Monday, July 16, 2012

ARC Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: Aug 7, 2012

Cover Impressions:
Here is where things get tricky.  Because I had an e-arc with no cover page I got to choose my cover.  Can you guess which of the two above I picked?  That's right, the badass one.  I believe the first is the UK cover and the second is the US cover.  Well folks, the UK wins it.  The US cover is ho-hum, seen it, probably not gonna pick it off a shelf.  The UK cover, on the other hand has a fantastic blend of awesome colors, creepy atmosphere and "don't fuck with me" attitude.

The Gist:
Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games when a king bent on domination holds a competition to find the most deadly criminal to be his champion.  Celaena Sardothien is pulled from the depths of the lands most brutal prison by the Crown Prince to serve as his competitor.  When a mysterious forces begins to sadistically murder and disembowel the other competitors, Celaena finds herself in a world that might just be more dangerous than the one from which she escaped. 

Oh how I wanted to love this book.  The cover.  The hype.  And, to be truthful, Maas had me for the first 5 or 6 chapters.  I began burrowing in and expecting an engrossing read with a compelling main character but alas, things eventually began to fall apart.

The Celaena Sardothien that Prince Dorian finds in prison is one of the most badass characters I have ever encountered.  We learn that she was one of the most feared prisoners for her tendency to "snap" and bury her pickaxe in anyone within her sight.  She has survived for a year in a place where most last weeks at best.  She is strong, witty and imagines murder at every turn, making comments like "You'll be sweating when I skin you alive and squish your eyeballs beneath my feet".  However, halfway through the novel, this character seems to disappear.  Throughout the novel, it seems like Maas can't actually decide who Celaena is.  She is badass one minute, vain and pompous the next and weak and simpering after that.  If anyone has read my review of Grave Mercy, you will recall that I have a problem with Assassins who never actually kill anyone.  This is also a problem in Throne of Glass.  Making your character a kick-ass female assassin with a deadly past seems like an easy out.  The author gets this fantastic character with a fearsome reputation but doesn't actually have to do anything to prove/maintain that reputation.  Now, I am a little bloodthirsty, I think an assassin should kill someone at least every 50 pages.  That may be a bit excessive but *SPOILER ALERT* Celaena doesn't actually kill ANYBODY!  Sure she can fight, but in the end she gets rescued.  Which doesn't fit AT ALL with the original character that we met.  There are also some other issues with the whole assassin role:

- It is up to Chaol to come up with the "lie low" plan, why didn't she think of that herself?
- It is hard to believe that an assassin would be so comfortable in gowns without making some adjustments or asking for clothing better suited for fighting.
- She never manages to get her hands on a decent weapon and, despite being mentioned constantly, she never actually uses her makeshift "knife".
- She never takes a single shot at Cain, despite his increasingly aggressive taunting.
- Dorian is CONSTANTLY sneaking up on her.  Seriously, your trained assassin hearing doesn't work anymore?

There are some other interesting characters.  Chaol starts off strong and stoic and it appears that he will play the love interest.  Unfortunately, he seems to fade to the background by the end of the novel.  The princess, Nehemia, is kind and mysterious.  She appears to hold a world of secrets and, I hope she comes to the forefront as the series continues.   The prince, Dorian, plays the role of handsome womanizer who reforms once he meets the right woman.  It is a little cliche and never quite feels real to me.  For his part, Dorian disagrees with nearly all of the decisions that his father makes but never actually DOES anything about them.  The fearsome and cruel king removes himself from the action, returning at the end of the novel under mysterious circumstances (which are never explained). 

The world building is interesting.  I like the idea of a land where magic has been banished but simmers just below the surface, sometimes leaking through fissures and wreaking havoc.  The plot begins strong but starts to lag once the competition begins.  There are A LOT of Tests and many of them are covered in just a line or two.  Maas could have accomplished the same thing by reducing the number of competitors (some of whom never receive a name) and subsequent tests.  There are a lot of hints at larger secrets in both Celaena's and Nehmia's past but nothing important is ever revealed (I kept wait for that OH MY GOD! moment - but it never came). The pacing is a bit off, with the training and competition being glossed over in order to spend time on the will-they won't-they relationship between Celaena and Dorian. 

Books like this are often the most disappointing.  It has a fabulous premise, even a fantastic opening, but fell apart once the story began to be fleshed out.  Because I saw flashes of greatness, I will be sticking around for the next book.  Here's hoping for more killing, less moaning and FFS no love triangle between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian! 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Hinted at
Violence: Swordplay, Disembowelment, Hand to Hand Combat, Poisoning
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch,
Substance Use/Abuse: Wine, Opium


fakesteph said...

Oh man, i'm sorry you were disappointed. I totally LOVED this one. It made me so happy. All the times that he snuck up on her, I saw that as her starting to feel safe and being off her game. It's a great point, though.

Livvy said...

Sorry to hear you're disappointed, but I think the hype that surrounds books can sometimes raise our expectations too high, which sucks.

Actually, I would expect an assasin to kill somebody! I can understand the frustration there.

Well I think I'll have to take a chance with this book and obviously the UK cover has to rock because the UK does! :D

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