Hello, party people! Rather, hello bookish people, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Anyway, I’m back with another gush post about one of my personal favorites – Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass.
Now, I know this is one that people tend to run very hot or very cold on. I’ll warn you that I am a BIG fan. However, at the end, there will be some spoilery bits where I address a couple of the things that I think it needs to work on, as well as one of the bigger elephants in the room about this series. And for those of you who aren’t familiar and don’t want to be spoiled, I’ll be sure to provide a warning when that part is imminent. Without further ado, all the reasons I think it’s GREAT.
As I mentioned in my post about The Lunar Chronicles, all my audiobooks this year are going to be re-reads. I always say I’m going to re-read favorites, and I never do, because I’m a slow reader and that takes away valuable time from new things. Also, because I do a majority of my listening at work or while driving, it’s easier for me to follow along if I already know the story. It’s a match made in problem solving heaven! After finishing The Lunar Chronicles, I wanted to choose something that I’m similarly gushy about, and I already had Throne of Glass in my Audible library, so that was a no-brainer. It was everything I ever wanted!
Short disclaimer before I get too far into this nonsense – I have not read Tower of Dawn. I’m actually reading it right now. So if you’re a nice evil dragon and leave a comment, please don’t 1) spoil it for me because I’ve somehow avoided spoilers to this point and 2) understand I reserve the right to alter any opinions here expressed after I finish it.
Starting out listening to this series, I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through, because Elizabeth Evans didn’t impress me as a narrator. All of Celaena’s big talk being led around in shackles is trying enough to read, let alone listen to someone with a super dry voice try to read. By the end of it, though, I completely understand why she was cast. Some people have a voice that just screams, “I think I’m better than you, and I’m not afraid to let you know,” and that’s the kind of voice that’s required for this story. Not just for Celaena, but for all the other main characters, as well. Even sweet little kick ass Elide needs the superiority complex treatment, and I’m glad they went with someone who was ready and willing to provide it. Also, she was able to diversify the characters enough that I knew who she was reading without all the speech tags from the book, and I LOVE when audiobook narrators are able to deliver that experience.
I was a little leery taking these on again, because I loved them so much the first time and didn’t want to ruin the memory. Like so many other people, I felt the first time that the first two to two and a half books were a completely different series than the rest. Upon a second read through, there were a lot more kernels of information about where the story was going than I remembered. I was pleased by that, because it elevated them a teensy bit when I was fully prepared to write them off as trash I just happened to enjoy. Objectively speaking, they still aren’t the best in terms of mechanics and writing style, but they are certainly more connected and nuanced than I remembered from my first read through.
As for why I like this series so much, it all comes down to Celaena. I love her. I love her, because she’s heinous, not in spite of it. My favorite characters always seem to be the ones who many people find difficult to like. (Which is directly tied to how I see myself as a person and how I tend to interact with/attract people, but that’s a story for another day.) When a character is brash and haughty and withdrawn and difficult and talks more than they can back up, I think that opens up a lot of doors for development. I think that’s especially true when you are dealing with a character like Celaena who has experienced so many ups and downs in her life that she doesn’t know which way is up anymore. You have to stick with her until she finds her footing. You have to stick with her until she gets her strength back – physically and emotionally – so she can back up all those big claims and prove to herself and her reader that she actually has a heart. I live for that. I love watching it happen. I don’t care that it’s one of the most cliche character development techniques known to man. It makes me happy. And really, who can’t get behind a person who earned the moniker fire breathing bitch queen?
She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.
Second reason to love Celaena – she loves books. In a real and overwhelming way. She loves books so much she befriends and shares a bed with the son of her mortal enemy. He’s not a terrible person, but she can’t prove that, so I still think that last sentence is relevant. Anyway, when a character reads that voraciously, my interest in them increases about 1000%, because it’s so rarely an interest fantasy characters have. I love that the eighteen year old book obsessed assassin can do her own learning and research instead of a relying on a stodgy old librarian. Love. It.
Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.
