Audiobook Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Throne of Glass
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Date of Publication: November 5, 2013 (audiobook)
It’s not often that a book catches me off guard, but this one sure did. Sometimes, the mood for a particular type of story or experience will strike me out of the blue, making me seek out the sort of book that will satisfy the hankering. At the time, what I felt like reading was a traditional young adult fantasy, complete with action and intrigue, a kickass heroine, a thrilling love triangles and all that goodness. I was pretty confident that Throne of Glass was going to deliver all that and more when I first settled back with the audiobook, and yet nothing could have prepared me for the way it swept me off my feet.
A year into her imprisonment and forced labor at the salt mines of Endovier, convicted assassin Celaena Sardothien is hauled before the Crown Prince and offered a chance to reclaim her freedom. The conditions Prince Dorian offers her are simple: act as his champion in the king’s upcoming competition to find a royal assassin, win, serve the kingdom for four years, and then she will be free.
However, the trials set up to prepare Celaena for the competition are challenging and brutal, and her opponents are all hardened, dangerous men. Chaol Westguard, the guard captain overseeing her training, pushes her hard and keeps her isolated from much of the court activities. Still, she cannot help but be drawn to him, much as she is drawn to the prince. Things get more interesting — and unsettling — when one by one, the other champions turn up dead, savagely ripped apart by someone or something unnatural. Celaena fears the killer will come for her next, ending her hopes before she will even have the chance to win her freedom.
I admit, I was a bit worried when I first met Celaena. I can take sassy, confident and badass young adult heroines, but what gets on my nerves is arrogance. And Celaena happens to have it in abundance. It’s not that her vanity is uncalled for; in fact, she’s quite the talented young woman, having all the looks, the smarts, the moves. But I could have done without her proclaiming her greatness every chance she gets.
Obviously, something changed my opinion of her at a later point, otherwise I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book so much. But more on that later because first praise needs to go to the narrator Elizabeth Evans whose voice work was exceptional, perhaps doing the job too well. Her delivery of Celaena’s lines were all spot on, nailing all the boastfulness and arrogance of her character. It’s really amazing how a good narrator can bring out the full gamut of a protagonist’s personality, for better or worse.
Definitely for the better, once I eventually warmed towards Celaena. Beneath the arrogance lies a lot more than I’d given her credit for, a much greater complexity. She’s really not as invincible as she thinks she is, and deep down I think she knows this. It cast her determination and her strength in a whole different light for me, and in time I grew to like her and want to see her succeed. I’m still not completely sold on the love triangle between her, Prince Dorian and the Chaol Westfall, but at least I desperately wanted to see her win the king’s competition.
And speaking of the competition, what a complete 180 it did on my emotions! Here I was, thinking that it’s just like the fantasy version of a reality-TV-show-type game where the champion with the worst performance gets booted out and goes home each week. That’s how it started off, but by the end I was completely enthralled, especially over the final duel scene. It’s good that audiobooks don’t allow you to easily flip forward to the end of a chapter to find out what happens like you do with a book, or else I would have been sorely tempted to spoil the outcome for myself. It was just that intense.
Like I said, I really didn’t expect this book to be this gripping and full of surprises. The beginning of it led me think it was going to be an average book, but gradually it built up both the story and the characters to make this one close to a five-star read.