Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

[Cross-posted at GuysLitWire]

Let’s face it: we are all of us, but perhaps especially young guys, guilty of judging books by their covers. That’s why books have cover art, after all, and it’s why we have terrific, heated conversations about that art when it doesn’t match up to reader — or worse, author — expectations. (An example.) It’s no surprise that a book with a really kickbutt cover can gain wings to fly off the shelves, which is how Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas got selected for my middle school library and why I had to wait until summer vacation to get my hands on a copy.

The ingredients:

  • a ferocious, sexy female assassin
  • two male best friends, both smitten by said assassin, neither willing to violate Bro Code by pursuing her since the other also likes her
  • an evil king
  • a rebel princess
  • political intrigue
  • a competition to the death
  • a mysterious power lurking in the bowels of the castle
  • a fairy tale land that has lost its magic

This book, its sequel (Crown of Midnight), and its collected prequels (The Assassin’s Blade) proved enormously popular with my male readers, so I was imagining that it was an action-packed magical gorefest. By the time I finally got the chance to read them, I was surprised to find that these were much more feminine than I would have guessed. The heroine, Celaena, is almost disturbingly vain and girly, and the love triangle takes up a significant chunk of the story. Celaena is obsessed with her appearance and uses it like any James Bond femme fatale would — as a weapon. And as the series progresses, things in that love triangle heat up to a degree that had me running for my roll of YA stickers.

And yet, despite being clearly focused on things more commonly attributed as “girl” interests, they remain a hot commodity among my guys. There’s a lot of good fighting, dark mystery, and a thread of high fantasy running through the tale. Yeah, the guys are starry-eyed for their pet assassin, but they don’t stop acting like dudes — they still fight, they still notice other girls, they do their jobs, and they don’t forget to think about their guy friends. There are weapons, enchanted objects, duels, and betrayals aplenty.

It also bears mentioning that this series has a prominent, powerful, female PoC character, it passes the Bechdel test, and the courting behavior of the male characters would be a pretty decent example to the young men who read it.

In all honesty, this series started weak to me. Book 1 (Throne of Glass) is kind of disjointed, with an assassin who worries about breaking her nails and a bunch of bad guys with murky motivation. Something about the characters and premise made me go back for more, though, and I am SO glad that I did. Crown of Midnight was outstanding, and left me anxious for book 3 (to be released this September; Maas anticipates writing 6-7 in total, thus breaking the oh-so-common Rule of Three in YA literature). The prequels were surprisingly good as well, and did a lot to round out Celaena’s character development.

I’d recommend this series for teens and young adults, probably grade 8 and older. Guys and gals alike will find something to love about these books.

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Reading Updates #22 & 23

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Thursday, June 12. It is summer break and I have completely forgotten to do my reading updates for the past week and a half. Take me out of the school and my internal calendar completely breaks down! As of today I have read 59 books toward my new goal of 100 books.

Since last time, I’ve read the following three books:

weeks22and23

Crown of Midnight is book two in a series and manages a rare feat: it is a rare sequel that greatly surpasses the first book! I thought book 1 was sort of meh, but something about the story brought me back for book 2. Now I’m aggravated that I have to wait for book 3 (and am planning to read the prequel collection pretty soon here). I’m also a little disturbed about this book’s popularity with preteen boys; they DEFINITELY warrant a YA sticker by the time we get to Crown!

Finally finished up volume 1 of The Absolute Sandman.  I feel like it’s kind of wrong to rate it because I’m caught mid-story, so I don’t really know how the whole thing will fall together. At this stage I ended up giving it a 4 of 5, just because it hadn’t yet earned that fifth star for me (unfinished story) and because I still, as always, struggle with the visual format. I’m just such a wordie, and I don’t find it easy to read a narrative with so much left unsaid. Comic books (which this is, really, as opposed to a graphic novel) always leave me a little disoriented.

I picked up Affliction because I had to. I’m a devotee of this series even though it has started to SUCK (and not in a vampire way). To my complete and utter glee, this was actually a good book! It had a plot! Things happened! Not just things, but things OTHER THAN sexcapades and long philosophical conversations! Yeah, there was a zombie apocalypse, and I’m not much of a zombie person, but this book was good old-fashioned classic Anita Blake and I loved it. Here’s hoping Hamilton has more like it in mind for books 23+.

Currently Reading: Right now I’m s-l-o-w-l-y reading an issue of Mental Floss, because that’s about where my ability to focus is these days.

Looking Ahead: The Maas prequels, maybe?