Here’s the thing about reading—and writing—a lot: it becomes difficult to find things that genuinely surprise you. When you read widely, you become really familiar with a lot of tropes. And recognizing those tropes can telescope the ending of a book. Which isn’t always a bad thing—sometimes you read a book for a specific emotional reaction, and you want to know what you’re getting into. But sometimes you want that shock and surprise, that holy shit moment.
But what I love about Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass novels is how she sets you up to expect a specific outcome, establishes the familiar tropes and then goes around gleefully (maniacally?) subverting them, blowing up all your preconceived notions in your face.
God damn it, it’s good.
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire-for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…
She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.
She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.
What Intrigued Me: Let’s hop in the delorean and go back in time to book one, Throne of Glass. I picked up the first of Maas’s novels because I read that the premise was “assassin Cinderella goes to the ball to kill the prince.”
Sold. It’s a great pitch. And I assumed I was getting into a fun fairy tale retelling. The last thing I expected was the dark, twisted, political, epic fantasy the series spiraled into. Each book got progressively darker and darker, and I became more and more addicted.
So here I am, at book four, expecting to be emotionally eviscerated. Actually, looking forward to it. Because that fun fairy tale retelling I thought I was getting into (and all the expected tropes for heroes and villians)? Yeah, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
And I like it.
What Hooked Me: I’m pretty steadfast in my OTPs. Once I settle on a pair, I’m all like:
But (and trying really hard not to spoil anything), that wonderful OTP I was FULLY BEHIND?
Maas set it up, and then she blew it up (and probably laughed the whole time). Because there’s only one rule in Throne of Glass:
And seeing my OTP destroyed? Oddly, I don’t mind. Because a new, greater OTP has risen from the ashes, like a sexy phoenix.
What Made Me Fall In Love: Time and again, Maas’s Throne of Glass novels subvert my expectations. I love being genuinely surprised, but I’ve become a little…jaded by over-saturation of story. Maybe I read too much, watch too much TV, see too many plays, etc., but the moments when a story genuinely shocks me are becoming rarer.
But Maas pulls it off time and time again.
So, Sarah J. Maas, I don’t know what evil shenanigans you do to torture your characters (and readers), but keep doing it. Cause it’s awesome.