The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas is sort of a phenom among young adult fantasy readers. The reviews are plentiful but vary dramatically with lots of one and five star reviews. With thousands upon thousands of reviews and a massive chasm between reactions, I really needed to give it a try and see what the hubbub is about. Bloomsbury | 2013 | Paperback 404 pp
Calaena Sardothien is an assassin. Before getting caught and thrown into a prison mine, she had been the most feared and the most well-known assassin in Adarlan. Formerly known as Adarlan’s Assassin, she was pulled out of the prison by the Captain of the Guard and given audience to the Prince. What she thinks is a formality of execution is actually a chance at a new life. She’s given a choice: back to the mines – or enter a contest to become the King’s Champion.
Members of the royal court have each selected their own entrants from a pool of notorious thieves, assassins, and thugs, and Calaena is to be the Prince’s entrant. In order to keep her identity a secret as to give her an advantage over the other competitors, she adopts the name Lillian. This way, the other competitors would dismiss her as a weak girl since no one knew what Adarlan’s Assassin looked like.
The competitors train and compete on the palace grounds. They face new challenges every week, and like the Survivor reality show, someone gets eliminated each week and gets sent back to wherever he came from – or dies from one of the challenges. Calaena is the best. She is classically trained and has a penchant for killing. She is trained each day by Chaol, the Captain of the Guard, to help get her in shape and he urges her to stay in the middle of the pack to not draw attention to herself. This, by itself, is a huge obstacle for Calaena who is competitive by nature.
It looks like Calaena should have an easy path to the nomination, but a dark magic is taking lives inside the castle. One by one, the competitors are being picked off by something lingering in the shadows – something that is eating them alive. It isn’t long before Chaol and the Crown Prince are fighting to keep their assassin alive long enough to finish the competition.
With the widely ranging reviews, I was worried that this young adult book would fall flat for me but it did not. I absolutely loved it – devoured it – bought the rest in the series – told everyone I know about it.
The character of Calaena is simply addictive. A jewel of a girl who will kiss you on the cheek before beheading you. Everyone needs to watch their backs around this one. At the same time, she has vulnerabilities. She’s human and when she gets to know the Prince (who’s politics differ greatly from that of his father’s) and Chaol, she feels a connection. Yes – there is a bit of a love triangle. But it isn’t sappy so I’ll let it slide.
There is a lot of wonderful world building and it’s built upon through political strife and an empire’s quest for world domination, genocide, and multiple factions. Calaena builds a friendship with a visiting princess from a land recently conquered by the King, and they become fast friends. While Calaena is posing as a courtesan, both women are keeping dark secrets.
There is a paranormal/supernatural element that is woven around the political intrigues which adds to the suspense. The fact that Calaena is a ‘fated protagonist’ does nothing to detract from the story simply because of the sheer number of details and deep connections that keep the reader on his/her toes – from social class to politics to magic to love.
I will be reading every one of these. Highly suggested!
Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas