I’m always on the lookout for great new authors and series. One of the reading groups I belong to suggested Sarah J. Maas for good science fiction. I wasn’t too sure, since fantasy series have never been my cup of tea (with a few exceptions).
A king rules the land with an iron fist. Many have fought against him unsuccessfully. Calaena Sardothian is one of those. Orphaned due to the actions of the King, she enters a brutal assassins guild and becomes the most feared assassin in all the land. However, she and her partner were betrayed by the same who trained them. Her partner was killed, and she was given a life sentence at Endovien, a prison where people usually only leave by dying.
After being there a year, she is visited by Crown Prince Dorian. He wishes to present her as an entry in the contest to be the King’s Champion. If she wins the contest and serves for four years as the King’s Champion, she will gain her freedom.
Magic was once part of the land but has been outlawed. Upon arrival at the King’s castle, Calaena begins experiencing strange things. She senses there is more going on beneath the surface. At the same time, she is being transformed into a lady to go along with the cover story Dorian and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol has come up with. This part reads almost the same as Katniss’ transformation in The Hunger Games. At the same time, she is training for a fight potentially to the death, she must transform into a different person who will fit in at Court.
Suddenly, her fellow competitors start turning up dead. Not just dead, but brutally killed and brutally torn apart. Chaol and Dorian move to protect her. Both seem to be developing feelings for her, as there is much more to Calaena than meets the eye.
Sarah J. Maas began writing Throne of Glass when she was sixteen. She claims to have been inspired by Disney’s Cinderella, which I can definitely see. However, I thought the book, and the character of Calaena in particular, feel more like The Hunger Games. There are times Calaena is told to hide who she is so her opponents, who are training alongside her, don’t see what she is capable of. The mysteries boiling beneath the surface here serve the same purpose as the rebellion brewing in that series. It would be easy to write this book off as just nothing more than a rip-off of that series.
However, Maas did a good job building it to more than that. Yes, this is geared toward young adults, and with that caveat in mind, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Bringing in the subject of hidden magic being at play while on the surface it seems quite different works well, and leaves the reader wanting more. There are seven books in the series, plus a prequel, so there will be more of these characters.
I felt like Maas did a great job creating this universe and introducing readers to it here. It has the feel of being familiar and at the same time quite different as if it was a time in our history that was just slightly different. Instead of a dystopian future, as in The Hunger Games, this feels more like a time in the Middle Ages when some things were more futuristic, as well as there being valid use of magic, at one point. The characters are also interesting if a bit predictable to adults. Young adults reading it likely won’t have the same reaction. I could feel the love triangle being set up almost from the beginning. Chaol’s demeanor is entirely too gruff for there not to have been feelings in him early on. The Prince is merely using Calaena at first as a way of getting back at his father but also learned there is more to this woman than meets the eye.
Calaena, though, is the character the book hinges on, and she is well-fleshed out here, even if it seems like I met her before in The Hunger Games. It was hard at times to visualize her as the feared assassin she’s depicted to be, as she seems more like a fish out of water in the castle and court. She makes a friend in Princess Nehemia, the only person she seems to really trust. However, I found myself questioning that during the book, so it wasn’t entirely as predictable as it could be.
For a sixteen-year-old, this is a really good book. I am curious enough about this world and the future of Calaena, Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia that I will keep reading the series. I think if you don’t know the story of The Hunger Games you’ll appreciate it more as it won’t have the distraction of that story while you read. Solid four stars for a first effort.
Categories: Book Reviews