Throne of Glass (Series) – Sarah J Maas

Rating: 3.5 stars

throne of glassAlthough here at Chapter and Verse, we like to review indie authors and go off the beaten track, after reading and reviewing A Court of Thorns and Roses for this site, I found myself curious about the much-hyped Throne of Glass series.

Like Thorns and RosesThrone of Glass is a reimagining of a fairy tale in a historically amorphous Young Adult setting. In Throne of Glass, Cinderella’s cruel stepmother and ugly sisters are replaced by a life as a child assassin and a hard time down a salt mine. The charming prince knows who she is, and has brought her into the palace to compete as his champion for a prestigious court position which will likely involve more professional murder for the crown. Seems like a smart move.

I really enjoyed the first Throne of Glass book. It had everything. Romance, intrigue, grisly murders, humour, magic. Our hero, Celaena, is a grumpy underdog who is pleasantly comfortable with her own sexuality, gaily checking out every man who crosses her path. There were a few things that irritated me as a reader – we’re told the contest is going to have lots of stages, but only three of them are actually described and a lot is reported “off-stage”. I could have borne fewer stages and to have had a bit more action.

But all in all Throne of Glass was a brilliant read. Fast-paced, full of drama, a great heroine. I thought it was wonderful.

crown of midnightHere comes the rub. I had loved Throne of Glass so I tore right on into the perplexingly-named Crown of Midnight (tbh I also do not recall an actual throne of glass, but that’s a bit more beside the point), which I also enjoyed. But over the course of this book something developed that rather killed the rest of the series for me. Celaena develops from a complex, struggling woman into a Mary Sue. She’s so beautiful that everyone who ever meets her fancies her to the max immediately; she’s all kinds of chosen one – she’s the best fighter, got the most skills, everyone is constantly impressed with her – and it just gets a bit wearing. The great strength of Throne of Glass was a heroine who was struggling, who was complex. Through the second and into the third book, Heir of Fire, Celaena just becomes this incredible wildcard, capable of doing anything, and any sense of vulnerability is lost, even as she appears more emotionally vulnerable – because even the long conversations she has about her feelings detract from that complexity.

I’m very sorry to say that I stalled in Heir of Fire and I couldn’t finish it. Two thirds of the book could have been served by training montages and it felt very slow. When I saw that there were at least two more books in the series I found myself rather short of energy. Everything scales up, and the humour, intimacy and grittiness of the first book (and, to an extent, the second) is gone.

Louise CAV ReviewsReviewed by Louise

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A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas

Rating: 5 stars

court of thorns and rosesI didn’t want to like this book, mainly because I have a great problem with people who spell fairy “faerie” because they think it is all “mystical”, but I enjoyed this so much that I even got over that.

This is just a great fantasy romance novel. It’s very exciting and absorbing – I read it in one go on the train (it was a three hour train) and I couldn’t put it down once I had got into it. It’s obviously written by someone who knows a lot of fairy mythology and who has cleverly incorporated this into a “beauty and the beast” style narrative. But that’s then taken one step further.

By far my favourite section was the last third, which I won’t spoil, in which Maas moves away from the source material and into something more original. It really comes to life there, and I will very much look forward to the next instalment. This third section does contain the easiest riddle EVER – I’m not sure how many smug points an adult woman can garner from finding a riddle for tweens easy peasy, but anyway…

There’s a deal of pearl-clutching on Amazon and Goodreads because this book has been put in the 11+ age bracket and it contains some s.e.x. (chorus of gasps). Obviously, it is the prerogative of every parent to make the decision based on each individual child, tween, etc. whether they are comfortable with them reading this stuff, but when you can flick past violent rapes on game of thrones at 9pm or read abusive stalking dressed up as romance over someone’s shoulder on the tube, I’m not sure that an eleven year old reading some explicitly consensual sex based in a deep emotional connection and mutual trust would be too disturbed. In fact, as a rare and welcome depiction of a woman with her own sexual desires and preferences I would probably encourage girls of the 12–15 age bracket to read this. After all, sex ed is on the secondary school syllabus from Year 7 so they will know what it is.

Aside from this, there are lots of women characters in the book that are just characters, and this struck me as (upsettingly) unusual. As in, they would not have needed to be women for the plot to work – usually there’s the main woman, the love rival, perhaps someone’s mother, but this book was populated by complex women and men loving complex lives, and I was shocked at how refreshing I found this. More of this kind of thing, please!

Louise CAV ReviewsReviewed by Louise

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