When I tell people I had not read Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series until this year, I am immediately lambasted and a lot of hand-gesturing and heads shaken in derision takes place. And I deserve it all.
I now consider Sarah J. Maas amoung my favourite writers of all time. She has an incredible gift for storytelling, world-building and character development. I binge read the Throne of Glass series in about eight days – eight days of living in a cloudy head-space where my only thoughts were of Celaena and Chaol and Dorian and Rowan and everyone else in this amazing world. Fun fact: I actually had the first book of the series on my shelf for years. Every Christmas, my aunt buys a book for me and she bought Throne of Glass the very year it came out, in 2012. It’s my own fault that it has taken me so long to read it. But, I finally did! And I can’t stop thinking about it.
(warning: spoilers ahead)
Throne of Glass
“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.”
In the first book in the series, we are introduced to the main character Celaena Sardothien, a beautiful and deadly assassin who somehow ended up in slave mines for over a year. Her life is altered forever when the Captain of the Royal Guard and the Prince of Adarlan travels to the slave mines and asks Celaena to fight in a life-or-death competition to crown the King’s next Champion. If Celaena wins, she will be granted her full freedom in four years. Celaena is an awesome representation of a female character: she is smart, beautiful, headstrong, and confident and does not allow people to control her or tell her what she can and can’t do. She is the only female contestant in the competition and has to deal with misogynistic remarks – I loved it when she showed off her awesome skills and all the men would just stand there with their mouths hanging open. Celaena becomes close friends with Princess Nehemia of Eyllwe, who has travelled to Adarlan to sue for peace to free her people who remain as slaves in other mines. Celaena also investigates strange marks she finds everywhere in the palace, including on the bodies of Champions who are slowly being murdered. The plot is very interesting, and sets up a lot for the following books: magic was outlawed ten years ago, and nobody can use it, but through these marks – called Wyrdmarks – old magic can be used again and sets Celaena on a quest to find out how and why. While dealing with murderers, rapists and magic, Celaena also finds herself in a sort of love triangle between Prince Dorian and Captain Choal Westfall. It is almost impossible to choose between these two awesome young men, and I don’t pity Celaena in trying to choose between them. The first book’s main function is to explain the world of Erilea and set up the coming books, as well as explain the history of magic, Adarlan, the previous wars as well as the current issues surrounding the countries. It was a great first book, much needed to explain the rich, complex history and cultures of Erilea.
Buy the book here.
Crown of Midnight
“If they wanted Adarlan’s Assassin, they’d get her. And Wyrd help them when she arrived.”
Things really start to pick up in the second book. Celaena is now the King’s Champion, and as his Champion, must carry out his wishes which mainly include killing anyone he desires. Secretly, though, Celaena does not kill them, rather, she sets them up in another city or country and fakes their death. The King gives her a new mission: to stop a secret rebel movement against him by extracting information, and then killing, Archer Finn, an old friend of Celaena’s who is a courtesan. While trying to gain information from Archer before she fakes his death, Celaena also has to worry about the mysterious things happening in the castle: a strange creature lurking in the library, a riddle in an old Queen’s tomb that explains that 3 Wyrdkeys can open the Wyrdgate which allows every realm in the universe to be opened and anyone can pass through; and, Dorian discovers he has magic. Chaol and Celaena grow closer and closer and eventually they sleep together, and become a couple. As someone who was rooting for Chaol, I was very happy when this happened. Although, I did feel bad for Dorian. While Celaena is singlehandedly trying to bring back magic, stop the King, and find out what exactly happened all those years ago, she discovers that Archer is part of a rebellion that is attempting to find Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the lost Princess of Terrasen, the country that the King of Adarlan conquered and destroyed ten years ago. I had my suspicions in the first novel that Celaena was more than what she was saying, due to her avoidance of thinking anything about her past. It is the mark of a good author that the readers forget they know nothing about their main character and focus instead on the current plot. Celaena is an unreliable narrator, but I don’t mind that because it suggests something important is coming. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series occurs: Nehemia is murdered by unknown assailants, and Celaena blames Chaol because he was aware of threats against Nehemia and never told Celaena about them. Celaena, using her wits and in severe depression, hunts down the man responsible for Nehemia’s death. In her grief, she recklessly opens a portal to another dimension to talk to Nehemia, who comes, but brings a monster with her. In order to save herself, as well as Chaol and Dorian, she goes into the portal and turns into her other form: a Fae. In order to protect her, Chaol sends her to Wendlyn, the land of the Fae, and then finds out that Celaena is the lost Princess – now Queen – of Terrasen. This was a fantastic book, much better than the first – it explains much of the history set up in the first novel, and expands on it.
Buy the book here.
Heir of Fire
“She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, and she would not be afraid.”
