THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas

“I am Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assasin. If these men knew who I was, they’d stop laughing. I am Celaena Sardothien. I am going to win. I will not be afraid.”

THRONE OF GLASS, the first book in a series by Sarah J. Maas, was an impulse buy. Available for $1.99 on Amazon, the book promised the story of a world-famous assassin who is pulled out of the salt mine where she has been imprisoned for the past year so she can compete in a competition to determine the king’s new champion.

It’s a solid premise, and was similar enough to Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT, which I had recently enjoyed, that I was poised to enjoy THRONE OF GLASS as well. Unfortunately, it’s possible that reading THRONE OF GLASS so soon after reading NEVERNIGHT made the former book pale in comparison.

Whereas NEVERNIGHT’s Mia is motivated by the murder of her family and pits her in a life-and-death battle with her classmates, Celaena’s competition merely serves as window dressing for her love triangle with the captain of the king’s guard and the prince himself. Celaena bears scars from her sentence in the salt mine, and takes some time to return to full health, but for the most part, the difficulties Celaena must have faced in life are glossed over in favor of mooning over boys and deep consideration of what each word, glance, and action means to her future romantic possibilities.

While Celaena is 18, she seems far younger — both her and the prince freak out after they kiss, and we’re treated to a few chapters of each wondering what such an incredible step means to the future of their relationship. The captain of the guard kills one of the villains, then mopes about — inexplicably, the man charged with defending the royal family has never killed anyone before, and must deal with the emotional ramifications before he can continue doing his job.

Maas’s prose is solid, but ultimately, I felt that the story of an assassin pulled out of prison to compete for a role as the king’s new champion should have been far darker and contained higher stakes. Books in which the primary conflict regards which boy the heroine will choose have simply missed their target demographic with me.