It is time to introduce you all to my favorite series of all time by my favorite author of all time, that is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.
This also means that the whole review will basically be one giant hype-train, even if I will keep spoilers to a minimum.
So let’s take a deep dive into the story of Adarlan’s greatest assassin, Celaena Sardothien, the most sassy character that I have ever met, and one of the badass women in the series.
The title is dramatic, it’s got flair, and it also portrays something entirely terrible that had me actually getting chills when I started reading about the villain of the story.
The castle is made completely of glass. That doesn’t seem particularly practical you say? Well you would be right, and Celaena would agree with you. It’s extravagant, just like the nobles of Adarlan who give no thought to the people that the King of Adarlan has oppressed for a while now.
It’s also kind of the perfect metaphor for Celaena - extravagant and beautiful, but hiding a fragility, a fear that could bring it all crashing down.
See Celaena might be the Adarlan’s (and maybe even the world’s!) greatest assassin with blood on her teeth and a sharp tongue, but there are hints to her fear, to her utter self depreciation and escapism throughout the whole book.
She is, simply, a hero who doesn’t want to be one.
It’s quite aptly summed up in the picture above. She doesn’t believe that she’s fated for anything - not after having been through what she’s been through.
But she puts on a mask and smiles through it all, ridiculing those around her and lavishing in the finer things in life.
This was one of the things that made me connect so much with her (not the lashing out part, the hiding your true self part - the fear). Her past has left her so broken, so afraid of failure and of the world around her that she simply stopped trying to save it all.
Because as the above shows, she still does save people. She saves a puppy from being killed for being the ‘runt of the litter’, and she saves a man from falling to his death. She keeps saving those around her, keeps trying even after she says that she’s done.
Even though she has troubles surviving on her own as it is.
That’s also what’s so interesting about Celaena - she manages to be vibrant while hopeless, kind while self-preserving. She’s a full-blooded killer, but she doesn’t kill those who don’t deserve it. There are so many opposites within her, and they all serve to make her an incredibly fun character to follow.
She’s also very flawed, and she’s got a horribly fiery temper that leaves her with thoughts such as the ones below.
See? That’s not the voice of a kind and soft spoken woman. That’s the voice of a fighter that has walked through hell and yet still manages to come out the other side.
A Nehemia so aptly puts it:
Her spirit remains as it once was - she is scarred and she is hurt, but she kept her defiance going. She kept getting up after being knocked down.
I think that is one of the things that had me relating to her the most. All of those feelings, all of the despair and fear and pain and yet she still manages to get onto her feet one more time after she gets knocked down.
Celaena is a hero who had me getting back on my own two feet long after I finished her story.
Nehemia is the second character that I want to talk about. The princess of Eyllwe, the land that the Kind of Adarlan has practically enslaved for their rebellion against his power, Nehemia Ytger is stuck in an enemy capital, walking around the torturer of her people at all times. And yet she still manages to keep her chin up, her spine erect.
She’s a powerful woman, the light of her people, and the dearest friend of Celaena. She’s fierce and Celaena has the idea that she’s fighting to free her people, even as she walks among her enemies, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
She’s also the one to bail Celaena out at many points, their friendship deepening with each horrifying secret that they uncover. She’s clever enough to keep her things relatively hidden, but there’s also a hint of sadness to her whenever she talks about her people. As if she knows that she cannot ever do enough.
Chaol is the captain of the Royal Guard. He’s cold, he’s calculating and he’s suspicious of Celaena and her intentions. That is, until you get to know him. He can seem stand-offish - imagine an old grumpy man with a golden heart. The thing is that this old man’s heart (he’s young in the book btw, so don’t take the metaphor too seriously) has been encased in ice and it takes him a while to thaw.
He does, however, appreciate hard work, and I have the sneaking suspicion that he’s proud of Celaena after a while as she goes from hollowed out husk to powerhouse again.
The above is not a particularly nice part of the book, but it does signify their relationship at first. Chaol sort of tolerates her, he doesn’t really praise her, but he comes to care for her. A lot.
And it was really really nice to have a hero that had to be retrained again, because that is the most realistic thing that I’ve seen in regards to a hero who has come back from a long time of inactivity.
Dorian Havilliard, the Crown Prince of Adarlan, is a softie. At least he seems like that - naive, doesn’t go against his fathers wishes, womanizer. The standard douchey no-good straight guy who has it all.
It’s shown in the dumb question below (which makes Celaena have the most amazing response later on the page, but go read the book to see that one!).
