Hm. Beth has just asked Ian if he would like a "liaison" with her. Only a few minutes before, Inspector Fellows arrived with his accusations, and Ian and Fellows had their little confrontation. I'm feeling somewhat doubtful of Beth's intelligence. Reassuring Ian that she's still his friend is one thing - asking him if he'll be her lover is a bit much under the circumstances.
So far, this is okay, but there's a lot more lusting and a lot less actual romance than I'd prefer.
I’ve made a really dumb decision, god help me. I’m ten chapters into recapping/critiquing the ridiculous (and ridiculously popular) Throne of Glass chapter by chapter, and it is an eye-rolling, rage-filled disaster.
This post—which includes my recap for chapter one—will serve as my one and (presumably) only announcement on Booklikes that the read-along is ongoing on my website. And also my Tumblr. Everyone's free to join the fun.
“Nothing is a coincidence. Everything has a purpose. You were meant to come to this castle, just as you were meant to be an assassin.”
When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the King’s Champion and be released from prison.
Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her.
And a princess from a foreign land will become the only thing Celaena never thought she’d have again: a friend.
But something evil dwells in the castle—and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying, horribly, one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival–and a desperate quest to root out the source of the evil before it destroys her world.
This is my first read-along, so bear with me while I find and don my finest recaps-and-rage socks. It might take a couple chapters.
Direct quotes will either be bolded or put in block quotes. If it’s neither bolded nor in block quotes—even if it’s in quotation marks—I’m paraphrasing.
Let’s do this.
So a first chapter has two goals: (a) present the protagonist’s chief characteristics, and (b) hint at their impending conflict. Something like Juanita is quiet but stubborn, and has a strong sense of justice, or Charming extrovert Hadia fears she’ll never step out of her totally-perfect sister’s shadow.
Let’s see how Throne of Glass’s first chapter portrays our heroine, shall we?
After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point. Most of the thousands of slaves in Endovier received similar treatment—though an extra half-dozen guards always walked Celaena to and from the mines. That was expected by Adarlan’s most notorious assassin.
Okay. The jaw-grimly-clenched tone compliments the casual arrogance of the “Adarlan’s most notorious assassin” claim, which—
Wait. If “thousands of slaves” are “escorted everywhere [ . . . ] at sword-point,” and the occasional special assassin snowflake merits seven guards, how many guards does Endovier employ? If I’m doing my math right—let me open my calculator—we’re talking thousands of guards. Sounds like a reasonable use of a kingdom’s military resources.
But back to Celaena, because that wasn’t even the entirety of the book’s first paragraph and already my Ridiculous YA Heroine alarm is wailing.
I’m supposed to believe a teenager is the country’s most notorious assassin, and warrants both shackles and an armed guard of seven to escort her wherever she goes? Come on guys, just give her a Bane mask and strap her to a gurney and be done with it.
So The Most Assassinist of Assassins emerges from the mines after an invigorating day of slavery to find she has a visitor: a man in Ominous Black and a face-hiding hood (someone please tell me how a hood can totally obscure the wearer’s face but still allow them to see out of it, I want to know). The sight of him waiting for her “hadn’t improved her mood.”
That’s it? A creepy dude comes for you after a year of slavery, and all you can say is the sight of him didn’t improve your mood? What about—oh I don’t know—curiosity, fear, surprise, wariness? Could you show any emotion beyond arrogance and badassery?
At least my impending rant about her fearlessness wasn’t necessary. See, she’s only 99% fearless:
[H]er ears had pricked when he’d introduced himself to her overseer as Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard, and suddenly, the sky loomed, the mountains pushed from behind, and even the earth swelled toward her knees. She hadn’t tasted fear in a while—hadn’t let herself taste fear. When she awoke every morning, she repeated the same words: I will not be afraid. For a year, those words had meant the difference between breaking and bending; they had kept her from shattering in the darkness of the mines. Not that she’d let the captain know any of that.
“Not that [you’d] let the captain know any of that”? Girl, what makes you think he cares?
Let’s start a list of character traits for fair Celaena:
So Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Royal Guard, He Who Looms Skies and Pushes Mountains and Swells the Earth, takes Celaena on a stroll through the mine’s administrative building:
They strode down corridors, up flights of stairs, and around and around until she hadn’t the slightest chance of finding her way out again.
At least, that was her escort’s intention, because she hadn’t failed to notice when they went up and down the same staircase within a matter of minutes.
But an assassin as assassinly as she cannot be fooled:
If she wanted to escape, she simply had to turn left at the next hallway and take the stairs down three flights. The only thing all the intended disorientation had accomplished was to familiarize her with the building. Idiots.
Actually, I agree. If he’s this concerned, why didn’t he blindfold her before tromping her through the entire building?
Celaena pauses her scornful inner monologue to assure the reader that she’s not some dark-skinned uggo—
She adjusted her torn and filthy tunic with her free hand and held in her sigh. Entering the mines before sunrise and departing after dusk, she rarely glimpsed the sun. She was frightfully pale beneath the dirt. It was true that she had been attractive once, beautiful even, but—well, it didn’t matter now, did it?
