– American Hardcover Art –
I just need to be indulged in the tiniest rant because… wow… that cover is awful bad. How bad is it? It’s so bad that when I received my arc of this book a year and some change ago I actually contacted my publisher rep to ask if this was the cover that they were using for the final book. It was, and I said it wouldn’t sell. And (for me) it didn’t. This was partially because I didn’t read it myself (though I staunchly tried) and secondly because oh-my-effing-gods that cover is bad!
My thoughts at the time – why can’t we have the British cover? That would sell. Seriously. Just look.
(said British cover)
Behold, a year went by and the book did not sell (cover changes always indicate this). So now, we have this to gaze at for the US quality paperback.
… Much better …
And now I can talk about the actual book and not just the cover judging.
For the record, I started to read this book three times before I got any further than the first chapter. I was never in the mood for High Fantasy this year (until recently) and, as a result, this went unread until this week, when I actually finished it after starting it yet again. This week I received a copy of the sequel, Crown of Midnight, and I thought it was time to delve back into this world… or, at the very least, attempt it again.
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin. She is, in actuality, the most deadly assassin that has ever been known in Erilea. It is for this reason that she is approached by Chaol Westfall, the captain of the guard for the King of Adarlan. The King wants her to represent his son, crown Prince Dorian Havilliard, in a duel to the death against 23 other competitors – all of them trained in the deadliest of arts.
The prize? Her freedom; the most intoxicating of all treasures. Celaena accepts and is thrown, full force, into the fatal game of cat and mouse. When competitors start dying Celaena begins an investigation that unearths ancient secrets and threatens her future.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I found it to be a bit clunky, both with characterization and tone. There were times where I felt like I was reading middle grade fantasy. I kept forgetting how old the character was supposed to be. I never would have pegged her for 18 had the book not told me that initially. She seemed far too young.
Celaena begins as a prickly heroine. She is all lash and bite. She is a fighter. Now ensconced in the palace she doesn’t know what to do with herself. The one thing you can count on though is that she will survive. Or, at the very least, take out her opponent while she dies trying. At times I really adored her and other times I felt that she was slipping out of her own character. You want her to be the badass assassin but the scenes where she was going “soft” from palace life were really unflattering. It was like I was reading two completely different people. Perhaps it was the back and forth third person narrative, but it felt like I had a severe case of whiplash by the end of the book. I attribute this to some of the problems with her as well. It felt like I was reading other characters even when it was blatantly her.
There’s a few predictable plot points, most notable the dreaded love triangle between her and a few choice admirers. I think I am officially over said triangles in young adult, unless I am specifically reading romance. I just couldn’t summon up the interest to invest in this one, despite liking all of the players involved. It’s obvious who she will end up with, so this plot line is futile to the reader. I hope I’m not annoyed with it for the entire next book (which is usually when the main character goes ooey-gooey and wishy-washy over the love interests). Like I said, over it. Officially.
There was also a struggle reading the contest. For me these scenes of testing never gelled. I found myself far more interested in the building-up scenes between Celaena and Chaol, more so than the actual tests. There seemed to be less tension instead of more. Or perhaps it’s because I was completely uninterested in this plot point.
So what kept me reading? Oddest thing is, everything I have just described. There’s something compelling in all of this experience that I can’t quite put into words, despite many reservations about this book itself. I’m not sure if it suffers from bad editing or if Maas will improve the more she writes. There was a notable improvement of her writing in this book alone. I felt her growing better as the story went on, more confident, and with far less exclamation points to imply intensity. It makes me curious to read the sequel and see if my thoughts are correct.
So with that, and after all of that, I am off to read Crown of Midnight. Fingers crossed that it will prove a tighter read. As for Throne of Glass – 4 out of 5 stars.