SERIES REVIEW: Throne of Glass (Books 1 – 3)

In the interest of easily accessing the reviews I’ve written for the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, I have decided to combine them into 2 larger review – books 1-3 and books 4-6. The Assassin’s Blade  and Tower of Dawn will remain independent, as they are not directly part of the Throne of Glass timeline.

This first series review will feature Throne of GlassCrown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire. My feelings about these first three books are torn, as is evident in my individual reviews below, but overall I feel that without these three books, Aelin’s story, and the general tale Maas’ has woven, would have been less impactful and certainly less cohesive, as a significant amount of character development and world building occurs in these three books.

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Throne of Glass

Released on August 2, 2012, Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas introduced readers to what would eventually become an epic fantasy series that would earn Maas to title of “Queen Maas” among YA Fantasy readers. This first book follows the adventures of an imprisoned teenage assassin named Celaena Sardothien, who is offered her freedom by the Prince of the kingdom she despises, in exchange for her services to a tyrannical king – if she can win the title in a tournament against some of the kingdom’s deadliest criminals. Riddled with action, intrigue and romance, Throne of Glass is sure to ensnare readers, and will have them dying to devour the rest of the series.

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I first picked up Throne of Glass in the fall of 2013 – I had just started university, and was looking for something to read to help whisk me away from the stress and loneliness that defined that first year away from home. And Throne of Glass undeniably re-sparked my love for YA Fantasy, and had me picking up Crown of Midnight shortly thereafter.

While the world building was lacking in this book (Maas introduces readers to a lot of information with minimal background knowledge), Maas made up for it was exemplary storytelling and writing skills. The story itself is  full of suspense and thrilling moments,which keeps you turning the pages – until you (sadly) reach the last page and have nowhere to go but the bookstore (because you  need Crown of Midnight).

Next, Throne of Glass introduces readers to several integral characters in this tale (though not all), including Celaena Sardothien, Dorian Havillard, Chaol Westfall, Nehemia Ytger, Duke Perrington, and the King of Adarlan. Celaena is the young assassin – who was known to most as Adarlan’s Assassin before her capture and imprisonment at Endovier. Trained from childhood to become an assassin, she was betrayed by her master and imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier with the expectation that she would die – but after surviving a grueling year, she is offered an opportunity to participate in the competition to become the King’s Champion, sponsored by Prince Dorian Havillard himself. If she wins, she would be an assassin in service to the King of Adarlan for four years. But then she will be granted her freedom and a full pardon. Celaena is an intriguing protagonist – she is vulnerable yet dangerous, independent yet yearning for affection and friendship. Yet she has also built a wall around herself and her true nature, and is untrusting of those who would befriend her – namely Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia. Dorian is the naive, foolhardy eldest son of the King of Adarlan, and therefore Celaena’s enemy. But when he chooses Celaena to be his contender for the competition to become his father’s champion, he forces the two of them into an uneasy partnership. The Dorian in this book is, just as I said, naive – he is a real lady’s man, and is utterly blind to the true nature of those around him. He is, however, balanced by his stoic and wary best friend, the Captain of his father’s guard, Chaol Westfall. Chaol  is very wary of Celaena throughout the book because he knows very well how big a threat she is, but he trains her and guards her out of loyalty to Dorian – a character trait he maintains throughout the series. Finally – Nehemia. She is a princess of the kingdom of Eyllwe, who have entered an uneasy truce with Adarlan to avoid outright slaughter. She is clever and deceptive, and is a very strong-willed person who refuses to be looked down upon. She and Celaena become quick friends, though neither are willing to reveal all their secrets.

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Finally, let’s talk a bit more about Celaena, because she is a heroine who deserves more than she often gets from this community. As I said, in Throne of Glass she is an intriguing protagonist – she is vulnerable yet dangerous, independent yet yearning for affection and friendship. Yet she has also built a wall around herself and her true nature, and is untrusting of those who would befriend her – namely Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia. She is also vain, arrogant, and over confident – something that hasn’t endeared her to all readers. Yet that is exactly what has always endeared her to me – the fact that, despite the hardships and traumas she has faced (and overcome) she is still strong. Instead of drowning in self-pity (which, don’t get me wrong, she had every right to do, given her past), she decided to stand up, square her shoulders and survive.

Overall, as is probably evident, Throne of Glass holds a very special place in my heart, and I adore it through and through. I do recognize that it is not without its problems, and is (unfortunately) disconnected from the later books in the series (as is Crown of Midnight). Despite this, the storytelling and characters make this an unforgettable read (4/5).

