Coming to Throne of Glass from A Court of Thorns and Roses? Familiar with Sarah J. Maas and looking for takes comparing the two, or just takes thinking critically about SJM in general? Looking to commiserate after reading the most recent 700 page SJM book? Even if you’re coming to SJM for the first time, this series review can give you insight into how Throne of Glass differs from SJM’s other work, why it’s appealing, and why it is sometimes so frustrating.
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy, Romance
Link to Goodreads: link
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ..quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I’m going to review the entire Throne of Glass series (ToG) one by one below. I recently read all but the last—I burnt out after Empire of Storms and couldn’t bring myself to care about Kingdom of Ash.
In order to honestly document the ToG experience, I reviewed the books directly after finishing them, uninformed about what was to come. My overall experience? Clearly pretty good if I read it all so fast.
Don’t do what I did and read it all at once, even if you really want to. Maas is really fun to read and this series is certainly no exception. But the books are long, and there are many of them, and Maas only has one tone/style/voice. I still think ACOTAR is a better series, but the ToG world is bigger and more lush.
Throne of Glass
There’s something about the way Sarah J. Maas writes delicious YA tropes with zero shame that makes her books absurdly readable. They are absurd, and silly, and sure, you know exactly what’s going to happen, but that’s what makes them so great. Especially with Throne of Glass, which feels younger in tone than Maas’ other books—even compared to the sequels. Probably because she was so young when she wrote it.
The love triangle: delicious.
The heroine who can kick everyone’s ass but also turn out a look: delicious.
The obvious clues it takes the heroine just long enough to figure out: yummy. Maybe I’m just hungry? I read this after finishing a very long book, and this was a nice palate cleanser: super fast to read, and though all the characters are extremely lovable, I’m still thinking about the book I read before it.
Crown of Midnight
Maas is almost at her best with this one, taking Throne of Glass and really building out the world—not too quickly, but every reveal packs a big punch and has been foreshadowed in a delicate, impressive way. I absolutely flew through this book. Like the ACOTAR series, the second one is better than the first :)…ahem which is not to say the trend continues with this series…
Heir of Fire
The best book of this series, in my opinion.
(Spoilers from here on)
Possibly Maas’ best enemies to lovers and they didn’t even f***!!! (sorry, Rhysand, but Aelin>Feyre…Aelin consistently has so much more agency despite how much Rhysand tries to give to Feyre, PLUS I don’t cringe at half of Aelin’s dialogue.)The story feels like two little capsule novels (one with Rowan, one back in the world we know from previous books). Since I obviously came to this from Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, I sometimes got tired of the other narratives that didn’t involve Rowan. Rowan totally carries this novel—although I think that says more about the particular tropes Maas targeted and my preferences more than anything else.
Still—SUBLIME enemies to lovers.
Probably because Rowan was such a fresh character for the series, and the whole time it was just two grumpy, powerful people fighting and glowering at each other. Also one of her best because the plot wasn’t generally weighed down by suuuper indulgent internal dialogues and sweeping battles. Instead, we got lots of fun, suspenseful little skirmishes that weren’t less gripping because the stakes weren’t, like…world-ending.
However. Like with Crown of Midnight…alas, the sublimity is not to last.
Queen of Shadows
No thoughts. Head empty. Reading this was fun, but I’m getting tired because we just get more and more and Maas keeps telling us the stakes are high but…ARE THEY? Even if I don’t care?
I enjoy reading about Aelin doing things because she’s now badass in the way only male characters have been allowed to be badass in the majority of my reading experience. I like it whens she chooses violence and doesn’t tell anyone her plans.
Or just when she chooses violence in general.
Empire of Storms
This is the one that caused the burnout. Part of it is definitely my fault, because I read 5 straight SJM books in a week and a half.
Too much of a good thing is bad.
But I also feel safe in saying that there are other reasons for my fatigue with this series. The constant astronomically high stakes start to numb the reader—and maybe Maas was aware of that, because the stakes start to numb Aelin, too. Not internally, but we just get less of her. There are lots more characters, now, which should make the experience much fresher, but for some reason, it just made my attention slip more and more. The Lorcan and Elide storyline feels halfhearted and unearned compared to the other relationships, even Aelin and Manon’s (Manon’s character, while amazing in concept, was utterly robbed. So were many others, as is wont to happen when you try to stuff so many into a single story.)
But most importantly, the pace really drags here. Sure, there are plenty of fights and plenty of drama, but most of them feel utterly pointless. This book feels like a big wander in a format that should have direction. Maas starts over-indulging in obviously unnecessary scenes and internal dialogues—a problem that I know from reading other reviews (and reading the ACOTAR series) gets much worse.
Therefore, I am stopping at this book.
I looked up the spoilers for Kingdom of Ash (I don’t even care enough about Tower of Dawn to look up those spoilers)…and still don’t care. By the end of this book, I just missed Celaena. And I knew it would all work out in the end anyway. Maas overstayed the reader’s welcome in this story and kept its wheels spinning far longer than she should have.
While I love Maas books for the banter and always end up loving the characters, I am consistently underwhelmed with the plot. I am perfectly game to read something with less plot in general, but it’s when the lackluster plot actively takes away from the more enjoyable parts of the series that I begin to feel frustrated.