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I feel like it’s time to finally put some thoughts on paper about a series that has recently taken my life by storm: the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I recently finished reading the novella collection The Assassin’s Blade, which serves as a prequel to the series itself, and just before that, I finished Empire of Storms, which pretty much destroyed me. The only current novel in the series that I have left to finish is Tower of Dawn…that is, until the new novel is released in October. Considering that I am just about caught up in the series, I figured it was about time for me to say a few things about the series, through the lens of having just finished a prequel that made me think a lot about my journey with these characters.
Having said all of this, there may be some minor spoilers ahead for the entire Throne of Glass series, so please bear that in mind.
Probably the single most impressive thing, in my opinion, about the Throne of Glass series is the development of the characters and their relationships with one another. This is what has led me to write this review after reading The Assassin’s Blade because so much of that collection brings to the forefront just how far the characters have come by the time we reach Empire of Storms. In The Assassin’s Blade, we see Celaena Sardothien in a way that, having come as far as Empire of Storms, we haven’t seen her for some time. She is back to being Adarlan’s Assassin, an overly confident sassy-pants who is obsessed with refinement, comfort and her physical appearance. She comes across as a bit vapid, I’ll be honest, but there is also evidently some fight in her and a great deal of strength. She isn’t exactly likable though, and in many ways she’s the true opposite to someone like Feyre of Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses in that Celaena is a bit…well…spoiled.
Reading about this version of Celaena (believe me, there are many “versions” of this character) reminded me of my initial reaction to Throne of Glass which, to be honest, wasn’t a novel I loved. Although the series certainly picked up for me, it wasn’t until I hit Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows that I started to feel any affection for Celaena…and at that point, she had already become an entirely different character and reassumed her rightful identity as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. I’ve noticed that Maas tends to like to do this with her characters, forcing them to make a total 180 shift, and Celaena certainly does that when she embraces the fact that she is the lost queen of Terrasen and accepts the responsibility associated with that. Aelin is similar to Celaena in some ways – she is fierce, cunning and skilled – but she is also so very different in that she is truly selfless. That much is clear by the (devastating!!!) end of Empire of Storms, and this transformation gave me not only a respect for Maas’ writing and creativity, but also for Aelin as a character. She has quickly become one of my favourite fictional heroines.
But how do we, as readers, reconcile the Aelin we know (and, in my case, love) by the end of Empire of Storms with the Celaena we found to be a bit of a mean girl in Throne of Glass and The Assassin’s Blade? Well, I think this is where the true power of the Throne of Glass series as a whole becomes clear. The series is the story of both Aelin Galathynius and Celaena Sardothien, and it is important to remember that these women are the same person. Who can say, though, that they have not changed at all over the years? Isn’t it normal for a person to grow and develop, especially in the face of trauma and adversity? So, why should Aelin/Celaena not undergo this same process – and why should older, wiser Aelin be judged for the actions and attitude of younger, less world-weary Celaena?
It was remarkable, to me, to see Celaena all over again in The Assassin’s Blade after journeying so far with Aelin. It really made me reconsider Celaena’s entire personality because I was much more sympathetic toward her while reading The Assassin’s Blade than I was when I first encountered her in Throne of Glass. That’s surely due to the gift of hindsight, but knowing what Aelin would go through in Empire of Storms, the sacrifices she would be forced to make by the end, I felt so sad for Celaena because I knew what was ahead in her future, from the salt mines of Endovier, to horrible battles against grotesque enemies, to…an iron mask and iron chains and an iron box that I’m still not even close to ready to talk about. Of course, Aelin also finds a lot of love (and heartache too) along the way, and it is glorifying to remember that she will eventually meet Rowan and share some beautiful moments with him…but everything is tinged with a bit of unease and melancholy, in the full knowledge that Celaena Sardothien, who puts so much time into her outfits and her hair and her nails, will very soon reach a point where none of that will matter even remotely.
Maas is a master of creating characters that stick with you. She made me, the reader who has never picked up Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, into a fantasy lover just by creating heroines that touched me so profoundly and made me care. Aelin is one of those heroines, no doubt, and I’ve found myself thinking of her nonstop, especially after finishing Empire of Storms, which literally haunts me. I assume that Maas’ intention in releasing The Assassin’s Blade was to make her readers reconsider Celaena from a whole new perspective, and to me, she achieved the mark and then some. I was heartbroken for future Aelin, but still uplifted for former Celaena, knowing that she would become this fearsome and fascinating and awe-inspiring woman to behold. That ride, that journey of watching a woman come into her own, was remarkable.
And, perhaps I’m over-reading things and wearing my English MA glasses for this one…but were there an absurd number of references to iron chains and doors in The Assassin’s Blade?! That cannot be coincidence, can it? Not cool, Sarah J. Maas, not cool!
I feel this song accurately represents Aelin’s journey as a character…and so I’ve been listening to it non-stop – haha!
*College & Electric Youth – A Real Hero*
Girl with a Green Heart