Crown of Midnight 

Released on August 27, 2013, Crown of Midnight definitely suffered from “second book syndrome”. The story focuses on Celaena, who is settling into her new role as the King’s Champion, but faces ethical dilemmas, romantic woes, and truths she is not yet ready to accept. Unfortunately, while this all sounds quite promising Crown of Midnight just doesn’t live up to the action and intrigue of the first book – nor does it stand out among the rest of the series as anything more than ordinary.

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After the masterpiece that was Throne of Glass, I was so excited to dive into Crown of Midnight – but unfortunately, this book really did suffer from that infamous “second book syndrome”, and of all the books in the series, it remains my least favourite (and the least reread).

Crown of Midnight is once again centered on (mostly) the same protagonists – Celaena, Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia, with The King of Adarlan and Duke Perrington acting as ominous villains (who don’t seem to be doing much of anything). Newly introduced in Crown of Midnight is Archer Finn, who is an old friend of Celaena’s from her assassin training days; he now works as a high-end, much sought-after courtesan in Rifthold. He is also Celaena’s next target – as suspected rebel leader, Archer Finn, has one month to live, unless Celaena can find a way to fake his death – as she has done with numerous other targets since entering the King of Adarlan’s employ. Archer’s rebel movement is trying to track down the lost princess Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the heir of Terrasen and the only hope to restore the honorable kingdom to its former glory.

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This is the main plot point of Crown of Midnight – Calaena’s investigation into Archer’s movements as she tries to thwart the King of Adarlan’s plan to have her assassinate him. As she does so, she and her friends fall into an increasingly complex web of lies and deceit – a web spun so tightly that not even Celaena will be able to unravel it before it ensnares her, and breaks her heart by killing one of those closest to her. While this promises to be an interesting premise – who doesn’t love a good, intriguing mystery, and dashing rebels – Maas just wasn’t able to pull it off, instead delivering a slow-paced novel that seems to reach a conclusion without any real progression. It was confusing, messy, and more than a little disappointing, to say the least.

Perhaps my favourite thing about this novel was Celaena and Chaol’s relationship. While not everyone is a fan of this relationship – or of Chaol in general (seriously, if you still don’t love him, go read Tower of Dawn) – I felt that it was exactly what Celaena needed to help push her forward. Celaena’s relationship with Chaol really blossoms in this Crown of Midnight. Chaol is initially resistant to the relationship, because feels like his loyalty to the king and to Dorian means he can’t have a relationship with Celaena. For her part, Celaena is also hesistant to love a man who serves the King that has time and time again destroyed her life. But the walls they have both built around themselves slowly crumble, and they are very happy for a short amount of time. Then Chaol is kidnapped, and – to put  it bluntly – everything goes to shit.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of Crown of Midnight, it does do a magnificent job setting the stage for Heir of Fire – leaving Celaena ruined, her heart broken, and separated from the world she had known. Despite this, the story just wasn’t compelling, the plot was overly confusing, and it seemed to drag on at a painfully slow pace, resulting in Crown of Midnight being my least favourite book of the series thus far (3/5).

Heir of Fire

Released on September 2, 2014, Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas is undoubtedly my favourite novel in the series thus far. It represents a turning point in this epic fantasy tale for Celaena, who must come to terms with her past to embrace her future. Packed with heart-pounding action, fierce new characters, and swoon-worthy romance, this third book is guaranteed to enthrall readers from start to finish.

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If Crown of Midnight was my least favourite book in the series, then Heir of Fire is far and away my favourite. This is, at its core, a coming of age story, and its just done so well. At the conclusion of Crown of Midnight, a heartbroken and ruined Celaena had revealed her true identity as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius to Chaol before sailing off to Wendlyn – the homeland of the Fae, and her Ashryver relatives, setting the stage for a major shift in the series’ tone and expected trajectory.

Heir of Fire makes much better use of multiple perspectives, giving Celaena, Dorian, Choal, Manon, Aedion and even Rowan their own perspectives, from their respective locations around Erilea. Celaena and Rowan’s storyline was (still) undoubtedly my favourite to read in this book, but the added perspectives of Dorian (in the Glass Castle), of  Choal and Aedion (in Rifthold and among the rebels), and of Manon (among the Witch Covens) went a long way towards building a more complex, detailed world, and filling gaps that may have otherwise existed in the narrative. This writing style really works for Maas, and it greatly improves problems I had had with the previous two books in this series – namely pacing, and a lack of detailed world building.