Another reason these books always suck me in is because no one gets off scot-free. Every last person this series asks you to care about gets destroyed. Maas has found the balance between all the good guys living happily ever after and George R.R. Martin that I really appreciate. I want there to be adversity. I don’t want everything to be overcome. But I also don’t want people randomly killed without serving the plot in any way. If I wanted my reading to reflect real life, I wouldn’t be reading smutty young adult fantasy novels.
You could rattle the stars… You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.
The world of this series also deserves a shout out. Erilea is an amazing place, and so many different cultures are crafted in this book. I wish there was a map book for this world with in depth descriptions and pictures like they’ve done for some adult fantasy worlds. I think there’s a lot to discover here, and we only get a glimpse of it through Celaena and company’s travels. There are light skinned people, dark skinned people, rich people, poor people, skilled people, unskilled people, healers, witches, pirates, fae, and assassins. And they all actually matter. Maas borrows from mythologies and cultures across continents in our world to craft the people of Erilea, and I wish this series allowed for more downtime, so I could become more engrossed in it. Maybe the illusion would fall apart if she did, but I think it could be a cool side project for Maas to take on at some point.
The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.
Now for the potentially spoilery bits. I’m going to talk about a couple things that I don’t see as an issue that many people do, and I’m also going to address a couple of the items that I wish weren’t present in Throne of Glass.
Romances – As always there are some I like, and there are some I do not. That’s not really what matters here, though. Rowan and Aelin were pretty obviously going to be endgame from the second he found her on that rooftop, and it’s one of the few relationships that didn’t come completely out of left field. Now for the downside to the romances in this book – Maas needs EVERYONE to be paired off. Why? I like Manon and Dorian together. I like Aedion and Lysandra together. I like Elide and Lorcan together. But when “romance” comes from lines like, “I’m going to marry you someday.” when the person on the receiving end isn’t even in human form and can’t participate in the conversation, it’s going too far. DEVELOP YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AND LET SOMEONE BE SINGLE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
Transphobia – When Dorian and Manon start fooling around, they have an exchange that goes something like this:
Manon: I’m not a woman.
Dorian: You have the right parts so what does it matter?
Empire of Storms was published in 2016, and frankly, there was no reason for language like that. I get it – Dorian Haviliard is a prince who has bedded countless women and is used to getting his way, but how Manon chooses to refer to herself is her call, and it was a dick move for Maas to write this scene the way she did. End of story.
Representation – Even though she writes them poorly at times (see previous point), Throne of Glass has characters of many races and many sexual and gender orientations that don’t immediately die. That’s such a hilariously low bar to meet, but I’m glad she at least tries, because so many authors just don’t. Or they write about the black guy and the bisexual girl dying first out of habit instead of giving it a second thought. Also, with Chaol, she created a character with a disability that can’t just be fixed at the drop of a magic hat. It would have been better if she made him learn to assist the cause from a wheelchair instead of sending him to the greatest healers in the land, but since I haven’t finished that book yet, I’ll hold on to that (I’m assuming useless) morsel of hope for a few days more.
Mating bond – This is an established part of fairy literature, and for some reason, critics of this series make it out to be nefarious. It is not. Admittedly, I enjoy the possessive nature of the fae mating bond. I think it’s both a good mechanical story element and that it adds something – sometimes good, sometimes bad – to relationships. I also agree that people aren’t possessions, but when talking about fairy mythology and using fae in stories, that is the language. Furthermore, Maas does a very good job of having mates possess one another while still maintaining their autonomy. If you don’t like this aspect of fae mythology, then don’t read stories that contain fairies and romantic relationships. It’s that simple, and I feel really strongly about that point.
Explicit sexual content – Empire of Storms is raunchy. So much so, that I’m wondering if this book shouldn’t have been shelved differently. That being said, I would rather we teach kids, especially young girls, that sex can be great and magical and earth shattering. Our society does so much to sweep the good, healthy parts of sex under the rug, and I’d rather have it be a little too graphic than treated as something to fuel shame and shyness.
I completely understand if you disagree with me. This is a deep, personal topic that everyone needs to feel comfortable forming their own opinions about.
Well, folks, there ya have it. My entirely too long freak out about Throne of Glass and the reasons I love it and the reasons it makes me crazy. If you stuck with me to the end, I appreciate you. Let me know what you think in the comments, and I’ll see you next week!