The third book slows down a little, as Celaena is dealing with her feelings over Nehemia’s murder. This is really important, because oftentimes, when a protagonist suffers a tragedy, their feelings are placed in the background of the immediate action, whereas here, almost everything Celaena does and who she tries to become is because of Nehemia. Celaena is now in Wendlyn, on a mission to assassinate the royal family, one of the last royal lines that present a threat to the King of Adarlan’s rule. Her Fae aunt, Queen Maeve, sends for her as she has always wanted to see Celaena, but has always been prevented. Maeve tells Celaena that she will answer her questions on the Wyrdkeys, only when Celaena has trained with one of her bonded Fae warriors, Rowan Whitethorn, and learned to control her magic. Celaena’s training scenes are slow, but important. She is terrified of her Fae form, and blames it on what happened to her family years ago. Meanwhile, Chaol is struggling with what he has learned about Celaena, and to make matters worse, Celaena’s cousin, Aedion Ashryver, the General of the North, arrives. Chaol and Aedion exchange information and Aedion discovers his cousin is alive. Together, they continue Celaena’s work on Wrydkeys and discover that the clocktower is one of three towers responsible for the fall of magic, ten years ago. Sadly, the King discovers what has happened and executes Sorscha, Dorian’s love interest and bonds Dorian to him through a black collar, which we discover is used to contain a Valg (demon) prince. This scene really stuck with me because it is one of the only books I have read where male friendship is expressed as lovingly as a female one is: when Chaol is about to escape, he and Dorian say that they love each other. One of my favourite characters is introduced in this book: Manon Blackbeak, a savage witch who is the Heir to her coven. She is absolutely ruthless and I love that Maas doesn’t shy away from badass, evil female characters. Manon’s role in the story is to explain the King of Adarlan’s secret weapon he is brewing in the mountains: wyverns, with witches to ride them in battle. For all her severity, Manon picks the baitbeast, the smallest of the bunch used to be beaten up by others, over a trained wyvern and names him Abraxos, who is the cutest creature ever. I mean, he likes to smell flowers, over killing things. Baby. My favourite part of this novel is Celaena and Rowan’s growing friendship – not only does she show her how to move past Nehemia’s death – and she does the same for him after discovering the guilt he feels over his mate’s death – he also shows her she has nothing to be scared of her magic: it is a part of her. This book really broke my heart: Celaena goes through so much and it is amazing to watch her overcome this. She and Rowan discover the truth of the King of Adarlan’s powers, and gets her answers from Maeve, while also freeing Rowan of his blood oath to the Fae Queen. Celaena is ready to return to Adarlan and take control of her destiny.
Buy the book here.
Queen of Shadows
“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”
I was in a glass case of emotion after reading this book. The fourth book in the series blew my expectations and my mind. There was so much amazing character development and double and triple crosses. Celaena, now Aelin, has taken control of her life and destiny and does not allow anyone to walk over her again, including her old master, Arobynn. Debts are paid. What really made this book for me was how much Aelin has matured, and I don’t just mean from assassin Celaena into Queen Aelin; I mean, her impulsiveness has been exchanged for calculating plans and her darkness developed into strength. This book was all about female empowerment: Aelin, Manon, Lysandra, Elide, Asterin, Kaltain, Nesryn … it was amazing. Now that Aelin has returned to Adarlan, she is on a mission, which involves finding her old assassin master Arobynn who has his own plans involving Aelin. Arobynn explains that her cousin has been imprisoned and makes a deal with Aelin that he will assist in rescuing him, if she kidnaps a Valg for him. When Chaol and Aelin meet again, its awkward and difficult, which is understandable. I hope for them to move past his one day, and become friends again. I gasped aloud when Aelin was so ready to abandon Dorian, and even kill him if need be. I couldn’t make sense if that is out of character for her, until we read from Dorian’s perspective how much he desires death. Aedion’s rescue scenes were amazing – Aelin is so ingenious and clever. She felt like a puppeteer and all these people her puppets that she can control and manipulate. She so cleverly uses Arobynn against himself which allows Lysandra to take her long awaited revenge on the man who killed the man she loved. That scene was amazing. Rowan arrives in Adarlan and I could not contain my happiness. I loved Chaol and Celaena together, but I think their romance was for those people, the people before Nehemia’s death and Celaena’s true destiny was revealed. Rowan is the man for Aelin, in my opinion. They have a healthy relationship where neither feels guilty for seeing the other, like Chaol did with Celaena, and Rowan does not baby her, rather, he treats her like her own person. He respects her. Manon’s storyline really picks up too, especially when it leads her to Aelin. Manon is a very realistic character for me, who must choose between what is right, and what her elders believe should be done. I was so happy when she chose right and helped Aelin save Dorian. Those last few chapters where they destroy the clocktower and release magic were incredible. Maas is the master of surprises and this entire scene was epic from beginning to end.
Buy the book here.
This series is amazing. I am so thankful to live during a time where so many fantastic female characters exist. Sarah J. Maas is an amazing writer and I will read whatever else she creates and bow to her in thanks. I am so excited to read Empire of Storms. September can’t come soon enough.