I really enjoyed Throne of Glass. I think it is a great start to what is set to be an entertaining fantasy series.
The central plot of the novel revolves around a contest. Celaena, an eighteen-year-old highly trained assassin, has been whisked away from the salt mines in Endovier in order to compete as the prince’s representative in a competition to become the King’s Champion. Winning will mean having to serve the king that sentenced her to hard labour in the mines for her crimes. But if she wins and serves him she can have her freedom in a few years, and Celaena is willing to pay anything for that after the tortures she faced in Endovier.
The king is the overarching antagonist for the series. He has conquered kingdoms and banished magic. However, he’s not in this book very much as he spends the middle section doing suspicious things elsewhere on the continent. Maas seems to be saving the ultimate Assassin vs. King encounter for later in the series and I’m looking forward to it.
Held under a heavy guard in the Glass Castle, Celaena spends most of her time training and battling her way through various rounds in the competition, with an occasional ball or library visit on the side. Her trainer is the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, and her sponsor is Prince Dorian, the evil king's heir by blood but not necessarily by temperment.
I liked Chaol and Dorian a lot. They both worked well with Celaena on different levels. The captain is stoic and serious with a gentler side while the prince is charming and fun but also empathetic. They are inversions of each other in some ways, which is why I liked how they interacted with each other just as much as I enjoyed their interactions with Celaena. They are so close to the King and yet they remain uncorrupted. Their innate goodness is what allows Celaena to grow close to them both despite their ties to the kingdom that condemned her. Dorian’s nothing like his father and Chaol is simply a loyal man who feels duty bound to serve the kingdom.
I enjoyed Celaena as a character. I particularly loved Celaena's ingenuity in all situations, her flare for fashion and her love of books. At the beginning she is physically wrecked by her time in the mines and it really shows in her first few training session with Chaol. She has to work hard to get her body and mind back into shape, and all this with the threat of death looming as fellow champions are picked off one by one by a mysterious murderer. Celaena’s a capable young woman and I’m really interested in what Maas is going to reveal about her in the future because there are lots of little hints about her past that aren’t fully fleshed out in this first volume. Her past is sure to be a key plot thread in later volumes.
Throne of Glass was a real page turner. The characters have a great sense of humour which balances nicely with the tension that builds as other champions start turning up dead. This book opens up quite a few intriguing threads to be followed up in sequels whilst maintaining a degree of self-closure as the contest plot and the mysterious murders plot are, broadly, wrapped up by the end.