All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Kingdom Of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Kingdom Of Ash (Throne Of Glass #7)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2018, 980p
Personally owned copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

So I finally got around to reading this! I bought Tower Of Dawn when it came out in 2017 and then never read it because, Chaol (yawn). Then a friend picked up this for me when it came out but I didn’t read it because I hadn’t read the previous one. I figured it was finally time to finish this series before the new one comes out and I’ve also decided to try and read 20 books in 2020 that have been sitting on my shelf for more than a year and both this and Tower Of Dawn fall into that category and there’s 2 of my 20 already.

It did take me a while to realise where everyone was because it’s been well over 2 years since I read Empire Of Storms and Tower Of Dawn was about a bunch of other people in a different place. I remembered what had happened to Aelin but not really what everyone else was doing. There’s a large cast of characters in these novels – I think this one has somewhere around 15 characters that are narrators and there are countless others, particularly in the war scenes. Not going to lie, I forgot who half of them were when they showed up and I am still not sure who some of them are anyway.

This book is loooooong. Almost 1000 pages and I’m not sure the story required so many pages, to be honest. A lot of the narrative is taken up with travelling from one place to the next as characters move around the map to get to various battles and it gets a little tedious. Also the battle scenes made it hard to picture for me, it just became a mess of people slashing and burning on the page. Also why did the battles stop at sundown? That seemed kind of convenient, so that the ‘good side’ could rest and regroup when in reality they’d probably be gutted at the first midnight.

Anyway, there’s things I did like – the book kicks off in a really dramatic way, with the search for Aelin and her experiences at the hand of Maeve and her henchman and it’s pretty gruesome reading. They don’t hold back on the torture and it’s as much a mental game as it is physical, especially with what they take away from her. Aelin’s strength wavers at times but there’s always something there anchoring her and the thing with Fenrys is really amazing and I did enjoy their bond, the strength of their connection with each other and the way he was always there for her.

I’ve always been a fan of Lorcan and Elide and I remember wanting Lorcan to suffer after what happened at the end of Empire Of Storms and I think, well, he basically does. Elide doesn’t want anything to do with him and she doesn’t seem to mind letting him know about it. I’m not sure how I feel about Lorcan’s truth…..it seemed out of character with everything we learned about him before. But I do think that Elide did change him, reshape what things were in his mind and I’m glad she made him work for it. He didn’t deserve her sometimes but by the end of it I think he had proved himself enough to her. I always liked their dynamic, it was one of my favourite things. I get distracted by side romances a lot, I felt the same about Nesryn and Sadiq and Borte and Yeran in Tower Of Dawn. I wonder if it’s because it’s just glimpses, bits and pieces, rather than them full on running the narrative all the time.

I still don’t like Dorian and Manon. I love Manon – and I liked her story in this book apart from the bit with Dorian. But her embracing both sides of her heritage, her uniting the witches (well most of them) and just going on being a leader was really good. What happened with the Thirteen might be the most devastating part of the book for me, I was not expecting that and although I understand why it happened, I still think they were done dirty. I just don’t like Dorian and Manon together, it felt like it happened because everyone else was already paired up and they were just left over. The “princeling” and “witchling” got on my nerves as well.

The thing about her books is that I find them just…..incredibly readable when I’m actually reading them. The stories pull you in, whether it’s the main story of Aelin and her heritage/love affair with Rowan or it’s one of the side stories. People adore Chaol. He’s not for me but he kept a lot of people interested in the books. I love Elide and Lorcan, the two of them just fulfil a lot of the romance dynamics that are my favourite things. A lot of the plot is intricate and complex and unfolds in really amazing ways but other parts are just like “here’s a magic door with people that have never been mentioned before that are going to help me win this battle” which is….lazy. And sloppy. This needed a darn good edit with half the walking and talking cut out so that the end could unfold with more time and care, instead somehow, in a 1000p book, things at the end felt rushed, which is not the way it should happen. It’s the after that has been a problem for me with this book. The more I think about it, the more I think of things that I’m not sure worked or felt rushed or like there wasn’t really an answer so….”magic”.

