books and cleverness

I read books of all sorts, but mostly kids' lit and young adult literature and speculative fiction for all ages—usually from a feminist perspective. 

 

I've adopted a personalized version of the CHOICE reviews approach to recommendations/star ratings:

***** = Essential, a.k.a. truly love, absolute must-read, buy it now
**** = Highly Recommended, a.k.a. this is a really good book; I would buy it as a gift
*** = Recommended, a.k.a. pretty good; worth reading
** = Optional, a.k.a. meh
* = Not Recommended; a.k.a. this is not a good book

Throne of Glass

The Assassin and the Princess - Sarah J. Maas

What is there to like?

▪ A great strong female friendship!

▪ Exploitative imperialist politics (and resistance to it) as a primary theme.

▪ Despite the weakness of the love triangle plot, it is—mercifully—not really the main point of the book! For the most part, Celaena really is doing her own thing, and has her own motivations, missions, and secrets.

▪ A successful first-novel-of-a-series narrative arc: The story driving this book feels resolved enough by the end to feel like an ending, but it also feels like the first part of a longer story.

 

What's not to like?

RT @greenbeanblog Teens note to authors "it's really annoying when your characters are all gorgeous."#alamw13 #bfya— Children's Bookshelf (@PWKidsBookshelf) January 28, 2013

 

RT @greenbeanblog "Most people can't find 1 person to love-why do we keep making it 2?" Teen on frustration w/love triangles. #alamw13 #bfya— Children's Bookshelf (@PWKidsBookshelf) January 28, 2013

 

The above tweets are from the PW Children's Bookshelf live feed from the ALA Midwinter Conference, and I can't tell you how glad I was to learn that there are actual teen readers who find these points as frustrating as I do...and they apply oh-so-much to this book.

▪ It is downright booooring how beautiful all the characters are in this book. We get it, our protagonist and her two love interests and her princess friend are all super-sexy. Congratulations. Also, how convenient that the baddies are all so physically repugnant. And beyond that, it's disappointing for an otherwise pro-kickass-girl story to reinforce the idea that even if you have another skill (like professional assassinating), the most important thing for young ladies to be is beautiful.

▪ Also boring: the love triangle. Much like Matched, and very UNlike The Hunger Games, there's honestly no apparent reason why it should matter which one the protagonist ends up with—they both seem like perfectly nice dudes; I'm sure she'll be happy with whichever one she picks, and the other one will probably be happy with her equally-beautiful-and-kickass princess friend.

▪ A slow start—the first 100 pages or so felt very much like a pastiche of standard fantasy novels, especially thanks to the names. It even has a Tolkienesque map in the front matter. (Not that all fantasy maps are inherently Tolkienesque—check out Keith Thompson's beautiful illustrations for Leviathan for a gorgeous example of an original—but seriously, the typeface alone on this map invites a negative reaction.)

▪ The reader is easily able to figure out who’s doing the bad stuff earlier than the character does.

▪ Far too much emphasis on describing Celaena’s clothes. Having recently read Shadow and Bone, which had the same problem, I am bothered by this potentially being a trend. It feels intrusive and trivial, and bound to the beautiful-characters problem.

 

Similar To:

Song of the Lioness series: Alanna: The First AdventureIn the Hand of the GoddessThe Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant, Tamora Pierce

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Graceling, Kristin Cashore

 

What made me pick it up?

A PW Fall 2012 Flying Starts pick.

 

Overall Recommendation: Recommended