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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thrilling Thursday Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I loved this epic fantasy so much that I immediately purchased the three e-novella prequels. My reviews of them are here:
The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
The Assassin and the Desert
The Assassin and the Underworld

Author: Sarah J Maas
Title: Throne of Glass
Series: This is the first novel in the series
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publishing: 2 August 2012

Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher

Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads

The blurb says...
Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament - fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin's heart be melted?

My verdict: sweeping fantasy, fabulous heroine, fully-realised world. Recommended for fantasy YA fans of all ages.
This novel started out as a Fictionpress project, first shared with the world ten years ago. This background is apparent in the depth of knowledge Sarah J Maas has of her world; knowledge that she doesn't need to beat us over the head with, but which underpins solid plotting and careful characterisation.

The character of Celaena is extremely well-developed in this novel (and in the accompanying e-novellas). She is a complex character (as people tend to be...) who swings between brattish arrogance and uncertainty. As an eighteen-year-old with exceptional skills in a strange - and deadly - environment, this makes emotional sense, allowing us to warm to her despite her bouts of sulkiness. I also appreciated her moments of girlishness, delighting in fine clothes and being obsessed with the court parties and feasts.

The plot is centred on the tournament to find a Champion, and it is this that drives much of the action, but it is not the main focus of much of the novel. This is a story about people and relationships, trust and loyalty, and that is where most of the action is really concentrated. That is why the book is not one action scene after another, and some of the tournament's heats are barely touched on. A slow-burning love triangle, the social comings and goings of a royal court, and the mystery of how competitors are picked off outside of the tournaments by something vicious and primal all complicate and add further intrigue to the story. I enjoyed the hints at an element of magic which are seeded throughout and am keen to see how this line progresses, as magic has been banned by the power-hungry King.

There are many secondary characters worth a mention. Both Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol Westfall are worthy heroes, at least in some ways. Reinforcing the idea of Celaena's dual nature as girl and assassin, the two men both see her quite differently, responding accordingly to her. This contributes to revealing and building up her complex nature. The Princess Nehemia, on a diplomatic visit from another Kingdom, proves to be another interesting character (and gives Sarah Maas the distinction of having not only the central female be strong and active). The way her relationship with Celaena develops forms another subplot supporting the theme of trust and loyalty.

Overall, this is a compelling and complex novel introducing a world which has been thoroughly realised by its creator and peopled with rounded, realistic characters. I would strongly recommend it to fans of YA fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this book, I really, really must read it!

    ReplyDelete

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