Because Endovier is the Death camp. It’s been made to kill and to be unescapable. And yet he asks her the unthinkable. Celaena, with her sass and smart assery, gives the perfect response and her escape plan was almost perfect.
Dorian learns, slowly, to stand up to his father. He learns what it means to care for someone other than himself and his best friend Chaol, and he actually seems to maybe not despise it, but at least rein back on the courtly stuff. But boy oh boy there’s a lot of character development here, and the potential is amazing.
The King of Adarlan was terrifying. He’s a peripheral character, most of the time, but he’s very much prevalent in all of their minds. Sort of a dark presence that never moves, never blinks, he seems to watch their every movement.
He’s cruel, he’s dark and we have no clue how much he knows. That lack of knowledge is terrifying and it was nice to have a hero that actually feared their adversary rather than felt like they could defeat them, because Celaena, Dorian, everyone feels powerless against him.
The quote below from Celaena is one that I am especially fond of.
Cain is ... wow. Don’t even get me started. He’s a brute and he’s just plain cruel for fun. I didn’t like him because he was a bully, but he was never that prominent for me. He was a villain like any other.
Elena, who is another pretty good but also a bit meh character for me, warns Celaena of this regarding Cain and whatever is going on.
Elena is not a character that I will go into. She’s sort of the friendly ghost that hangs back and swoops in once in a while, and she seems to want to help Celaena, but you have to take a look at her for yourselves.
Ever wanted to read a murder mystery slash assassing tournament slash love and friendship story that takes place in a fantasy world that once held magic but is now dried out? Then this is the one for you.
That is a huge simplification, of course, because reality is so much better. I was in suspense until the end - not about who was the evil one, but rather what is going on. There’s a whole level of suspense going on in figuring out what in the world is happening alongside Celaena, who needs to discover everything for herself.
And gosh. The whole retraining programme in which Celaena finally gets to eat like the noble she feels like, and the way she has her sassy spars with Chaol.
Also the ball seen at the Yule ball is so worth it and her dress description gives me life.
Then we move on to the tournament. I was in love with the challenges and whenever one presented itself, my eyes were glued to the pages. The way Celaena can easily outmaneuver most of them, but she needs to keep it a secret is priceless.
Also the poison challenge in which the participants need to rank the poisons from the most deadly to the most harmless and then drink whatever they placed as ‘without poisons’ is amazing. Partly because Celaena actually doesn’t identify all of them, and partly because there is just so much confusion among everyone but one (who’s basically a poisoner) and when they drink it. Man did I enjoy watching all the characters that Celaena hated writhe on the ground before they could get the antidote.
Next comes the murders. They are gruesome and terribly well written, and the worst part is that no one can figure out what is doing it. Organs are removed, brains carved out and they are surrounded by strange marks.
Of course Celaena finds out, which results in one of the most intense scenes in the book, which I very much loved.
The last part of the plot is the actual tournament. It is tense, and it is glorious. A hero who struggles so much at the end will always be appealing to me, and then the scene where she thinks I will not be afraid (below) is one of the most character defining moments for me.
Because that is who she is. She denies her fear room, she fights on through it, and she says that she is Celaena Sardothien, and she will not be afraid.
It gave me courage, too.
Gorgeous, stunning, fierce. Can I end the segment there? That’s not enough to convince you? Alright, then let’s take a deep dive.
This is my absolute favorite quote, so much so that I got a version of it tattooed, so the below is really the star of the book.
It’s got fate in it and it’s got power and it is so beautifully written that I am in awe. The fear part got me - that she is so powerful that she would be able to change the course of the world, but she is too afraid to do it, because of her past, because of the world around her.
Geez that hits right in the feels.
The stars and darkness and unknown is a huge part of this book and there are so many beautiful quotes that it is hard to narrow it down. The thing is that while the characters carry the book, the language is paced perfectly with snippets of these gems hidden between the pages and it just makes you want to keep coming back, again and again and again.
I found myself trying to emulate her writing style after I had read it (I quickly dropped that again because I kept slipping back into my own style which is honestly the best), and it stuck with me long after I put down the book.
Do you get the feeling that I could talk for days and days and days about this book? You are very much right. It is my all time favorite, and I devoured it whole in one sitting when I first got it. I simply couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages and the wonderful world that Sarah J. Maas has built within.
So do yourself a favor and check it out. I’ll be giving it five paws, in any case.
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