. And I appreciated that.
The plot was interesting. It wasn’t entirely cookie cutter. There was more than simply the competition to overcome. By introducing a lurking evil, SJM added an additional layer that enriched the story. She also did a good job in making the foreign princess look suspicious for a time, to keep the reader guessing at who was behind the killings. However, it was obvious early on that Cain was the likely culprit.
As I get older, some YA stories are harder to love than others. I’ve become more critical of certain aspects. Some YA stories nail every element and can be read by adults without noticeable flaws. This one was one that didn’t really hit all the markers for me. For its target audience, it’s a home run. Had i read it as a teenager, I probably would have given it 5 stars. As an early 30s female, I saw too many flaws to give it a higher star rating, so I’m teetering between 3.5 and 4.
I think to close, I’ll say it’s not easy to write an assassin. Assassins are interesting characters because they’ve got to have a specific mindset to kill so many people and justify said killing. The only book I’ve read where this is done extremely well, with a seasoned assassin who does a lot of killing, is Brent Weeks The Way of Shadows. So I applaud SJM for attempting to write a female assassin and doing an okay job of it. As far as character building goes, this is a challenging type of character to tackle. I’ve kept that in mind as I rate this book.
Do I recommend this? Absolutely! It was an enjoyable read. I’ve already purchased the next two books! I’ll be diving into those soon. Definitely recommended!