—which will make a lovely addition to our list:
Meanwhile, her interaction with Chaol Westfall, He Who Looms (etc., etc.) is just brimming with tension. (Just kidding, it’s not.) She’s pleased by his voice, at least: “How lovely it was to hear a voice like her own—cool and articulate—even if he was a nasty brute!”
Chaol asks a question, which she deflects, and his resulting growl launches her into fantasies of his blood splattered over the marble, followed by the delicious memory of “embedding the pickax into [her overseer’s] gut, the stickiness of his blood on her hands and face.”
Naturally, this makes her grin at him.
Celaena: [Grins at him.]
Chaol: “Don’t you look at me like that.” [Moves his hand back toward his sword.]
Whose bright idea was it to put this man—who goes all angry-werewolf when a criminal shrugs off a question, and almost draws his sword when she tries to unsettle him with a grin—in charge of the Royal Guard? He has anger issues and deep-seated insecurity and impending mass murder all over him.
Then it’s Celaena’s turn to ask a question (“Where are we going again?”), not get an answer, and display her resulting anger:
When he didn’t reply, she clenched her jaw.
What’s with these two getting pissed over nothing? It’s like watching two surly, entitled teens who—oh. I get it.
Having covered the basics of Celaena’s personality, the chapter fulfills its second purpose: providing (sledgehammer-subtle) hints of the awaiting conflict: magic has disappeared from the kingdom, and the King of Adarlan has been filling the salt mines with rebels from the countries he’s conquered. (I’ll be so surprisedwhen our heroine becomes the magic-wielding leader of a rebellion that overthrows the King.)
Celaena briefly shudders at the rebel-slaves’ plight, wondering if they’d have been better off dead. But before you go insist I label her “compassionate”:
But she had other things to think about as they continued their walk. Was she finally to be hanged?
Granted, I’d be more concerned about my impending execution, too—but brushing the slaves off with “[b]ut she had other things to think about” is harsh.
Their destination, when they arrive, surprises Celaena:
The [red-and-gold glass] doors groaned open to reveal a throne room. A glass chandelier shaped like a grapevine occupied most of the ceiling, spitting seeds of diamond fire onto the windows along the far side of the room. Compared to the bleakness outside those windows, the opulence felt like a slap to the face.
Because obviously an isolated prison camp/salt mine’s administration building requires an opulent throne room on the off-chance a royal will drop in for a—
On an ornate redwood throne sat a handsome young man. [ . . . ] She was standing in front of the Crown Prince of Adarlan.
I stand corrected.
Just for fun, let’s keep track of how many times some things happen every chapter. Let’s start with:
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 5
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Celaena fantasizes about murder: 3
Celaena murders someone: 0
Chaol’s surly teen-boy rage: 4
Our protagonist is unbearable.
"The gods don't fix problems. They make bigger ones. Every story, every myth, every legend ends tragically for a human. Gods have amazing powers, but they leave a path of destruction and never think about the consequences that others have to deal with."
Truer words have never been spoken. I loved the way this story started right with the Gods causing havoc. It jumped right into the thick of it, and then fell back into some back story. It grabbed my attention right away and kept me hanging on. I LOVE books with mythology intertwined in it! What I really enjoyed about this one was having some new mythological beings and players being stars of the show. I can't think of another book off the top of my head that included Sphinxes. So it was really neat to get their story here.
I instantly felt for Hope and her family, always on the run because of the curse. Hope's life was a lonely one, never having a chance to make friends or stay in one place long. I was sad for her loses as the story progressed but I did love the relationships she was able to gain because of them. I thought it was pretty darn cool that this story was told from Hope's POV, being that she is "the monster" of the story. It was an interesting route to take and I thought it was awesome. Especially considering there was nothing truly bad or evil about Hope, but that was the rep she got because of what she was, the Sphinx.
Not only were the Sphinxes something new, but the demigods littered throughout the story were also new to me, which I really liked! As much as I enjoy a Percy or Hercules story, it's nice to see some of the other Gods children taking the limelight and bringing some fresh stories to the mix. Athan, son of Hermes, was a great leading guy! While his intentions towards Hope seemed more "job" related at first, he always seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and I treasured the relationship he started forming with Hope, even though each of them were holding on to their secrets until pretty much the end. Mr. Stanely deserves an honorable mention, just because his kindness and daily riddles for Hope never failed to bring a smile to my face.
I also liked the fact that Curse of the Sphinx was set in a modern world, but it was slightly different, in the sense that the Gods were still very much relevant, and ruling. I thought it was neat to see all the human students learning about mythology and all the Gods, demi-gods and different creatures in school. If I would have been learning that in "History" during my school days, that might have been my favorite class! It was a fresh take on a similar theme that has been done before, and I appreciated that!
The ending shook me a little. I am so unsure of where this story will go from here! What I do know is that I need to get my hands on it asap! All in all this was a great start to a promising new series, and fans of YA mythology definitely need to give this one a try!
I am so excited to invite everyone to THE RELUCTANT SACRIFICE READ ALONG being hosted by @sandrathebookworm on Feb 12. Please repost to help me spread the word. If you haven't read the book yet, please join @sandrathebookworm for the read along. One lucky reader wins a kindle fire❣❣#trsreadalong