November 3, 2012

Book review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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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 three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. 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.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Last month, I reviewed Graceling and gave it 5 stars. I was hoping Throne of Glass, another YA fantasy novel about a woman skilled at killing, would be just as good. Unfortunately, it fell just short of the mark.

There was a lot to like in Throne of Glass. The idea of the tournament to find the next King's Champion was interesting to me. I usually like stories where a tournament/competition forms the main plot line, e.g., The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The scenes revolving around Celaena's training and participation in the tournament were my favorite parts of the book, not only because they were more exciting, but because they described the assassin part of her character that I wanted to learn more about. The subplot regarding the mysterious deaths of the contestants was also interesting if predictable, and it was nice how the author tied the two together at the end of the book.

What disappointed me about Throne of Glass was the romance between Calaena and prince Dorian. The relationship felt forced the entire time, as if the author put it in there just so there would be a love triangle. Every YA novel does not need to have a love triangle! Whenever I started to read a scene between the two of them, I found myself hoping it would end soon. They only detracted from the rest of the book. Not that I think romance is bad, only romance that doesn't make sense. For instance, the budding relationship between Calaena and Chaol was enjoyable because that one felt natural.

Ill-conceived romances aside, I found the rest of the book to be an entertaining read. If you throw out the pages with Calaena and prince Dorian, it'd be worth 5 stars. Or if you're the type who must have love triangles in your YA novels, you'd probably enjoy it more than I did.

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