Feels like I’ve ripped on this book a bit, I think, but it’s been a big commitment and a lot of time invested. I think I read the first book in around 2012, but I didn’t end up reading the other books in the series until much later, either 2016 or 2017. It’s a lot of pages and I think it’s okay to want something that makes you feel satisfied, even if it’s not precisely the ending you wanted or expected. I have to admit, I never really feared for too many characters because it never seems like Sarah J. Maas kills off anyone necessary or even remotely main characterish, which takes a bit of the edge off the read. I enjoyed this and felt it was a read that kept me engaged at the time but I find myself wondering about things now that I’ve finished it, particularly things that felt neat or had no real plausible explanation. The ending of this one didn’t really blow me away.

7/10

Book #32 of 2020

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Review: Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Tower Of Dawn (Throne Of Glass #6)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2017, 660p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A glorious empire. A desperate quest. An ancient secret.

Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq have arrived in the shining city of Antica to forge an alliance with the Khagan of the Southern Continent, whose vast armies are Erilea’s last hope. But they have also come to Antica for another purpose: to seek healing at the legendary Torre Cesme for the wounds that Chaol received in Rifthold. 

After enduring unspeakable horrors as a child, Yrene Towers has no desire to help a young lord from Adarlan, let alone heal him. Yet she has sworn an oath to assist those in need – and will honour it. But Lord Westfall carries darkness from his own past, and Yrene soon comes to realise it could engulf them both.

And deep in the shadows of distant mountains, where warriors soar on mighty ruks, long-awaited answers slumber. Answers that might offer their world a chance at survival – or doom them all. 

So I think I bought this book when it came out – well over two years ago now. But I never got around to reading it. Although I really enjoy this series and the fifth book in particular I found to be amazing, the truth is…..I just don’t like Chaol. I never really have. I wasn’t a fan of him in the first book as Captain of the Guard, I wasn’t a fan of him when he and Celaena/Aelin were a thing and when I heard that this book was going to revolve around him specifically (it takes place simultaneously with #5, in a different location) I just wasn’t into it. I couldn’t stand the thought of being in his head for some 600+ pages. And I know Nesryn is there too, to sort of balance it out but it took me a long time to finally read this. I started it about 18 months ago and read 150 or so pages before we had to move house. And then I put it down to move and just didn’t pick it up again. But with a new book from Sarah J. Maas coming out in March or April, the first in a new series, I wanted to go in with a clean slate. So that meant finishing this series and finishing this series meant finally reading Tower of Dawn so that I could then read Kingdom of Ash.

In this book, Chaol and Nesryn have sailed by ship to the Southern Continent in order to convince the ruler, the Khagan to pledge them his vast air, sea and land armies in order to help Aelin. Also the healers there are incredibly gifted and they are hoping that they may be able to help Chaol, who is still paralysed from the waist down. When they arrive, they find themselves lacking in pertinent information – the Khagan’s youngest child is dead and the family are in mourning. The remaining siblings fulfil vital roles within the Khagan’s empire (leaders of armies, head of intelligence etc) and neither of them seem particularly inclined to go to war for people they don’t know to help a country they haven’t been to. They know enough stories about the previous King and what he did, how he ruled, to make them extraordinarily wary. But the Khagan offers them hospitality and puts his healers at Chaol’s disposal. Enter Yrene, who experienced terrible things at the hands of Adarlan soldiers, so she’s pretty reluctant to help one.

I found a lot of the early interactions between Chaol and Yrene incredibly tedious. I really had to push through probably the first 200-250p of this book. Most of the Khagan’s offspring are pretty irritating too and I had only intended to read half of it on one day and then finish it the next, breaking it into two pretty reasonable 330p chunks. But I found that once I got to that 300p mark, things started getting pretty interesting. Nesryn and Sartaq (one of the Khagan’s sons and leader of their sky armies, the ruk riders) struck up a friendship I enjoyed, with the promise of more. I really like descriptions of the ruk and the bond that they share with their riders and experiencing that through Nesryn’s eyes as a novice, was fantastic. Also I always end up invested in a side romance and in this book, it was Sartaq’s “hearth-sister” and her betrothed. They are hilarious and I wish there’d been a couple more scenes featuring them. Sartaq and Nesryn are looking for information and find that the problems in the ruk rider communities are tied into the mysterious attempts on Yrene’s life and also, the greater war itself. The section with the spiders gave me anxiety but it was also the first time that I felt the plot was driven forward in a meaningful way. The first 300 or so pages is pretty slow – a lot of boring court talk, Chaol and Yrene bickering etc but get past that and they finally start getting some answers about the Valg, learn some new and definitely very important things and it’s finally revealed how the palace has been infiltrated. And so I found that once I got to that second half, I wanted to find out what was going on so I ended up reading the entire thing in a day, late into the night.

