I’ll be honest, I started out not really feeling this book.
I picked it up on a whim after one too many times seeing it in the bookstore and reading one too many internet reviews just raving about how good it was, but I wasn’t super excited about it. The description on the back cover of the main character, Celaena, sounded just a bit too… ugh. As described in the blurb, she sounded just a bit too much like some of the cringy Mary Sues that had dominated my middle school attempts at writing fantasy. Always blonde, always perfect, always a super-duper badass warrior and super tough, but still absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in a dress so that there could be that one scene where the romantic interest saw her “as a woman” for the first time… You know the formula. I think every young girl who dreams of writing fantasy writes some iteration of that character at some point (maybe not always blonde, but mine were). And I don’t know… it just seemed uncomfortably similar to me. I smelled Mary Sue all over her from the description.
So I was a little skeptical.
And as I started it, it seemed like I might have been right. I found it very hard to get into at first. It wasn’t super attention grabbing, and I found it very easy to put down. Ultimately it took me almost a week to get through only the first third of the book because I’d read like 5 pages at a time before getting bored. Some of that could just be that I had a lot of other stuff going on that week and was distracted (I did, and I was), but some of it was the writing too. Apparently Maas started the book when she was in high school, and even with all the editing for publication the writing at the start still feels kind of… young. It’s not bad. Just young. I’m not sure how else to describe it.
But it’s not a problem that lasts. By the time I was about half-way through, the problem had remedied itself, and even if it hadn’t, the plot had grown so interesting that I’d still be hooked anyway. I sped through the rest of the book in a few hours while I was chaperoning a trip to a lake, and then was so committed to the story and the characters that I actually begged Jim to stop at the bookstore after work and bring the second book to me that night, since I couldn’t leave to go get it myself until the next day. I finished book two by the next morning.
So it ended up being pretty riveting.
And my concerns with Celaena being a Mary Sue? Totally unfounded. In fact, Celaena starts out as downright unlikable. She is sometimes annoying, vain, self-absorbed, rude, and above all immature. BUT, she is all those things in ways that work for such a young character. She’s immature in ways that seem age appropriate, and it makes her feel very real. Because didn’t we all have moments of vanity, rudeness, and self-absorption at the age of 18? Goodness knows I did. In the end her abrasiveness and sometimes questionable decision making/prioritizing helps remind us as readers that despite her extraordinary skills and talents – the very things that had me worried she’d fall into Mary Sue territory – she is also extraordinarily young for what she’s seen, experienced, and accomplished.
She also develops well as a character over the course of the book – but not so much that it feels unrealistic. Nobody grows up completely overnight, and everyone remains flawed. And the same is true for Celaena. Honestly, once I finished, the only real big complaint I have left is that the romance/love triangle thing is a little overwrought. But you know what? Overdone and overbearing though it may be, it was entertaining. And isn’t that what matters?
So ultimately, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t a “perfect” read, but what book is? It was fun, it was exciting, and it was entertaining. I can’t wait to read more.
In summary: Not a perfect read, but it was entertaining, exciting, and left me hooked and excited for the next book in the series.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Would Recommend To: Anyone who has patience for the flaws of youth (or enjoys an occasionally unlikable protagonist), and likes fantasy.
Have you read Throne of Glass? If so, what did you think?