Throne of Glass

by Sarah J. Maas

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 603

Throne of Glass is the first novel in Sarah Maas’s popular young adult fantasy series of the same name. Upon publication in 2012, Throne of Glass found much public acclaim, and a new sequel was published annually until the series’ completion in 2018. 

The novel follows Celaena Sardothien, an eighteen-year-old assassin turned political prisoner living in Adarlan, a kingdom in the fictional land of Erilea. In the beginning, the resilient young woman is held captive in the Endovier slave camp and forced to work grueling hours in the salt mines. After a year of imprisonment, Celaena is given a chance at freedom when Chaol, the captain of the king’s guard, arrives at the prison and brings her to stand before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian wishes to determine if the retired assassin is worthy of serving as his champion in the upcoming contest. 

The contest is a thirteen-process in which twenty-three contestants—strong and well-trained men chosen to represent the kingdom’s elite—compete to prove themselves the superior warrior. Winning brings glory to both patron and champion, and the victor receives the honor of serving as the King’s Champion, a demanding role that requires them to do the evil bidding of Adarlan’s morally-compromised king. However, after four years of service, the King’s Champion earns their freedom, a boon that the long-captive Celaena desires above all else. 

Prince Dorian is impressed by Celaena’s physical and intellectual prowess, so he invites her to fight in his name. She quickly agrees and moves from Endovier into the castle. The next portion of the novel covers Celaena’s adjustment to her new life. During this time, she trains with Chaol, who prepares her for the trials ahead, and forms close relationships with both Prince Dorian and Chaol. These budding romances cause no small amount of conflict, and Celaena is uncertain of how to move forward as she navigates the trials of the contest and her new relationships.  

As Celaena trains, her focus is divided. Strange deaths mar the contest, and several of her fellow contestants turn up brutally murdered. She begins to investigate their deaths and notices strange patterns that imply magical influences, even though magic has long been banned in Adarlan. During her investigation, she befriends Princess Nehemia, an intelligent young woman with some knowledge of magic with whom she becomes fast friends. Celaena endures many trials and dangerous situations and makes a mortal enemy of the terrifying Cain, another competitor who is ultimately responsible for the strange happenings in the castle. In the final contest, Celaena must face Cain in physical combat. The young woman struggles but eventually proves victorious.

At the end of the novel, Celaena assumes the position of the King’s Champion, determined to overcome the conspiratorial machinations of her enemies in the castle and earn her freedom. Worried about compromising her position as the King’s Champion, Celaena ends things with Prince Dorian, and the love triangle comes to an end, making space for Chaol to make his feelings known. The story ends as Celaena prepares for the difficult journey ahead, anxious about what awaits but certain that she will prevail. 

Throne of Glass is a coming-of-age novel, as readers witness Celaena develop as both a person and a champion, learning to navigate friendships, relationships, and life-or-death combat in equal measure. Maas integrates many fantasy elements into the narrative, including fairy folk, monsters, and Wyrdmarks—magical symbols used to summon demons and spirits. Ultimately, the tale is one of magic, mystery, and maturation in which Celeana learns how to handle dangerous situations in combat and love.

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