Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Synopsis: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
It’s no secret to anyone that I love Sarah J. Maas with my entire being. She is my favorite author, my idol, and my biggest inspiration. Her books have been with me for three years now, but have shaped so much of my life that it feels like much longer. But I came across Throne of Glass completely by chance.
It was 2015, and I had recently discovered the world of booktube. While I had always been an avid reader, my passion for books was only really beginning to take off as I became introduced to so many titles I’d never heard of before. One of the first and only booktubers I was watching at the time was Sasha Alsberg, (abookutopia), and she was recommending a handful of books she’d read and enjoyed (I don’t remember what the video was). One of these books was Throne of Glass, and, intrigued by a story about an assassin, I picked up the book at my library soon after.
And though it was three years ago (I’ve read the first book a total of three times now), I still very vividly remember the thoughts I had reading TOG for the first time. I also have my original, very rudimentary review written down in my notebook where I record all my first thoughts on books when I finish them (TOG is the first one in there), and I reread the book about two weeks ago. So, to start off my two-months’ worth of TOG content in anticipation for Kingdom of Ash, here’s my review of the book that started it all.
“Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”
I remember being very drawn to Sarah J. Maas’s writing style from the first moment I picked up Throne of Glass. I thought the writing was beautiful, filled with descriptive imagery that transported me into the story, and the third-person povs gave me an objective view of the characters that I had never really known I loved until reading a book in that style. In fact, this series is how I discovered that I preferred third-person to first-person povs, that I really only ever wanted to read fantasy, and also how I began to recognize the kind of writing style I enjoyed most.
Looking back and during every reread, I’m always impressed with how well Throne of Glass is written for being Sarah’s debut novel, not even factoring in the complexity of the plot and characters. Having read all of her books, the growth she’s gone through as a writer is significant, but I always found there to be a certain charm in the way she wrote the first installment in the series.
I fell in love with the world of Erilia just as much as I was falling in love with the characters that were in it. The map in TOG is probably my favorite bookish map to date, and I’ve spent so much time trying to see what I could glean from all the small details scattered across the world. The world and the characters are so interconnected from the very beginning—every character in the story is a product of the world, a fact evident in everything they do.
And though I wasn’t processing it at the time, the fluidity with which Sarah built up her world opened me up to the story so much more than I would have been had it not been so well done. In this series, there is A LOT to absorb, and while it is very complex and gets a little difficult to follow as more details come in later books, comparatively speaking, what’s revealed in book one is relatively simple. I say comparatively because really, it’s not simple at all and book one is chock-full of intricacies and foreshadowing that come into play later, but Sarah builds everything up somewhat gradually.
The plot of book one in this series is fairly straightforward: Celaena is chosen by the prince to be his contestant in the competition to be the king’s champion, and the story spans the weeks of said competition. But if you’ve read the rest of this series, you know that book one is setting up for so much more. There are so many sub-plots that are woven into the first two books that don’t become fully realized until books three and four, and you read back and all you can think of is how genius SJM is. I recommend really paying attention to all the small details in the story because they will come back. Trust me.
“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”
Right away Celaena’s character stood out to me (I mean how could it not?). Her arrogance, her sassy attitude…I had never read a character like her before, and I thought she was so refreshing. I loved the contradictions in Celaena, and how she broke so many stereotypes in YA fantasy. She’s an assassin, a complete badass, but still obsesses over clothes and finery and is quite possibly the vainest character in YA history—and she loves chocolate.
But then there’s the girl who was a slave in Endovier for a year when most didn’t even last months. The girl who had to light all the candles in her room to convince herself she wasn’t deep in the salt mines in the pitch dark. It’s clear from the beginning that Celaena has a long and complicated past. While we obviously don’t know the extent of it until later in the series, even in book one there are multiple allusions to the in-depth stories we get in The Assassin’s Blade, published after book three, and SO MUCH foreshadowing for what’s to come in later books that I go slightly crazy when I go back and reread all the hints woven in.
“I’m not married,” he said softly, “because I can’t stomach the idea of marrying a woman inferior to me in mind and spirit. It would mean the death of my soul.”
I’ll be honest and say that I fell for Dorian’s charm right away. He is such a swoon-worthy character and nothing like his cruel father, the conqueror of Erilia. While he’s obviously a huge flirt and notorious for his reputation with women, you can tell that the interest he has with Celaena turns from wanting to piss off his father to something more genuine the more they interact. And the fact that he loves to read and that he and Celaena bond over books is just so great. While Dorian may not seem overly-complex in book one, he undergoes so much growth in the coming novels that just makes you love him more and more.
“She lifted her eyes to his face, and found his gaze lined with silver. “Get up,” was all he said.”
And then we have the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, who also happens to be Dorian’s best friend. Chaol and Dorian are ultimate brotp goals and I will never get over how much I love them. I absolutely love Chaol in Throne of Glass and think that this is the book in the series where he really shines. I mean, he does have his moments in book two, but it gets a little complicated. But anyway, while I was completely infatuated with Dorian, I could never help but notice how Chaol was always there for Celaena. He was a foundation, her rock, and the relationship she builds with him as she goes through this competition, while not entirely romantic, is much more valuable and meaningful than what she has Dorian.
“Names are not important. It’s what lies inside of you that matters.”
Nehemia is an extremely complicated character, both because she’s naturally guarded and holds her secrets close and because Sarah doesn’t reveal her motives and her complete role in the story until book five. As the princess of Eyllwe, a land conquered by Adarlan, she works to end the plight of her people. My first time reading TOG I didn’t become too overly attached to her character, just because we knew so little about her, but I really appreciated the friendship that formed between Nehemia and Celaena and how close they became. Female friendships that strong are sadly hard to come by in YA, and theirs is one of the best I’ve ever read.
“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.”
I’m a much more technical reader now than I was in 2015 (thank god), just discovering what I liked and didn’t like, not really having many books to hold others up to in comparison…but I feel the same way about Throne of Glass every time I read it. I have such a strong love for the characters, the story, and the world, and am constantly inspired by and in awe of Sarah’s gift for writing.
I’m going to end this review by saying if you’re unsure of whether or not to continue this series: KEEP GOING. While I immensely enjoyed each and every book (well, some of them actually caused a lot of pain but besides the point), this series truly became my favorite at book three (Heir of Fire). So my advice is to keep going until book three.
I’ve been wanting to review Throne of Glass ever since I started my blog and I’m so happy I finally had the chance to! If you’ve read it, tell me your thoughts! And if you want to talk more spoiler-y details, find me on my social media, and stay tuned for more reviews+discussions!