In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
This is one of those books that all of the people seem to love. That kind of love always makes me weary, too much hype leads to disappointment, and I hate to be disappointed by a book because of it. Personally speaking, I’ve picked it up once or two, but always set it back on the shelf because Celaena gave off vibes of Mary Sue perfection (spoiler alert: she pretty much is). I finally picked it up because she was signing at the LA Times Festival of Books and I do like getting books autographed.
So how did it hold up?
It’s an enjoyable piece of escapist YA fantasy. I can see how a lot of girls would love to be Caelaena: beautiful, smart, deadly and just happens to catch the eye of both the captain of the guard and the Crown Prince in a tug-of-war that will undoubtedly last three novels. The plot moves along at nice clip, though characterizations are a bit lacking. Like I said, Celaena is a bit too perfect; morality is pretty black and white here: the good and the bad guys are obvious. Of course, because this is teen YA, we have to have at least one antagonist trying to interfere with the Love That is Destined To Be. The tropes are all here. Maas does set up some plot threads for future books that, if enough attention are paid to them, can pay off nicely and be enjoyable. We’ll see where she takes it.
Even though I could complain about the flat characterization or the world building that wasn’t really all that deep, this is a fun book that I finished in a couple of sessions over a 24 hour period and it is one of the better YA series I’ve come across. I wouldn’t quite put it in the same tier as say, Daughter of Smoke and Bone or the Grisha books, but just under it. If you’re looking a fun read, you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t expect anything too original or too deep and you’ll enjoy yourself.
Verdict: Buy it.