Celaena Sardothien is condemned to a life sentence working in the salt mines of Endovier. Ardalan’s most famous assassin is a mere eighteen year old girl. Starving and beaten, she is approached by Chaol, on behalf of the Crown Prince with an offer. Compete to be the feared King’s champion, win and she will earn her freedom after four years. Fail and she will return to the salt mines where she will die. There isn’t much choice really.
Ardalan could take their freedom, it could destroy their lives and beat and break and whip them, it could force them into ridiculous contests, but, criminal or not, they were still human. Dying – rather than playing in the king’s game – was the only choice left to him.
Rather than an action adventure story, it’s more of a Cinderella story with a twist, although poor Celaena never really gets invited to the balls. She must pretend in court to be a lady of breeding whilst in reality, she’s a notorious criminal, constantly under guard. She takes to her courtly life quite well however and I loved that she could be both kick ass and girlie. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I’m not a fan of the endless descriptions that usually come with high fantasy, but this young adult version is focused on the characters. It’s set in a land where magic has been banned and for the most part of the book, there is little fantasy, it’s more like a medieval court, but this actually made me love it more. Dorian is the Crown Prince, cowed under the rule of his father and expected by his mother to marry well. Hiring Celaena is his way of rebellion but he didn’t think he’d actually grow to like her. He may be the prince charming of this rags to riches tale but quietly a connection forms between the captain of the guard, Chaol and Celaena.
And of course she attracts the attention of men; she is not a simpering idiot like the other ladies at court. Whilst her features are striking, she is not described as conventionally pretty and both the prince and her guard actually grow close to her because of the strong person she is. Perhaps a little arrogant, but she is an infamous assassin at a young age. She’s just a girl! I found Dorian to be a more typical love interest so I was routing for Chaol, the underdog…and I admit, I like relationships where the characters don’t even think they like each other. It keeps me on edge.
She’s not actually an assassin during this instalment at least (I know there are some novellas set in the same world floating around in ebook form). The competition consists of a number of tests and each week a candidate will be eliminated and many more are expected to die. Many of these tests aren’t about combat and the plot has several other threads, murder in the castle, discovering Wyrdmarks and their power, political intrigue and finding out what the agenda of the visiting Princess Nehemia is.
I really didn’t want it to end and I will be anxiously waiting the next instalment. Not that there’s a horrible cliffhanger ending, I just loved the characters and wanted to learn more about the world and what happens next…
Throne of Glass is out today (paperback and ebook) in the UK and published by Bloomsbury. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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