I think I ended up enjoying this more than I thought, mostly due to Nesryn and Sartaq and the overall tying together of story threads and the learning of information. I did still find the first portion a bit of a slog but I’m glad I ended up pushing through and now I’m ready to read Kingdom Of Ash next month and return to Aelin and the rest of the gang and see where this goes and how it all plays out.

7/10

Book #12 of 2020

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Review: Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire Of Storms (Throne Of Glass #5)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2016, 693p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

I’m not sure I say this very often but…. Oh. My. God.

I thought the fourth book was pretty intense but this book stepped it up another notch. Maybe several notches. I haven’t actually read the prequel novellas (which I think are now bound up in one volume) before reading this and I’d probably recommend doing that as I feel a lot of the people who show up with Aelin starts calling in favours are probably detailed more in those stories. But it reads well enough without that background – we already know Aelin has traveled far and wide as Celaena and has markers all over the place or people she can blackmail into assisting her.

This book is non stop from the very beginning and there’s just so many threads of the story that knit together in this part. A lot of people come together finally in this section, you can see a core group re-establishing as well but it’s not without its own issues. And just when you think Aelin has been too clever, that she’s foreseen everything and put things in place to counter, she gets outmaneuvered in the most epic of ways and this book ends in a way that kind of makes you want to scream. I’m lucky, I read it last month and the next one is supposed to come out in September (although from what I read that’s a story about Chaol and Nesryn and what they’ve been up to on the Southern Continent that runs parrallel to this one, kind of like the most recent two George R.R. Martin books, so maybe that won’t give me any resolution and I’ll have to wait until next year).

The romance is strong in this volume – quite strong. I don’t mind this as I do like a strong romance thread to run through my books. A lot of what I choose to read is romance or has romantic elements. Rowan has his critics and that’s fine, no character will please everyone and I’ve been on the wrong side of a ship in lots of books I’ve read (*cough* The Hunger Games) but I don’t mind him really. I certainly like him a lot better than Chaol and I like the two of them together. However there’s no denying that there quite a few similarities between Sarah J. Maas’ two series and they’re very apparent reading this book. Some of the things almost mirror each other and upon reflection, that can be a little jarring. But it’s not a detraction from this book or this series, more like a curiosity. I quite like the romance in this series (all of them) and there are some truly heartbreaking moments in this book. Some O.M.G. reveals as well – in terms of one character, part of their whole life has been a lie.

For me, Lorcan and Elide have somehow become almost my favourite part of this. I love everything about their dynamic – everything. Lorcan is basically an asshole who only loves/worships/serves Maeve and Elide is all that is pure and courageous and eventually she begins to break down the shell that surrounds Lorcan. But he still does the most douchiest of things, even when he’s doing kind things and ugh in this book Lorcan, I wanted to kill you. You are the actual worst. But I still sort of like you but gosh I hope Elide punishes you for a looooooong time. Their angst sings to me and I want to read whole books about them. I think part of this is because I think it’s equally likely that their ending won’t be happy as that it will be. I can’t tell which way it’s going to go but whatever it is, I feel there’s going to be lots of moments along the way.

In terms of how invested I am and just how utterly engrossing this book was, how much it messed with my emotions, I can honestly only give it…….

10/10

Book #114 of 2017

 

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Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2015, 645p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

***Be warned, general SPOILERS for the previous books***

For me, the previous books were like, building books. And then this one and the next, are like Books Where Shit Actually Happens.

