by Sarah J. Maas
Plot Summary:In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
Review:This story is all about the strong heroine! She's beautiful, smart, extremely skilled in the deadly arts and she owns all of those accomplishments. She doesn't have self-esteem issues or worries she doesn't deserve what she has, but she is also charming, compassionate and with a great sense of humor. She's self-assured and so likable. I think this story starts off so strongly because Celaena is immediately in a position where she needs to prove herself again. And while the reader knows she's an accomplished and deadly assassin, we can find out so much about the strength of her character as she has to rebuild herself after a year as a prisoner of the salt mines. And she attacks every challenge without hesitation, determined to succeed. This alone makes me love this story so much, but there's much more to it.
The fantasy world-building is highly detailed. The map in the beginning of the book helps to work out all the places that is mentioned in the book, and how they relate to the characters. The places that these characters come from are important to the story, and to how it affects the politics of the land and the way certain characters must act. I loved how in depth the history of Erilea felt without dragging down the narrative. It added so much more depth to the characters and gives some hints of more complex plot developments in the next books. Celaena's past especially is clouded in mystery and seems to be a very important piece to the puzzle.
While the plot initially revolves around the competition to become the King's champion, and there are plenty of books where that would have been more than enough to create a satisfying story, this book also weaves in a murder mystery with the mysterious deaths of many champion hopefuls. Celaena tries to unravel that mystery, while also working to hold her own in the competition which made this book so hard to put down. I think there were aspects to the mystery that seemed obvious and there were a couple of times where I knew Celaena was making a big mistake, but because the mystery ties into yet a third plot point of the novel - one revolving around Erilea's magical past, I thought the whole of it was well done. There was so much going on in this story and I loved how everything tied together.
Last but not least, there are two cute boys in this book! It's another love triangle, but boy was I not disappointed in it! Prince Dorian and Chaol Westfall are both invested in Celaena to become the champion - one because he picked her and the other because he's training her, and both start to have feelings for her. What I found interesting was how Celaena didn't really worry about choosing between the two, but was happy to spend time with one or the other, whichever one was there. It might sound callous but it's not when you read it because she's not emo and she has bigger things to worry about. Way bigger. So there were two reasons why I enjoyed the triangle - the first because Celaena didn't worry herself very much over it, and the second because Dorian and Chaol are fantastic potentials - one charming and romantic and the other strong and devoted. I think Celaena's decision is terribly difficult and I'm not even sure who I root for!
I love stories where the heroine literally kicks ass, and Celaena is powerful and dangerous but likable, with very human weaknesses, and I thought her story was so compelling, lively and entertaining.
Tomorrow I'll be reviewing the 2nd book "Crown of Midnight"!