Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cuckoo Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

   This Cuckoo Review has been a long time coming, so I promised myself that I wouldn't get to start Crown of Midnight (and therefore, finish it in time to get Heir of Fire!!) until I wrote this post.

   I was totally blown away by the Throne of Glass prequel, The Assassin's Blade (you can read every word of my fangirling here) and immediately picked up ToG after finishing it. It takes place about a year after the events of The Assassin's Blade. Celaena Sardothien has been granted a reprieve from the Endovier labor camp to compete for the position of King's Champion. What follows is The Hunger Games of Thrones (I'm actually quite proud of my ability to make that up, so don't roll your eyes).

   Because of my obvious love for this series, I'll just get my cons out of the way so we can resume the fangirling. Despite the King's Champion competition being marketed on the book flap and cover, there's actually little coverage of it. Sometimes Sarah J. Maas will just write "They had the second round yesterday and Celaena came in so-and-so place." I'm not complaining, because let's face it, who doubted that she would win in the end? It was just very bait-and-switchy. Instead, the book focuses on Celaena's allies and enemies within the palace. Crown Prince Dorian, ally (and...possible lover?). Nehemiah, the visiting princess from Eyllwe, ally. Chaol the Captain of the Guard, ally. Kaltain, your garden-variety gold-digger, enemy. Duke Perrington the Pervert, enemy. A slew of convicts and thieves all competing against her? More enemies.

   Second boohoo was SO. MANY. NAMES. THAT. START. WITH. A. C. Celaena. Chaol. Cain.There was a fight scene toward the end concerning all the C's, and I had to go back several times because I mistook one for the other: "Wait, I thought C was on C's side, why is C fighting C, and why is C helping C?" TOO MUCH.

   Last boohoo was the cliché nature of the villain. Cain was your typical Big Bad, and right from the off, Celaena hates him for no other reason than he looks big and bad. Obviously that escalates into something more complex, but still so expected. I would've loved a twist, particularly because the author would lead you to suspect other characters. It's one of those times where the guy you think did it would've been a better villain than the guy who really did it.

   To segue into the pros, there was one element of the story that fell in between pro and con. What I loved the most about the prequel was that it was firmly grounded in reality. Fictional reality, but in the world it moved in, it was reality. It didn't take you on flights of fancy about magical elves or a legendary stones that healed. It was a gritty story of a female assassin trying to earn her freedom. Throne of Glass continued that story, yes, but then midway through dumped a pot of magical glitter on the whole thing. Now, there were ghosts of queens past guiding her, a pendant that protects her, and evil creatures that were summoned from the netherworld. Again, it's not something I hold against the book, because it does make for a good story. But it's just not the story I fell in love with. I would've loved it more if Celaena wasn't a chosen one, but just a girl fighting for what she wants.

   For the many pros of this tale, let's start off with the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall. While I'm not a fan of the name (Is it Kay-all? Chay-ol? Kowl?), the little bugger grows on you, much like he did on Celaena. His relationship with Celaena reminds me of the one between Sydney and Vaughn on Alias (one of my OTPs). It went from "This girl is getting too big for her britches, that's enough sass from you" to "Whoa, she just kicked that guy's ass, let me look on with adoring eyes" to "I'm her handler, as MC Hammer put it, I can't touch this" to "Screw it, I LOVE YOU (but not out loud)". While at the end of Throne of Glass, Chaol's romantic notions toward Celaena may be unclear, it is clear that he cares for her deeply. In one of the final battle scenes, *MID-LEVEL SPOILERS THIS WAY* Celaena gets beaten to a pulp and while Chaol can't rush to her side, he meets her eyes and tells her to get up. I think that part totally won me over, because he didn't treat her like a damsel who needed to be rescued. He didn't play the part of the white knight rushing to save her. No, he tells her that he knows she's stronger than she thinks, and that she can get up all on her own. Four for you, Chaol Westfall, you go, Chaol Westfall.

   Another great thing about Sarah J. Maas' series is the intricate worldbuilding. One thing I can't stand is if an author tries to do high fantasy, but does a half-assed job with building his or her world. Thankfully, Maas is not one of those authors. I've gone into this quite a bit with The Assassin's Blade, but I do just want to reiterate her talent at worldbuilding. I feel like Sarah J. Maas is kind of like a baby Tamora Pierce, and trust me when I say there is no greater compliment I can give than that.

   I love that we hate the King of Adarlan. I love that he has no redeeming qualities. In a time where villains are given a tragic backstory and made the victims (Don't get me started on this year's Maleficent film), it's nice to have a villain who is one just because he's a major douche. His relationship with his son, Dorian, is full-on abusive--verbally and physically. There's also a hint that Dorian's younger brother, who is away at school, has inherited their father's penchant for Joffreying about. I hope that we see him in later installments.

  Finally, the best part of the book, Celaena. She doesn't take any BS from anyone. She was the only female in the competition and kicked all the whiny boys' butts. She likes fancy clothes. She likes shopping. She loves her baths. She loves to read. She's sexy and she knows it. She's my Woman Crush Wednesday. This girl is just amazing. Almost as amazing as Celaena is her BFF, Nehemiah, aka, We All Know Zoe Saldana Would Be Cast As Her.

Things I would love to see in the next books:
-more on Cel's backstory
- the return of Kaltain, hell-bent on revenge
- a face-off between Celaena and Arobynn Hamel
- #TeamChaol


My rating: 9/10

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