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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I'm a writer. My current WIP is high fantasy, YA so I'm trying to research the genre by reading top favorites. Throne of Glass seemed like a crowd pleaser with a good, overall average rating. Also, the synopsis was promising,
"...an assassin is summoned to the castle of a vicious king to win her freedom..."
"The Crown Prince will provoke her"
"The Captain of the Guard will protect her."
Some good hooks here! A vicious king, a top-notch female assassin, evil lurking to destroy the world? All good things.
But this book didn't deliver on ANY of these promises.
First of all, I couldn't get a sense of this world. The author should bring the reader into the world through some descriptive narratives. We don't live here, it doesn't exist outside Sarah J. Mass' imagination, so I need to visit this world through setting--especially if this is a high fantasy book. Fantasy readers LOVE setting (not too much, not too little).
Also, just because this is fantasy does not mean the names of people or places have to be complicated and difficult to pronounce. Think Hunger Games. The names are unusual. Where have we ever heard names like "Prim" or "Katniss"? They are other worldly without trying too hard. The names in this book are terrible. They are so bad, the copy of the book I have has a pronunciation guide in the back.
The worst name was the Captain of the Guard, Chaol. Even though I looked at the guide a couple times to refresh my memory (it's Kay-all) my mind just kept calling him "Chay-ol".
The place called "Eyllwe"? Yeah right. My mind slipped over that one through the whole book. I can't remember funky pronunciations! I don't know the phonics of a made-up land! I'm not going to remember "Eyllwe" is (Eel-way). I hate that.
I thought it was strange that the back cover mentioned "In a world without magic..." and then the book never really explained that effectively. It wasn't even part of the main plot line so why should I care if this world is with or without magic?
It seemed at the end of the book, magic comes and goes pretty freely anyways-there is a lot of magical happenings. Weird.
It bothered me that the author constantly told me that Celaena was a notorious assassin but didn't show me. Celaena definitely was impressive in her own mind because her inner mind chat reminded us every couple pages how awesome she is but I never saw it demonstrated. Even in the climax-the big tournament to-the-death (which wasn't as to-the-death as we thought because the king says that the winner just has to have their opponent in a compromised position but not to actually kill each other. But then when Cain and Celaena are sparring, it appears as though Cain *is* allowed to kill her. I'm confused) we see Celaena finally open up a can of whoop-ass on a competitor but then drink out of a strange goblet from a girl she hates right before her big duel? Are we sure Celaena is a deadly assassin. I'm not convinced.
On the other hand, her inner princess was demonstrated tirelessly and by the middle of the book, I forgot she was a stone-cold killer because she sounded more like a spoiled brat-concerned with her looks, reading, eating, candy and puppies.
The author also used adjectives in an odd manner that made me feel like she didn't know how to show rather than tell. Example:
In the beginning of Chapter 47 the author writes, "Her blood grew warm and glittering."
Glittering? As in shining with a shimmering or sparkling light?
How does blood do that exactly and if it does, how does the character know her blood is glittering? Does she see it inside her body? Perhaps the word Sarah J. Maas was looking for is 'tingling'?
The book was full of those misplaced adjectives.
Like...
"...a muscle in his jaw feathering." Feathering? Like when you're an artist and you blur the lines of something?
I think authors should stop saying that characters hissed after they talk.
"You think I want to go back to Endovier?" she hissed. Nothing in that line even ends with an "s" in fact, there isn't a single "s" in the whole sentence so hissing is not what she did-she said it.

Oh and then there is Celaena's mystery lover Sam. You know, the author could throw us bone every so often with a little backstory to fill in some gaps rather than just spring crap on us all the time making the reader feel like an outsider to a plot line that happens off-stage or behind the scenes.

Lastly, the magical-Fae-ancient queen Elena was the most baffling part of this whole plot. I never got a full understanding of what she wanted Celaena to do and why she wanted her to do it. What was at risk? Why are Elena's own powers so limited? Why can't Elena do what she is demanding of Celaena? Towards the end, during duel, she swoops in to intervene but honestly, it's very little help and very late in the game. If Elena could remove the poison from Celaena's body, why didn't she do that before Cain kicked her ass? I thought it was cruel that she came in at the last second with no explaination as to why she couldn't help her before?
Elena was also able to exercise some magic on Cain and relieve him of the "shadow being" that lived inside him-excuse me, Cain had been tormenting everyone through the whole book! Why couldn't Elena get rid of Cain's demon BEFORE the big tournament?
On page 380 and 381 Celaena and Nehemia have this dialog about what was going on the whole time they have been at the Castle of Glass. It felt like the ending of a Scooby Doo episode where the whole mystery is explained and surprise! It's all a bunch of stuff the reader didn't get to know was happening behind the scenes. Not super clever. We, the reader, don't get to have any fun formulating opinions or trying to solve the mystery because there aren't any clues being dropped, no foreshadowing...we are kept distracted with fancy dresses, balls and a boring love triangle.
The author also commits the mortal sin of head hopping. Sometimes I would think I was seeing things from Celanea's point of view and then all the sudden, I'm in Dorian's head or Chaol's head.
I think if Sarah J. Maas had spent a few more days on editing her final copy, she would have developed some of these plot lines a bit more. The subplot with the king, Kaltain and Perrington would have been a much better one to focus on than the love triangle. It would have been fun to see those three scheming throughout the book-the reader would have knowledge that the some of the main characters don't have and that makes for an engaging read but what we got was one chapter at the end where the king and Perrington sort of scheme and plot and show some big reveals and then it gets dropped for a set up to the sequel that I'm not going to waste my time on. Too bad. This story had great potential.

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