Goodreads: Throne of Glass
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Published: August 2012
The legendary assassin Calaena Sardothien is suddenly pulled from the salt mines where she is serving time to serve as the prince’s champion in a contest his father is holding to find the new king’s champion. Her time training to beat her competitors is interrupted, however, when the spirit of a former queen tells her she must fight the monster lurking in the castle.
As Throne of Glass is often touted as a good pick for readers who have enjoyed Graceling or Grave Mercy, I dove into it thinking it would have a lot more in common with the two. Yes, they all have female protagonists who work as assassins, but Graceling and Grave Mercy are both grittier and even more kick-ass.
Celaena was an assassin, but at the start of Throne of Glass, she has been doing hard labor for some time, and the plot is that she is in a competition to prove her physical fitness. She is not called upon to kill the other competitors, or anyone else, at any time. While she is undoubtedly skilled enough to do so, there is also the underlying sense that life as an assassin is not what she would have chosen if given a chance.
Further, Caleana is fairly girly. This is actually fantastic characterization on Maas’s part, creating a character who is the deadliest person in the kingdom yet still love dresses and parties and can occasionally seem frivolous. It sets her apart from other “kick-ass heroines” like Katsa and Katniss in a unique way, but can be quite surprising to readers expecting someone rougher around the edges.
The final surprise is the magic. Graceling and Grave Mercy both feature magic, as well, but a more realistic version, not the type found in high fantasy. The magic in Throne of Glass could have come from a fairytale—and it comes out of left field. Readers are moved from Calaena’s bleak life in the mines to a scene where she suddenly beings expounding on a magical forest and the fairies who used to live there. Really, I thought this book was a gritty and realistic one about assassinating people. Instead, it is about killing a mysterious supernatural creature that is loose in the palace. Bottom line: I like the plot, but I would have reacted to it better if I had not been expecting something rather different.
Throne of Glass is a very solid book, though there are still hints of clichés that I can imagine were in the first version published on FictionPress. Calaena has a remarkable amount of talents, for instance. There is also a love triangle, but it is more original in that there are two men interested in Calaena, while she is not necessarily interested in both of them. I am looking forward to the reading much more from Maas and much more about Calaena, but I am sorry to say I am not gushing as much as a number of other readers.