Calaena (now Aelin I suppose?) has left Rowan behind and returned to Adarlan with some plans. It’s time to get revenge on someone, time to rescue someone (or two someones really), time to destroy someone. After the holy wow ending of the third book, Dorien remains trapped inside himself, struggling against what is essentially a demon being. Aelin’s cousin is in the dungeons, to be publicly executed as a way of drawing her out. It’s time to put some plans into motion and for a while she’s going to have to wear her assassin’s face until the time is right.

It’s now been a while since I’ve read this book so some of the finer details will probably escape me or blur into one with my memories of other books but this one was definitely one of my favourites of the series. It’s the one where Celaena finally kind of stops talking about things and starts actually doing things and it’s where you get to see some of her carefully constructed plans actually come to fruition. There’s quite a lot going on with quite a few narrators as well, some of whom have very different agendas.

I’ve no doubt that pretty much everyone who read this series waited for the day that Calaena would get her revenge on Arobynn Hamel, the ‘King of the Assassins’ as it were who found her as a child on a riverbank and turned her into a ruthless killing machine by way of training and ‘lessons’. I know I certainly was waiting for it. The downfall of Arobynn and the King were probably two of the things I looked forward to in this series from the first book. As much of a shit as I thought Arobynn was before this book, it was honestly nothing compared to what he attempts to do (believes he has done) to Celaena in this book. So I was super invested in what was going to happen to Arobynn.

And to be honest, it’s pretty much one of the only things in this entire series that has disappointed me. It felt so lacklustre, after such a massive build up. Like why did I even read all about this guy’s heinous deeds to people for the last four books? It’s one of the few complaints that I’ve had in a series that doesn’t mind a confrontation, a gruesome execution, a fight, etc that this felt so boring and shunted aside like the author thought eh, I’ve written myself into a corner in that this guy has to die but I sort of like him because he’s got hidden depths and he really cares about Celaena so we’ll palm it off and have it happen in the most boring way possible. I have not read the Assassin short stories so it was also palmed off to a character I had only met in this book. I found the whole thing pretty meh.

But luckily for me, that was the only thing I found meh because the rest of this book is freaking awesome. I’m not a big fan of the way characters get split up in books (generally right as they come to some sort of realisation about their feelings) so I was pleased when Rowan appeared maybe a third of the way in to this book with a message for Celaena that someone wanted her dead. He arrives to watch her back, knowing the threat all too well and it’s an opportunity for their bond to grow, both of them allowing an intimacy with each other that they don’t with anyone else.

The little group feels like it has almost insurmountable odds….there’s really only Celaena, Rowan, Aedion, Chaol (sort of reluctantly, he has some issues with Celaena and definitely some issues with her feelings for what poor Dorien is now) and Nesryn, a city guard Chaol trusts as well as Lysandra. The downfall of the King has been a long time coming too and there was some really interesting stuff revealed in this book centering around the King and what he had done over the years. Sometimes there are bits and pieces in these novels that seem like a throwaway line, something that doesn’t really mean much but then it crops back up in the story later on and gets expanded upon until it forms something really important. It’s sort of the same for characters – lesser ones slink into the narrative in ways where you don’t really notice them too much until all of a sudden it’s like they’ve always been there.

The layers continue in this novel, woven in are plans and plans and more plans among the action as all of the different threads look like they are moving towards the same location. I am so admiring of the way everything is building in this story. It’s quite complex and the further I get into it the more impressed I am. This book is pretty damn close to being the most perfect of reads.

9/10

Book #113 of 2017

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Review: Heir Of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir Of Fire (Throne Of Glass #3)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2014, 562p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can’t bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back…

The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king – for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

What sort of blurb is that? I told myself I should write these reviews as soon as I finished each book but I have to admit I failed after this book. I read 3, 4 and 5 in quick succession and now that I’m sitting down to write each review, of course the events in each one are blurring together. And that blurb isn’t really helping me at all.

At the end of Crown Of Midnight, Chaol had devised a plot to take Celaena far from Adarlan, which seemed to be the right thing to do at the time but that was before Chaol was aware of exactly who Celaena is. She gave him a clue right before she departed on a ship and smart little cookie that he is, Chaol went back and figured it out right away. Supposedly Celaena is departing to assassinate a royal family, helping to kill the King’s enemies and ensure his power and rule is absolute.

