After the last two fantasy series I hoped to immerse myself in didn’t end up inspiring repeat visits to the worlds within their pages, I’ll admit I’ve been a bit hesitant to crack open any novel with sequels. But now that half a year has passed since I set aside both the Sword of Truth and The Witcher series (or infuriatingly rage quit, as is the case for the latter), I’m ready to test the series waters once more with Throne of Glass thanks to the highest of recommendations from a friend. A friend that, it turns out, knows what she’s talking about.
The first book in the Throne of Glass series introduces us to a world that has had magic violently purged from its lands by an all-conquering king. Though this setting is important, it plays more as a broad stroke of a backdrop to a story that scales down greatly, focusing more so on an assassin who finds herself pulled from the bowels of a death camp to compete to become the champion for (or the person who will be getting their hands dirty on behalf of) the aforementioned king, the same king responsible for much of the pain and suffering our lead has endured throughout her 18 years of life.
What all that pain and suffering is, exactly? Well… That’s still not fully clear yet. Instead of divulging all the answers I so desperately crave about Celaena’s past, Throne of Glass spends most of its pages focusing on the skill based competition. A competition that, if I’m being honest, helped catalyze the comparisons I couldn’t avoid forming between this and The Hunger Games thanks to the training and opening test of archery we find our extremely capable, headstrong, and often biting main protagonist working through. That and the burgeoning, if not somewhat lopsided, love triangle doing its all to win me away from the brooding Captain of the Guard, Chaol (or Kay-O-L.com, as I have taken to calling him in an attempt to remember the pronunciation), who I immediately latched onto. I’m sorry, Prince Dorian, but your overconfident flirtation is often as irksome as it is charming, and your inability to knock before traipsing into Celeana’s room is not appreciated (though if we’re being honest, no one seems to have basic manners when it comes to respecting the space and privacy of an assassin who is ridiculously easy to sneak up on). So you can go ahead and get in line behind Chaol. Matter of fact, not only can you get in line behind Chaol, but you can get behind Princess Nehemia (who I’m all for being the dark horse as far as romances are concerned seeing how well she matches with Celeana in personality and spirit), Celeana’s take-no-nonsense servant Philippa, and the puppy you were going to kill for simply being disgruntled. They are all far more deserving of Celeana’s time than you, you puppy murderer.
Whew, glad I got that off my chest. Now where was I? Oh right, all the overarching mysteries.
Obviously the character dynamics did their job of distracting me away from what often felt like plot holes and unanswered questions weighing heavily on the first half of the book. That being said, before I found myself too frustrated with just how much pertinent information author Sarah J. Maas holds close to the chest by omitting plenty of exposition surrounding Celeana’s past (who she really is, what she did during her time as the world’s most deadly assassin, how she connects to this greater world of magic and fae, what really happened to her family and for what reasons, etc.), as well as what exactly is going on within the walls of the glass castle as the mysterious mutilated bodies of fellow competitors weigh heavily on those that remain, she does start providing some answers. That’s not to say there aren’t still plenty more loose threads dangling just in the periphery as she comes nowhere close to divulging every answer to satiate the overwhelming curiosity I have about everything, but it’s now very clear that Maas knows exactly what she is doing. And our patience will be rewarded eventually.
Long story short, I honestly still have little idea of what is going on in the world of the Throne of Glass series as far as the grand scheme of things is concerned, but everything Maas has presented so far makes it clear that the potential for something truly great is there, especially after one hell of a final act to this first book. So though the long game may be a tad frustrating, I am more than ready to settle in for whatever Maas has in store for us. Especially since it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of Celeana’s full “world’s most feared assassin” potential.
“Off the Shelf” is my review series of non-new release book outside the “TV/Film Prep” write ups, because it was just too sad to call this “Lauren’s One Person Book Club.” If you have any book recommendations please leave a comment below, or share them with me on twitter @BewareOfTrees!