I love reading. I don’t know what happened, but when I was younger, reading was cool. Now, trying to get my students to read is like pulling teeth but when I was their age? My best friend and I asked to be librarians. We would spend our lunchtimes devouring new titles and huge chunks of our time together was spent in silence, with us racing through piles of books.
My husband bought me a kindle a few years ago and I have never looked back. I thought I would be one of those people who couldn’t live without a proper book – the smell, the feel, the process of opening and turning the pages, it getting dog eared as I re read my favourites etc and yet bollocks to all that. The kindle has changed my life. I can carry hundreds of books around with me in one hand. That makes me feel a bit like a nerdy superhero.
I love reading reviews of what other people have been reading. I have a bit of an eclectic reading taste I think – I love me some crime thrillers and romantic comedies (hate the word chick lit – that is the first and last time I will write that!) but I also like classics and those high brow books that win awards with arty titles like ‘the critical dog who fell through a window’ or something. I am going to embarrassingly start my tentative foray into book reviews with a YA book though – that’s right. I am a 27 year old reader of teenage fiction. These books are totally worth the little bit of shame I feel at admitting that though.
A Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight are very much fantasy fiction. They centre around a sassy assassin called Celaena who, after being released from a labour camp, ends up taking part in a trial to become the king’s champion in the first book and then follows her journey after the competition in the second. Despite the author’s insistence that the books came about as a result of her being fed up with the lack of female heroines in other fantasy novels and the need for more fearless female characters, this book does tend to revert back to ‘traditional’ story arcs – i.e. Celaena’s looks, her relationships with men and the way in which she uses her sexuality to get ahead (‘peering up through her eyelashes’ aplenty) Yet they really are brilliant. I loved them so much that I have already re read them twice, bought copies for my dad and relentlessly stalked Sarah J Maas on twitter in a bid to find out when book 3 is out. The books are set in a time period where magic is banned, ancestral secrets lie in underground tombs and relationships are more on and off than a Kardashian’s.
They are very well written for YA books and the character development is great. Maas really knows how to create personalities in her writing and Chaol, Dorian, Nehemia and Celaena (the core four) are all interesting, well explored and bounce off each other well. The love triangle between Chaol, Dorian (the king’s son so all sorts of ~scandal here) and Celaena wears a bit thin after a while and does bring about unfortunate comparisons to Twilight but this is totally different. Celaena is tough, she is independent. She would never do a Bella and sit, staring into space for months on end if her boyfriend buggered off. The idea of a female assassin who can reduce grown men to quivering wrecks and who can speak Ellwe, take on witches and battle terrifying other worldly demons is a great one. Totally subverts traditional notions of femininity and Maas isn’t afraid to make Celaena unpleasant and unlike-able at times which is brave. You find yourself rooting for her in both novels.
Book one, a Throne of Glass focuses on the champions trial at the glass palace in Adarlan and Celaena’s budding relationships with those in the castle. The second concentrates on Celaena dealing with the fall out of the trial, her new role for the king and the conspiracies and drama going on both within and outside of the castle walls. There are lots of characters to get to know and Maas manages to create tension and suspense through her story telling. I raced through them in two days first time round. I love that the main character is female and adore how she manages to be the strongest fighter in the stories but still displays a vulnerability that is endearing.
Something I enjoyed about these were brief mentions of Celaena’s life before the labour camp, before Chaol and Dorian and before the champion trials; these pave the way nicely for the four novellas Maas has written as you become desperate to learn more about the history of the assassin; especially in light of the massive revelation at the end of book two.
If you are looking for something easy to read but that keeps your attention from page one, give these a try.