Spending her days lazing on rooftops, drinking bad red wine and generally not doing a lot, Celaena finds herself trapped in an alley one day by a powerful Fae fighter. Prince Rowan is blood sworn to Celaena’s Fae great-aunt and it seems that finally, Celaena may get the chance to get some answers. However before she is granted a proper audience with her aunt to ask those questions, it seems that she has a lot of learn about her powers – how to shift on demand for a start, which she cannot do no matter how many times Rowan beats the crap out of her. Rowan is to be her trainer and the two of them spend a rather large chunk of this book beating seven shades of shit out of each other (mostly Rowan to Celaena) and attempting to beat seven shades of shit out of each other (mostly Celaena to Rowan). It’s interesting because Celaena hasn’t really met anyone who is her physical match before but Rowan is far older, far more powerful (at the moment) and doesn’t care that Celaena is blonde and pretty. Their first meeting involves him punching her in the face because she taunts him with her smart mouth.

As soon as he appeared I figured Rowan was our End Game for Celaena. I was in two minds about him at first – I found all the beating her up a bit rough, perhaps because I’m entrenched in modern day values where it’s not particularly cool to beat anyone up relentlessly. But at the same time Celaena makes me want to punch her at times and I’m only reading about her so I can sort of understand what might make Rowan want to wallop her one. He’s attempting to help her unlock her true potential but there are times when I feel that he may sort of go a bit overboard or about it the wrong way (and I’m not the only one, he’s chastised in the book as well by someone, for trying to break her down when she needed to be lifted up). For all that though, I do like Rowan, mostly because he’s not silly and flirtatious like Dorian or…..Chaol like Chaol. He’s older than old, very powerful and with a hint of Tragic Backstory which he will no doubt overcome when he makes like everybody else and falls in love with Celaena.

There’s some new points of view in this book as well and I found myself kind of liking Manon the Blackbeak witch who is taking part along with the other witches in some sort of nefarious army planned by the King. In return they are promised their lands, known as the Wastes. Manon and her wyvern make for a really good story and I find her intriguing with some interesting depth. I like the role the witches are playing – there are three groups of them and although they’re forced to work together, it’s not without its issues as it seems that they naturally loathe each other and are constantly in conflict. Manon is always having to sort out skirmishes between her underling witches and mostly other witches from the Yellowlegs clan, who readers might remember as being the same clan that the witch Celaena managed to kill, was leader of.

Heir Of Fire was a really good installment of this series – introduced a lot of really interesting new characters, really began to show how powerful Celaena is going to be as she discovered her powers and the role that Rowan is going to play in her life. By the end of this book she is ready to shake off the alias of Celaena Sardothien and embrace Aelin Ashryver Galathynius again – and reclaim her throne.

8/10

Book #112 of 2017

 

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Review: Crown Of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown Of Midnight (Throne Of Glass #2)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2013, 418p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Crowned by Evil.
Bound by Duty.
Divided by Love.

Celaena Sardothien, royal assassin, is the King of Adarlan’s deadliest weapon. She must win her freedom through his enemies’ blood – but she cannot bear to kill for the crown. And every death Celaena fakes, every lie she tells, put those she loves at risk.

Torn between her two protectors – a captain and a prince – and battling a dark force far greater than the king, Celaena must decide what she will fight for: her liberty, her heart or the fate of a kingdom…

This book is four years old but hey I’m only reading it now so perhaps there are plenty of others out there as slow as me when it comes to this particular party. If there are, I’m going to chuck a general ***SPOILERS*** warning here because I want to talk about a few things that it might be impossible to do so without spoiling or at least strongly suggesting things that ruin the plot or spoil surprises.

We pick up a little while after Celaena has started her role as the King’s Assassin and one of the things I mentioned in yesterday’s revisiting of Throne Of Glass would be how that was portrayed. Celaena is supposed to be a trained assassin, offing whoever she is paid to do but that’s a little hard to swallow in a main character and Maas took the route I expected in making Celaena sort of doing her job but also not really? Okay pretty much completely not doing her job but appearing as though she were doing her job. I’m in two minds about this. The King is evil, that’s already quite established and probably all the people he’s paying Celaena to murder are innocent and have most likely done nothing to warrant having an assassin sent after them. But at the same time it makes Celaena a confused character. She’s a trained killer who doesn’t really want to kill anyone. She has a soul, maybe? Or a heart? And yet she went years murdering people apparently, so who was she murdering? Only bad people? Is she more a Robin Hood type of assassin? It doesn’t seem likely. Am I supposed to fear her or not? Sometimes it seems like the author isn’t sure and therefore I’m not really sure either. She doesn’t really come across as all that fearsome….unless someone pisses her off.