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Heir of Fire picks up several months after the conclusion of Crown of Midnight, with Celaena finally well and truly broken – she is no longer the strong, sassy protagonist readers had grown accustomed to, but has finally succumbed to the horrors of her past (both recent and distant), and is drowning in self-pity and despair. But her Fae Aunt, Queen Maeve, has other plans for her recently rediscovered niece – and soon Celaena finds herself sequestered at Mistward, the home of many demi-fae like herself, being trained by the legendary Prince Rowan Whitethorn, in order to earn answers about the Wyrdkeys from Maeve. Rowan pushes Celaena hard – not knowing the traumas that mar her past – nearly breaking her spirit in the process. But slowly, throughout her training and their time together, the two grow close, Rowan beginning to understand the horrors that live in the Princess’ past.

The relationship that bloomed between Celaena/Aelin and Rowan in Heir of Fire was undoubtedly my favourite – it was nursed, slowly, like an ember growing into a flame. Maas didn’t immediately dive into any romantic connotations – in fact, at the end of Heir of Fire, the two are still just close friends, not lovers – instead building a real, fierce relationship between the two, that is rooted in loyalty, love and respect.

In Rifthold, Dorian, Chaol, and Aedion find themselves caught up in an increasingly complex political climate. Dorian, for his part, has grown to despise his father, following the events that led to Nehemia’s death and Celaena’s departure. A rift has also grown between Dorian and Chaol, with both hiding secrets – of mysterious lovers, clandestine meetings, and true identities – from the other. Chaol, for his part, is struggling to grapple with his loyalty to the King and Dorian, and his feelings for Celaena in light of the revelation that she is actually Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the lost Queen of Terrasen, and the sworn enemy of his King. This leads him to Aedion, a fierce warrior known as the Wolf – a man who is also Aelin’s cousin, and who was once her closest friend and ally. Upon the revelation that Aelin is alive, Aedion begrudgingly begins to work with Chaol, who finds himself drawn into the rebel movement, further and further away from his loyalties to Adarlan.

And in the North, the dark forces of the King of Adarlan are gathering – creatures of darkness and witches with teeth and nails of iron. Manon and the Thirteen are a fierce cadre of witches, sworn to serve in battle, training to enter the fray on winged beasts called wyverns. This book introduces Manon and her Thirteen as characters, but I did not much like them, nor did I particularly care for their story overmuch yet.  In fact, upon rereading, I often find myself skipping the witch’s chapters because – while I know they were important to developing Manon’s character and building background knowledge – I simply don’t care for them.

Overall, Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas is far and away my favourite book in the series thus far – I find myself reaching for it time and time again, unable to help myself. As I said, this is, at its core, a coming of age story, and its just done so well. Celaena, Dorian and Chaol all grow into the characters everyone always wished they were – no longer naive, self-centered and trusting, all three grow as individuals, accepting their roles in the game – especially Aelin, who finally embraces her past and leaves Celaena behind, accepting her future of the Queen of Terrasen (5/5).

 

Overall, I feel that without these three books, Aelin’s story, and the general tale Maas’ has woven, would have been less impactful and certainly less cohesive, as a significant amount of character development and world building occurs in these three books (4/5).

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8 thoughts on “SERIES REVIEW: Throne of Glass (Books 1 – 3)

  1. Susy's Cozy World says:

    Reading your review was a real pleasure. I have a conflicted relationship with the writer and after reading Heir of Fire and the second book of her other series I have chosen to stop reading her books, because I was disappointed (a lot, and also annoyed) with some of her choices. But she’s a great storyteller and I loved her books (the ones I have read) deeply, because she’s really good at what she does. And it was a pleasure to read again about them, about the things I loved in them and about the characters. 🙂

    Like

    • avosper says:

      Hi there! I am glad you enjoyed my review and found it to be valuable! This is undoubtedly my favourite YA Fantasy series, and while I do have had a “conflicted relationship” with it from time to time (in particular I was not a huge fan of Crown of Midnight and/or Queen of Shadows), I have (overall) found Maas’ Throne of Glass series to be powerful and poignant, in addition to featuring a well-developed plot and world (which I did not truly appreciate until later novels.

      I will have a review of the latter half of the series coming out later this week! It will feature spoilers (sorry!), but it may be of interest to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Susy's Cozy World says:

        The spoilers won’t be a problems because I am not reading the books (well, never say never, but for the moment this is it) so it would be nice to know what would happens, just to give a sense to the story!
        I would look forward to your review! 🙂

        Like

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