Throne of Glass
Sarah J Maas
Warning: as this is a reread, it is very hard to conduct this review without spoilers, as my knowledge of what will happen colours my judgment of certain characters.
When reviewing a book that you have already read, I find it is much harder to be objective about it. Especially when it is part of a larger series and by rereading, you see the characters in light of what will happen to them later. I love this series, but as I have mentioned before, it grew on me instead of being instantaneous. The first time I read Throne of Glass, I liked it well enough, it had an interesting plot and I bought the second book because I wanted to know what would happen next. I thought the second slightly less good, but I am almost always of that persuasion. So I bought the third, and somewhere in there I let go of Chaol and what I wanted to happen, and just let it take me.
And then I fell into it. Before I knew it I just started living this story. It has become one of the best series I’ve read. And so, that has made it very difficult to credit the novels objectively. Because what I thought during the first read is not what I think during the second. I know much more about the characters than I did at first. I know where they will go, what lies ahead (and behind) them. For example, I used to find Kaltain incredibly annoying and a nuisance to the plot. Although she remains marginal, this woman has become a pillar of awesomeness in my eyes. I cannot hate Kaltain when I know how much I come to respect her later.
Having read the novella’s, The Assassin’s Blade, I understand how Celaena is both girly and a cold-hearted assassin. The first time I read Throne of Glass, I could not link the two. I found her want of luxury and her love of books difficult to rhyme with a girl that has been taught to kill from the age of eight. But of course Celaena, as we see in the novella’s, has been taught much more than that. Additionally, she only truly slaughters cold-heartedly when her personal emotions are involved. She murdered, of course, but she did it to survive and does not regret or excuse it. Her compartmentalizing skills are phenomenal. But what makes Celaena truly interesting is that what makes her hard and cold, is not the assassin-part. The things you read when you read again.
The triangle with Dorian and Chaol was already quite satisfyingly written, but reading it a second time and knowing where it will go, makes it possible for me to see how the interpersonal ties were set up by Sarah J Maas, which I like very much. She writes her novels in a way that you follow her not knowing where it will take you, and you learn to let go and trust her. In rereading the books you can see how much of that was planned beforehand. It is very much a recommendation for an author to have readers find new things in your books each time you pick them up. To take away as much from the second time as you did the first.
What I also consider very well done, is how she allows characters to interact with one another. If you were to never read beyond the first book, the relationships still all make sense. Take Celaena and the king, for example. You see very little of him, but he almost oozes power and instills fear. You feel fearful yourself in his presence, and it is no wonder Celaena does to. You do not have to know the backstory later revealed to know why she behaves this way. The backstory just empowers it more, emphasizes the why. To have a natural flow while gradually releasing more information, but not necessarily needing that information to understand, is quite a feat.
It makes me very curious to see what I will think of my reread of the second book, Crown of Midnight. As mentioned, I considered that one not as good. In Throne of Glass, I like the set-up of the competition in this book. It gives all the characters a chance to gather on the playing field, set up and form their ties with one another. Before they are going to be ripped apart, that is. It gives you an understanding of who these people are before the real story begins, as if you have known them for a long time and know how they will respond to each other. But like Celaena, the reader instinctively knows that no matter how much of an ordeal it was, this was just foreplay. And not only because you know about the next novels.
I do have a slight problem with this book (and the next, for that matter). Those who read my review of The Assassin’s Blade would have seen I mentioned Lysandra, but not Nehemia. I know their friendship is portrayed as real, but I just don’t believe it. I didn’t the first time, and I don’t know. I believe Nehemia cares enough for Celaena to actually consider themselves friends, but I also believe she’d kill her in a heartbeat if that was what was right for her country. Not that such a thing is inexcusable, but it does make the friendship feel wrong. I have always thought Nehemia was using Celaena. For information, as a shield, for whatever purpose, but there is use involved more than genuinely wanting to spend time with her.
I could be the only one reading this, I think it was not in Sarah J Maas’ intention. But Nehemia keeps vital information that could help or even save Celaena while the latter has proven she is trustworthy. She tells the Eyllwe princess as much of the truth as she can, while Nehemia gives nothing of herself, risks nothing of herself. The character has always felt slightly one-dimensional to me, and I think that with Lysandra later, Sarah J Maas is really breaking ground on having two strong females find each other. Much more honest in their struggles, too.
In conclusion, I can only add that I have enjoyed this reread. More than I had when reading it the first time just because I was not as in love with it as I am now. I truly like seeing it from a different perspective, and having all the knowledge of the other books in the series at my disposal, it feels I am reading it differently. I am secretly already about a third into the second novel, so I don’t think I’ll wait long in putting that one up as well.