The love triangle kind of backs off a bit in this one, with Crown Prince Dorien kind of bowing out but also not? He sort of thinks about it, like he feels he might do that but then he tends to get all sorts of jealous and invested every time he sees her. Chaol and Celaena on the other hand, progress a lot in this novel and then backslide like times a million. I’m still really not invested in either of these options and I find it irritating whenever Chaol feels the need to protect Celaena, like she’s some sort of helpless damsel in distress, telling her to be careful and wanting to go with her or have her not do things.

Get past that stuff and once again, I really like the story that’s going on. The King is becoming more and more evil, Celaena is reluctantly drawn in to things again that she’d rather not be involved in but it appears that she’s not going to really have much choice. These are the aspects of this series that I really enjoy – loved finding out a bit more about what the King is doing/is looking for and now that is Celaena’s task as well. We also find out quite a lot more about Celaena herself, both in terms of an ability she has and her true heritage. I think the groundwork was laid significantly that I already knew most of it – however the whole Fae thing I wasn’t really expecting at all. So good inclusion there. I like it. I like that Celaena sort of has this switch that gets flicked inside of her when she goes on a killing spree. It’s kind of when I find her most interesting. That and when she’s figuring stuff out, unravelling mysteries. Is it odd that one of my favourite characters in this book was a door knocker? (Um, not a sentence I ever thought I’d write).

I honestly think I’m going to enjoy this series much more by having the first five to read so close like this because it’s starting to build really well. I’m glad I don’t have to wait a year for the next book although I can’t pick it up to read straight away because I do have a review book that I have to read first! However I’m excited to get to the next book, the ending of this one actually felt very strong, like it makes you want to roll straight on to the next one. Celaena is heading far away, separating her from both Dorien and Chaol, which I’m actually all for. I really like Chaol’s conflict at the end of this novel – what he’d done in order to protect her vs what he found out, which could *will* change everything. Chaol is best when he’s agonising internally over every single little thing about his duty and his desires, rather than staring at Celaena with moon eyes. He sacrificed something in this book and I’m interested to see where that goes.

I enjoyed this. All the story arcs are tracking along nicely so far. Bring on book 3 (after my review book).

8/10

Book #110 of 2017

 

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Revisiting: Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne Of Glass (Throne Of Glass #1)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2012, 404p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly.
Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

So it’s been almost five years since I read Throne Of Glass – my first review is here. I was in a bookshop the other day just browsing and I saw the other books in this series and it reminded me that I only ever read the first book. I don’t know why I didn’t read the next ones, perhaps I missed one coming out, or had too much to read and then once there were a few books I thought it’d take too much time to catch up. But recently reading all three of the A Court Of Thorns & Roses series and loving them, I thought hey, you know, I really should get in and get up to date with the Throne of Glass series. I remembered that I’d pretty much loved this when I read it way back in July of 2012, so I picked up Crown Of Midnight, Heir Of Fire Empire Of Storms. They didn’t have a copy of Queen Of Shadows that matched all the others so I had to order that in. I picked it up last Thursday and so I was ready to go.

I did pick up Crown Of Midnight to try and start it but when I opened it, I realised that I really didn’t remember anything from Throne Of Glass. I’ve probably read over a thousand books since I read Throne Of Glass and even though I read through my review and had the general gist of the storyline, I knew that it’d probably be much better if I dug out my copy of that and re-read it before picking up the rest of the series. So on Saturday, I did just that.

The first thing that struck me was that 5 years ago I loved this enough to rate it a 9/10 on my blog, which isn’t something I do super often. This time around I’d say I liked it – but I didn’t love it. There were certain aspects that I really enjoyed but there were others that I felt were quite weak and/or problematic.

