No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012/63: Throne of Glass -- Sarah J Maas

where was that writhing darkness? Why didn’t it show itself so he could just throw her into the dungeon and call off this ridiculous competition? There was something great and deadly concealed within her, and he didn’t like it. [loc. 1788]

First in a YA fantasy series, featuring Celaena Sardothien. Celaena is eighteen, and (of course) beautiful, witty and tough. An infamous assassin who made the mistake of getting caught, she's spent the last year in the grim salt mines of Endovier. Then the captain of the guard shows up with an offer she'd be daft to refuse -- her freedom (eventually). To earn her liberty, though, she has to be the Prince's champion in a lethal tournament: her opponents will be the most experienced and ruthless warriors, fighters and thieves in the land.

Celaena, not over-burdened with humility, does not foresee a problem with this. But gradually she realises that she's starting to develop -- oh no! -- emotions, for both the handsome but laconic Chaol (the captain who recruited her) and the dashing Prince Dorian in whose name she's fighting. And that's not her only worry. The King, Dorian's father, rules with an iron fist: he's outlawed magic and Fae so thoroughly that 'even those who had magic in their blood almost believed it had never really existed, Celaena herself being one of them' [loc 586].

Magic, of course, doesn't take kindly to being suppressed, and the depths of the glass castle hold not only dungeons but ancient secrets. And then there's Nehemia, a princess from a conquered land, who seems to have an agenda all of her own. Can Celaena trust her?

Throne of Glass is definitely aimed at a young-adult audience. It's a pleasant romantic fantasy, with characters who occasionally rise above their stereotypes (strong-but-silent, dashing-and-debauched, gorgeous-and-gifted). There's some witty dialogue, and Celaena's training and fighting scenes are sweaty and believable. But Celaena herself is just a little too arrogant -- and bombproof -- to be a likeable heroine. (Not only does she escape sexual abuse in the salt mines, she also manages to survive her climactic duel without any permanent damage: her face is unmarred.) Clearly 'Celaena' is a pseudonym: she was born Mary Sue ...

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