Throne of Glass
Spoiler Alert: Cain is behind the murders in the castle, with each death he gains the strength of his victims.
Insight Into Throne of Glass
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is one of the best examples I have for why I love spoilers so much. The first time I read the novel was after a fellow cruiser gifted the book to me and I hated it. There was nothing that made me want to continue the seven-book series…except I can’t stand not knowing the ending. So, I researched. I found myself on the website Fandom which offered summaries for characters and for every novel in the Throne of Glass series. My problem was solved. I could find out how it ended and I put it in the past!
Except, the Fandom page confused me further. In the description about Celaena Sardothien (the main character) she was described as Fae, which wasn’t what I’d known to be true. It listed her unintroduced family and love interests. It even gave her a new name! Suffice to say, with every new fact I learned, I wanted to see how it would play out in the novels. So, I reread Throne of Glass—with an open mind—and on my second time around I finished the entire series in two weeks. It was only because I spoiled myself and knew what happened in later books that I wanted to read the series that has now become one of my favorites.
Spoiler-y Plot Summary
Throne of Glass follows Celaena Sardothien, an eighteen-year-old assassin in the kingdom of Adarlan. A year before the book begins, she was placed into Endovier, a salt mine where she worked as a slave as punishment for her crimes. She is pulled out of the camp by Dorian Havilliard, the crown prince, and Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Royal Guard, to compete as Dorian’s champion in a competition. This competition would be fought by thieves, murderers, and other assassins to become the King’s Champion (otherwise known as his lackey).
In order to escape Endovier, Celaena agrees with the promise that if she were to win the competition and serve the king for four years, she would be completely free. Alongside Dorian and Chaol, she is escorted to the glass castle and the competition begins.
Celaena is given the alias Lillian Gordiana to make herself less conspicuous among fellow champions. In the weekly trials that eliminate competitors, Celaena sticks to the middle of the pack, so she won’t become a target. However, she breaks this rule in order to save one of her friends in one of the trials, in which he was sabotaged by her greatest adversary: Cain.
While the competition is ongoing, a series of murders begin to take place. Competitors are found viciously mutilated in hallways, with rune-like images painted around them in blood. During this time, Celaena has a dream where she is visited by a historical figure, Elena Galathynius, who warns Celaena of the dangers she will face. Elena gifts Celaena with a necklace called the Eye of Elena as protection. In the morning, Celaena wakes with it in her hand.
As the murders continue to take place, Celaena is on a hunt for the murderer for the sake of her own safety and at each site she finds the same odd shapes. Simultaneously, Celaena is befriending Nehemia. Nehemia is the princess of Eyllwe—a neighboring kingdom—who’s come to Adarlan in order to learn the culture. However, Nehemia can only speak the tongue of her country, which Celaena happens to know from the Eyllwe slaves in Endovier. Thus, their friendship begins. They exchange lessons: Celaena teaches the princess the common tongue and Nehemia teaches Celaena about the odd shapes found at the crime scenes, otherwise known as wyrdmarks.
Later, there is a holiday celebration for Yulemas. Which is essentially just fantasy Christmas. Dorian, Chaol, and Celaena have been friendly up to this point, though they reach a pivotal point during this portion of the book. On Yulemas, Dorian gifts Celaena with a puppy and a pound of candy—which quickly establishes him as one of my favorite book boys. And when Celaena devours half the candy in a single sitting, she quickly became one of my favorite main characters.
On the night of Yulemas there is a masked ball being held, which Celaena was uninvited to. But thanks to the help from her maid, she’s able to convince her guards to let her go. It’s at this ball that Dorian and Celaena’s romance truly begins as they share a dance. (This is also the point where Chaol’s unrequited feelings show themselves and he gloomily stomps out of the ballroom after seeing them together.) Later that night, Celaena and Dorian share their first kiss.
Finally, only a few days before the last trial, Celaena discovers Cain as the murderer. He has been using a vicious creature called the Ridderak to kill his victims and he’s able to absorb their strengths in the process. Celaena ends up being locked in a secret passageway with the Ridderak, which she is only able to kill using an ancient sword she found in the passageway. However, the monster is able to bite her before its death and she passes out from the pain. Nehemia finds her outside the passageway.
Using her knowledge of wyrdmarks, Nehemia is able to revive Celaena and it is revealed that Nehemia never needed Celaena’s help to learn the language. The princess was taking advantage of everyone thinking she didn’t know the language so she could gain information about her people in the mines. It’s heavily suggested that Nehemia is a rebel.
Thankfully, Celaena is able to recover from her injury in order to fight in the final test. There are only four competitors left at this point: Grave, Renault, Celaena, and Cain. Cain and Celaena are able to quickly disable their individual adversaries before beginning their battle. However, not before a young lady, under the King and his friend’s urging, poisons Celaena making her easier to kill.
The poison inhibits Celaena, and demons begin to appear from behind Cain, as he has been tainted by the magic he has used. There are multiple points in this battle when Celaena comes close to death, however, Nehemia is able to summon Queen Elena who removes the poison from Celaena’s body. And Celaena is victorious in the battle, with a mysterious wyrdmark appearing on her forehead.
In the moments after the trial, Cain attempts to unfairly kill Celaena after being instructed to do so by the king, but Chaol notices this instruction and stops him in his stead. The king and his friend betray the lady by revealing her to be the poisoner. Celaena is sent to her room to recover, and Dorian finds her there. Unfortunately (and I mean very unfortunately) this is where Celaena breaks things off with Dorian, telling him that she can’t be with him and be the King’s Champion.
The book concludes with Celaena officially becoming the King’s Champion and signing her contract.
Analysis: Should You Read It?
Overall, this book is decent. It’s certainly not a standout and it can become extremely slow at times, which is partially because of the amount of fantasy details you have to retain as you read. While Celaena Sardothien is one of my favorite main characters because of her relatability, it unfortunately doesn’t make up for the other unsavory parts of this novel.
The writing in this book is well done, especially when considering that this novel was written when the author was sixteen! It is also obvious that her writing and storytelling continues to get better with each book she publishes. While I can’t claim to have enjoyed Throne of Glass, I believe this series is more than worth a read. This first book establishes the plot and, while it may be tedious, it defines the world and characters in a way that helps the rest of the series to grow.
If you enjoy this book, I would suggest reading A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. This series is Sarah J. Maas’s more popular of her books and she has grown into her writing style by this point. I would also suggest From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which is a similar fantasy novel and includes my second favorite main character—right beneath Celaena.