I really enjoyed the setting. The world feels both interesting and sinister at the same time – Celaena’s fellow competitors are all thieves or assassins or men who have been discharged from the King’s Army for probably heinous crimes, considering the kind of acts the King tolerates and probably also endorses. Celaena is malnourished and needs training but her skills, learned over 7 or so years intensive training, haven’t completely deserted her. She’s advised to remain middle of the pack so as not to attract too much attention as she isn’t competing as herself but as some sort of random lady jewel thief, which I’m surprised that anyone buys. Celaena has trouble following instructions though, which probably doesn’t bode well in the future.

The tension built well, especially in the final battle which I actually had zero memory of. Obviously I knew who was going to win (Celaena has a touch of the Special Snowflake about her, it feels like there’s a lot of foreboding about the weird murder of her parents and probably she’s not just some random from some village etc) but if she didn’t then there wouldn’t be a series, because her opponent would certainly have made it a fight to the death. However there were times when I “bought in” and Maas did made me wonder how she could possibly still be victorious in the situation she found herself in. So props for the setting and the build of the tournament and final battle as well as the premise itself.

Things I didn’t like so much: there’s a love triangle and in my second reading I am pretty much team no one. I don’t particularly like either of the suggested possible would-be could-be lovers. One is the Crown Prince, the son of the despot King but he’s not like his father, he’s sensitive with hidden depths. He likes to read books. And is more of a pacifist than the conqueror his father is. But he’s also an annoying vain flirt who is supposed to be charming but I really found him a bit too try hard pretty boy. He’s always sliding into Celaena’s rooms at inappropriate times and I don’t buy into the romanticism of the prince and the assassin at all. The other option is the Captain of the Guard and I haven’t existed in a vacuum the past five years despite not going on with the series. I know Chaol has his fans (sidenote: I keep wanting to pronounce his name as “chole” in my head, which I know it isn’t but it’s a very hard habit to break) but honestly I didn’t like him much either. He was okay – I think if I had to pick one at this stage, it would be him but the fury I’ve seen around at some parts suggests he probably isn’t endgame either, the same way in which the Court of Thorns & Roses series went. There’s far too much smirking and sideways glances happening between these three and Celaena seems to swing hot and cold on how she feels about one or both of them, often on the same page. Some of the dialogue read as a bit awkward at times (painfully so) and I felt as though there wasn’t a lot of real personality in pretty much any of the characters. Hopefully this is something that changes as I get further into the series and the world and the characters flesh out and evolve more. At the moment it just feels like everyone is blandly stoic with the occasional sardonic twist.

This has actually been quite an interesting exercise – I don’t often re-read much these days and I’ve never reviewed something for a second time. I was quite intrigued by my slightly different opinion and how my reading tastes may have grown and changed in the past five years. I think what I expect from a story is different now. It’s a long time and although it probably sounds like I’m more negative than positive on the book (I’m not, I still really liked it, just didn’t glowingly love it like first time around), I am still really keen to get into the rest of the series and see how it goes. The first book felt like a lot of set up for it to go places so I can’t wait to start the second book and see what happens next. We haven’t actually really seen Celaena as an assassin, although she thinks about killing people. But I think about killing people and I don’t actually do it. It’ll be interesting to read a MC who kills people for a living and how she will find working for the repulsive King.

This time around….I’m giving it:

7/10

Book #109 of 2017

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Throne Of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

Throne Of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Publishing
2012, 404p
Copy courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ

Celaena is known as Adarlan’s Assassin. She is just 18, orphaned young, left alone and then rescued by a master and trained in the art of killing. She was caught about a year ago and sentenced to work in the salt mines, something that is usually a death sentence. Somehow however, Celaena has managed to survive, despite the gruelling physical work, almost being starved to death and the regular beatings.

Now she has been chosen. Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Guard has offered her a deal: her freedom in exchange for a contract. She is to be the one who represents the Crown Prince Dorien in a tournament to the death – the most gifted thieves and assassin’s in the land will train and compete, going up against each other in a number of tests. If you are last, or fail to complete, you are eliminated. Win and you become the King’s Assassin for several years. After that, Celaena is assured of her freedom.

