Throne of Glass

by Sarah J. Maas

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Last Updated on November 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 676

Authentic Images of Female Strength

Celaena is a well-rounded character. Cunning, competent, and a gifted fighter, the once-assassin evades the trope that strong female characters so often embrace. She is not an emotionless machine driven only by her traumatizing past. Instead, she is a complex young woman who struggles to deal with her history as an assassin, the physical torment she experienced while imprisoned, and the necessary but brutal choices she made to survive. However, her troubled past and difficult present do not erase her personhood. Celaena is as in touch with her feelings as any eighteen-year-old, and she does not shy from forming close relationships with those she encounters in the castle.

In an interview, author Sarah Maas explained that she modeled Celaena after strong women in popular culture because their

arrogance and fierceness made [her] want to write about a woman like her—about a woman who never once said sorry for being talented and determined and utterly in love with herself.

Celaena is indeed one such woman. She holds firm in a male-oriented environment and proves victorious in a contest against strong, arrogant men who fail to see her as a competitor. Even in the face of physical and romantic trials, she retains her sense of self as an intelligent and independent woman. Celaena is an admirable character who serves her young adult audience well. She faces her fair share of struggle and trauma, yet she never loses herself to violence or love. 

Perseverance in the Face of Overpowering Odds

Celaena is a fighter until the very end; as a young woman she faced many struggles, yet she does allow her past to define her. Even after a year of brutal imprisonment which left her with a collection of painful scars from punitory whippings, Celaena holds firm. Physically and emotionally weakened from her time in prison, Celaena works to build herself back into fighting form in preparation for the contest which may result in her freedom. The process is grueling, and she knows the path ahead—fighting for thirteen weeks then serving as the King’s Champion and doing his immoral bidding—is grim, yet she presses on, determined to build the life she envisions for herself. Her only goal is to win her freedom, so, despite the trials and tribulations of life in the castle, she perseveres. In the final stage of the contest, Celaena faces Cain, an unrelenting man who is responsible for the deaths of many of the other contestants. He is her most difficult enemy, and she enters the fray with trepidation. Her fears are confirmed when she realizes that she has been poisoned, and her once-honed combat skills are now sluggish and sloppy. However, she continues to fight against the poison coursing through her veins and, ultimately, conquers her enemy. The novel presents a collection of difficult scenarios, and Celaena, through hard work and dedication to her task, prevails every time.

The Corrupting Desire for Power

The king of Adarlan is a power-hungry man, and Celaena dislikes him very much. However, she must serve as his right hand, enacting his every whim—no matter how vile or upsetting. As king, he has outlawed magic from the kingdom, punished its users, imprisoned thousands, stolen land, and enslaved his citizens. Celaena, who has felt the weight of his misdeeds firsthand, loathes his power-hungry ways; however, he is not the only elite member of the kingdom who acts in such ways. While Celaena learns how to survive life in the castle, she learns that it is not only the king who is mad with power but also his courtesans. She is stunned by this cutthroat environment and struggles to navigate the strange conventions of life in the castle. 

Like many other fantasy writers, Maas uses the monarchical dynamics of Adarlan to speak to a real-life problem of power’s corrupting nature, which often disadvantages those in subordinate positions. Indeed, Throne of Glass compassionately addresses controversial themes such as class inequality and economic exploitation through a fantasy lens oriented toward young readers.

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