5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
Firstly I need to thank my Goodreads and book blogger friends for their excellent taste: I saw this book on many a book blog, the majority of the time with glowing five-star reviews. Well mine is going to be no different, as this is a wonderfully crafted and enthralling tale.
You know you’re going to like a character when she absolutely adores books:
“The library.” The two words were like a shot of lightning.
“The…” She looked at the claw-shaped iron handles. “Can we– may we go in?” The Captain of the Guard opened the doors reluctantly, the strong muscles of his back shifting as he pushed hard against the worn oak… She’d entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. “I’ve never seen– how many volumes are there?” — (page 54)
What stood out to me the most about Celaena was how tough she is. That might be obvious, given her occupation, but romance plays a part in this story and in YA fiction that often means the female protagonist turning into some sort of nervous, blubbering wreck. Celaena, however, doesn’t seem to feel even a tiny bit guilty about having an interest in both Prince Dorian and Chaol, the captain – and why should she? In so many books these days, the female characters are attracted to men that they know aren’t right for them and they tear themselves up about it. Celaena knows that Dorian has a reputation as a womaniser and that nothing could ever become of a relationship between herself and the Crown Prince. But does she worry about the consequences of her flirting and teasing? No, she does not. It’s so wonderfully refreshing to have a female character in charge of her own feelings who does what she wants, when she wants, and throws all reason out of the window. She doesn’t once chastise herself for finding Dorian or Chaol attractive.
Aside from the romance, Celaena is tough, as well as quite cheeky and sarcastic (I have a tendency to love such characters and Maas certainly succeeded there). She teases, she flirts – despite the danger she is in, despite the fact that if she fails the Tests she will most likely go to her death in Endovier – she lives her life, even though it is highly restricted, unlike many a YA protagonist. And when this character is overcome by a matronly handmaid with no time for her attitude, well it’s just funny. It was also lovely to see a female main character with a female best friend who wasn’t just there to gossip about the boys. Nehemia was a brilliant supporting character with some surprises of her own up her sleeve.
But talking of the boys… well I liked them both, in their own ways. Dorian, the Crown Prince, was at first appearances a smooth womaniser, and reminded me a little of Ser Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel – a soft, foppish exterior combined with a brave, sensitive heart. He essentially plays the fool to most people, appearing more interested in the finer sides of court life than politics. Chaol, on the other hand, shows more of his real self – tough, concerned with politics and war, a rather stoic presence – but keeps his true feelings hidden inside, which we see in the occasional chapter from his point of view.
To me, the mark of a good book is when I’m completely and utterly invested in the lives and emotions of fictional characters – and Throne of Glass definitely hit the spot. Certain moments had me gasping and cheering internally, and the duel towards the end is so tense and well-executed that I had to read it at double-time to reach the conclusion more quickly. Sarah J. Maas’ writing style is wonderful: it flows smoothly and she has built a wonderful world in which Celaena, Chaol and Dorian dwell. Even though the entire novel, apart from the very beginning, is set in the grounds of the castle and inside the castle itself, I got the impression of a huge and beautiful land, filled with all types of people.
Despite Celaena being an assassin, there is no room in this novel for assassinations. So if that’s what you’re hoping to read, you’ll be disappointed. However what you will find is a magical novel, about a young girl given a second chance at her freedom, and friendships blossoming in unlikely places. I loved absolutely everything about this book – the characters, the setting, the writing, the plot, and I was completely enchanted by it. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, I can’t wait to pick up the sequel – which is waiting on my bookshelf – and meet Sarah in October at Cheltenham Literature Festival!