Celaena is the only female. She’s aware that they are underestimating her, dismissing her as a silly girl with ideas above her station. Her identity as Adarlan’s Assassin was always well concealed as the Crown didn’t want everyone to know that the Assassin had been just a young girl. Instead the other competitors think she is a jewel thief and Westfall counts on her flying low under the radar, finishing middle of the pack early on. Not low enough to consider being eliminated but definitely not high enough for her to be regarded with suspicion or targeted.

This goes against Celaena’s greater instincts – she is a fighter, she is skilled and she wants everyone to know that she has worked hard and trained hard to develop them. However when something gruesome seems to be picking the contestants off one by one within the castle, eviscerating them and devouring them, Celaena is drawn into something infinitely more greater and darker than the competition to impress the King.

Throne Of Glass had been on my buzz list for a while, being one of the most exciting YA fantasy novels due for release this year. It was first published on fictionpress.com, a website for aspiring authors to share their stories and where readers can comment and add stories to their favourites list, get updates when new chapters are posted, etc. I used to read fictionpress when I was at university and interested in finding new stories and I’m fascinated that this has become a platform, a way in which people can end up finding their way to a traditional publishing. I’m sure Maas’ story has given hope to thousands of people out there.

The book depicts a bleak world for most of the residents, the power-hungry King, forcing the population to accept his rule by way of his army and war. Celaena loathes him but she is forced to see the attractiveness of the offer being presented to her. She’s so young, she knows she can give the years required of her contract as the King’s Assassin and then disappear quietly into the woods to live the rest of her life peacefully and unmolested. However the rigors she will have to go through will be many. Although she has worked in the salt mines for the past year, she is still out of shape. She has to train extensively, put weight back on her starving body and focus on not getting killed. She knows she has the skills to stay in the competition, even to win.

She trains with Westfall, a man of few words who has made it clear from the beginning that he doesn’t trust her. She is guarded, men outside her door, men escorting her wherever she goes. Celaena can’t really blame Westfall for his lack of trust, she does ponder several ways to kill him and/or escape in the book but she sees quite quickly that it’s unlikely she would get anywhere. They’d hunt her down and she wants to earn her freedom properly. Slowly she and Westfall form a sort of comfortable relationship with each other, something that grows very slowly and tentatively. Celaena is prickly and Westfall taciturn and there are misunderstandings and even the odd small amount of jealousy as they attempt to find a way in which they can learn to trust each other.

By contrast, Crown Prince Dorien is flirtatious, a bit of a womaniser and he’s in no hurry to marry, despite his mother’s urging. In fact he’s determine to avoid that particular inevitability for as long as he can, until he’s sure he’s found the right woman to marry. He has some old fashioned ideas, wanting to marry not just for political advancement and strength, but actually for love. And as Celaena starts to regain some of her former physique due to good food, fresh air and exercise, he finds himself very attracted to her and sets about making that attraction known.

There’s a lot going on in this novel but if I had one criticism of it, I found that there were some sections of it that really dragged. The competition goes for a long time and there are long gaps of weeks between tests where Celaena does little more than train and wander around the Castle whereas other parts are packed full of action and plot development. The pace was a fraction uneven, but when it was cracking, it was really cracking! I found the writing to be top quality, the characters well fleshed out and established. I enjoyed the dynamics between Celaena, Westfall and Dorien – the men are two very different men, but firm friends and see Celaena in two different ways. I have to admit to a partiality to Westfall, I prefer his wariness to the Prince’s flirtatiousness as Dorien at times came off a little too smooth, even though Maas was careful to portray his life as not as idyllic as it seemed in his complicated relationship with his father.

Throne Of Glass is a fantastic debut, a story that really grabs a reader and sucks them in. Celaena is a tough protagonist, not afraid to stand up for herself and be counted. She’s exactly the sort of main character I enjoy reading, embracing hard work and trying to do the best she can in order to get what she wants: her freedom. Although her past is shady, with her being a paid assassin, the tragedy of her youth has obviously led her to survive anyway that she can. The final scenes of this novel were amazing, I couldn’t read fast enough to see what was going to happen and I cannot wait for the second novel to find out where Celaena’s journey will take her.

9/10

Book #143 of 2012

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